Dry conditions are linked to more frequent and severe dust storms and wildfires.
Dr. Linda Rudolph from the non-profit Public Health Institute says the associated particulate matter is bad news for people with lung problems and heart disease.
"There might be an increased risk of pneumonia for people who are exposed to a lot of dust. In fact in the dust bowl in the 30’s, there were hundreds to thousands of deaths from what people called ‘dust pneumonia.'"
~Dr. Linda Rudolph, Public Health Institute
Rudolph says drought can dry up well water and increase water contamination in areas already struggling to get access to clean water.
She also says drought affects agricultural production, which rolls into problems with food prices and unemployment.
And those circumstances add more obstacles to staying healthy.
The drought intensified over the last week in the Western U.S. as the region swelters under a heatwave and firefighters battle major wildfires.
Dangerous fire weather conditions has prompted one federal agency to impose fire restrictions on public lands in northern California.
Mandatory statewide water conservation rules have ended in California. But Sacramento-area users conserved 22 percent in June, compared to June 2013.
California and federal agencies say a new strategy is needed to save the endangered Delta smelt.
California is in the fifth consecutive year of drought, but state water managers ended mandatory conservation rules. Local water suppliers now determine conservation rates, and some have low or no targets. A water expert says that's 'shortsighted.'