During the winter, when the Central Valley’s fields are quiet, the Westside Pool Hall in Mendota fills with farm workers, like Jose Gonzalez Cardenas.
“If there’s no water, we’re not going to have work,” Cardenas said through a translator.
According to a report from University of the Pacific, thousands of Valley farm workers could be out of work this summer if the drought persists. Maria Rivera is one of them. She already knows she won’t have work in the melon fields this year.
“The company I work for has already told its employees that they’re only going to plant one field,” Rivera said, also through a translator. That's down from about 60 in a typical year.
Mendota is a poor city on the west side of Fresno County that revolves around agriculture. City Council member Joseph Riofrio owns this pool hall. He says the community is already bracing for the drought’s impact.
“We’re the facilitators that need to coordinate how people will get food, and how they’re going to get help paying the light bill. There are so many problems that come with being in this part of California, and being dependent on agriculture,” Riofio said.
Down the street, at La Fiesta Meat Market, farmworker Aurelio Duran said if it doesn’t rain, he might leave the region.
“Right now, I’m on unemployment. Perhaps I will need to look for work somewhere else,” Duran said through a translator.
During the 2009 drought, unemployment in Mendota topped 40 percent and the Valley as a whole lost 6,000 farm jobs. With water even scarcer this year, the economic impact could be even worse.
If a flood were to hit Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta it would threaten much of California’s water supply. It’s why emergency management agencies are holding flood-fighting exercises during a drought.
UC Davis researchers have identified 'high priority' dams in California where releasing water may be a key for the survival of native fish species.
California Governor Jerry Brown says the state can lead the way with its water policies just as California is leading the way with initiatives for renewable energy and climate change.
A winter forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center Thursday shows the California drought may persist or intensify in parts of the state.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday for not responding to a petition to protect 16 amphibian and reptile species in California