What happens when America’s most populous state runs low on its most precious resource for the fourth year in a row? A lack of rainfall doesn’t just result in problems for farmers, the food industry and people with sprawling lawns. It can have serious consequences that aren’t so obvious. While there have been concerns about California’s relentless drought creating weird-tasting beer and driving a sudden surge in succulent thievery, there are lesser-known side effects that are pretty alarming.
An Increase In West Nile Virus Cases
“The proportion of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus is at the highest level ever detected in California,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health announced in September. By the end of 2014, the state had recorded 798 human cases, the most since 2005 and more than five times the number recorded in 2011, when the historic drought began. Of those infected, 29 died.
“Many groundwater basins in California are contaminated, for example with nitrates from over-application of nitrogen fertilizer or concentrated animal feeding operations, with industrial chemicals, with chemicals from oil extraction or due to natural contaminants with chemicals such as arsenic,” Linda Rudolph, co-director for the Center for Climate Change and Health in Oakland, told Reuters.
Wildfires also can spell trouble for water safety.
“In the aftermath of wildfires such as the 2013 Rim Fire,” the U.S. Geological Survey warns, “ash, woody debris and sediment can flow downstream from burn areas and contaminate water supplies.”