Future Imperfect

San Joaquin Valley, Part 2

In the last episode, you learned how climate change is projected to affect air quality and heat in the San Joaquin Valley region. Another big projected change has to do with water. This episode is part two for the San Joaquin Valley region. It’s all about how changing precipitation patterns will affect life in the Central Valley.


  1. Use the Drinking Water Tool and the Current U.S. Drought Monitor to figure out where your water comes from and to see how your part of the state is doing in terms of drought. How does this compare to drought conditions in Bakersfield, Delano, Coalinga, and Huron?

  2. How did the past drought (2011 - 2017) affect the people you heard from in this episode? Compare this to how it affected your life.

  3. After listening, watch this Groundwater Aquifer Contamination video. How is drought related to water contamination by 123 TCP and other chemicals?

  4. How might each of the following water-related actions affect life in the San Joaquin Valley region? Also, how do you think they would affect life in other parts of the state?

    • taking more/less water out of rivers and streams

    • managing dams differently

    • fallowing land and using it for solar farms instead

    • allowing snowmelt to flood certain areas at specific times of year so it can sink down into groundwater aquifers


The young people in this episode were first introduced in San Joaquin Valley, Part 1. In order of appearance, they were: Luke (Coalinga), Ivan (Earlimart), Michael (Huron), Yvette (Bakersfield), Karissa (Delano), and Elizabeth (Delano). I also spoke with my scientist-collaborator, Nancy Freitas.


Want to listen on another platform? You can find Future Imperfect on Apple Podcasts and on Stitcher.


If you want to dig deeper into some of the topics in this episode, here are some places to begin.

Your Water

“Drinking Water Tool” from Community Water Center

“Draining California” from National Geographic

“Current U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions for California” at NOAA and NIDIS

“Central Valley Project” from Water Education Foundation

Save Our Water

2011 - 2017 Drought

“California Drought: 2011-2017 - A story about the historic drought” from NOAA and NIDIS

“A guide to California's water crisis — and why it's so hard to fix” from Vox

Conflict over Water Use

“Agriculture is 80 percent of water use in California. Why aren’t farmers being forced to cut back?” from Washington Post (2015)

“Delta smelt: the tiny fish caught in California's war with Trump” from The Guardian

“California Drought sharpens perpetual water conflict” (2021) from Cal Matters

Water Shortages

“Deep Deficit” from Science

“An entire California town is without running water — in a heat wave” (2021) from Cal Matters

“In California’s agricultural heartland, thousands of wells could soon run dry” (2021) from PBS News Hour

“Tulare County’s never-ending drought brings dried up wells and plenty of misery” (2021) from Cal Matters

Groundwater Issues

Groundwater Availability and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

“New protections for California's aquifers are reshaping the state's Central Valley” from NPR

“Without Enough Water To Go Around, Farmers In California Are Exhausting Aquifers” from NPR

Water Contamination

“City of Delano water system fails to meet drinking standard” from ABC News Bakersfield

“Groundwater Aquifer Contamination” from Community Water Center

“New State Law To Bring Arsenic-Free Drinking Water To Tulare County Community” from KVPR/NPR for Central California


“NASA Data Show California's San Joaquin Valley Still Sinking” from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


“Operating Dams to Better Manage Big Storms Can Build Resiliency to Climate Extremes” from Public Policy Institute of California

“Sedimentation in California Reservoirs: A Long-Term Problem of Immediate Concern” from California Water Law Journal


“Coalinga Rain Floods Town with Oil Scum” in the San Francisco Call, 1913

“Coalinga Flooding 06/02/19” via ABC30 Action News

“Flooding in Southwest Bakersfield” from 23 ABC News KERO

2021 Drought

“California’s Latest Drought in 4 Charts” from Public Policy Institute of California

Sen. Hurtado Virtual Press Conference: Drought Impacts

“Growing Uncertainty in the Central Valley” from New Yorker

“As drought worsens, California farmers are being paid not to grow crops” from Los Angeles Times

Deep Dive

“Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” from the Public Policy Institute of California