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Addressing the emotional toll of drought

The California Water Commission staff are guest editors for a special open-access edition of the AWRA's magazine.

Pamela Kan-Rice

March 2, 2023

2 Min Read
Discussion with farmer
Michael Yang, left, discusses irrigation with a Hmong farmer.Ruth Dahlquist-Willard/UCANR

Preparing the American West for prolonged drought is the focus of a double issue of Water Resources IMPACT magazine. The California Water Commission staff are guest editors for this special open-access edition of the magazine, which is published by the American Water Resources Association.   

Faith Kearns, academic coordinator of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Institute for Water Resources, is among the authors delving into how drought impacts people and the environment and how we can better prepare for the inevitable. 

The first issue, published on Feb. 14, focuses on water scarcity issues confronting California and the ways these issues affect different sectors. 

In “Trauma, Care, and Solidarity: Addressing the Emotional Toll of Chronic Drought,” Kearns highlights the effects of drought on mental health. She points to the spike in suicide hotline calls when wells ran dry in Southeast Asian communities in California's Central Valley.

By listening to Southeast Asian farmers, Ruth Dahlquist-Willard and Michael Yang of UC Cooperative Extension were able to “lighten the load” for them by providing pragmatic support, Kearns writes.

“The scale of some of these highly emotional issues – drought, wildfires, climate change – can make them seem incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to deal with,” Kearns said. “At the same time, they are affecting everyone living in the western U.S. on a daily basis. I wanted to highlight and provide models based on work that people – whether they are researchers, clinical psychologists, or Cooperative Extension advisors – are doing right now to ease the way.”

The authors who contributed to the double issue are a diverse array of Tribal experts, academics, nongovernmental organization thought-leaders, water managers and water policy influencers, each of whom brings their own perspective on the topic of drought. Their expertise and perspectives in climate science, water policy and water management will help inform drought-related decision-making and support policies that better prepare the state to thrive during periods of prolonged water scarcity.

California contributors

In addition to Kearns, the first issue includes articles contributed by:

  • Samantha Stevenson, University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Jay Lund, University of California, Davis

  • Ron Goode, North Fork Mono Tribe

  • Andy Fecko, Placer County Water Agency

  • Jeff Mount, Public Policy Institute of California, and Ted Grantham, University of California, Berkeley/UC Cooperative Extension

  • Nat Seavy and Karyn Stockdale, National Audubon Society

  • Kjia Rivers, Community Water Center

  • Cannon Michael, Bowles Farming

  • Michelle Reimers, Turlock Irrigation District

The January/February edition of Water Resources IMPACT magazine can be accessed, free of charge, on the American Water Resources Association website at https://www.awra.org under “Publications.”

The second issue, to be published in March, will focus on drought response, considering the options for adaptation. This two-part series complements the Commission's work on strategies to protect communities and fish and wildlife in the event of a long-term drought.

[Pamela Kan-Rice is assistant director of news and information at UCANR.]

Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

About the Author(s)

Pamela Kan-Rice

Assistant director, news and information outreach, UCANR, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

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