California Wildlife Left to Rot in Baking Sun as Drought Dries Lakes

Wildlife in California is reportedly being left to perish under the baking sun as the ongoing megadrought dries up lakes.

Aquatic wildlife living in two particular lakes in Bakersfield—one at River Walk Park and Truxtun Lakes, at Kern River Parkway—are being left without a home as water levels continue to recede, per KGET.

"This is the driest it's been in 1200 years," Richard O'Neil, president of the Kern River Parkway Foundation, told the news outlet. "This is a three-year drought but it extends beyond that. It's one drought upon the next drought."

All of California's 58 counties are in a moderate to severe drought. The drought is causing an increased need for water, paired with a lack of rainfall and snowpack melting into the state's reservoirs.

The state is also experiencing extremely hot temperatures, meaning lakes are evaporating more quickly.

The two small lakes are home to an abundance of wildlife, including turtles and birds.

O'Neil told KGET that most of the aquatic wildlife living in the Lakes will perish.

"The bird life, those that are lucky enough to fly away, they'll find a place but most of them will die," he said.

Bakersfield city officials are reportedly not planning to transport water into the lakes. Due to the drought hitting the state's drinking water sources, officials are prioritizing water for homes.

"Water won't be put back into that lake until after this winter," O'Neil told KGET. "If we're lucky to get enough rain this year and snow there will be water back in Truxtun lake next late Spring."

In a statement to Newsweek, the City of Bakersfield said the "severity of the ongoing drought" has had "many impacts" on the community.

"What makes this drought so challenging is the number of extremely dry years. The City's available water supplies are being prioritized to our water treatment plants for domestic usage: drinking water, shower, cooking, cleaning and general use for our large population in the greater Bakersfield area," a spokesperson told Newsweek. "The Park at River Walk and Truxtun Lakes are small basins used for stormwater and water level maintenance and are not naturally occurring bodies of water with indigenous wildlife. They function as water maintenance and groundwater recharge facilities that have been intentionally enhanced to provide community quality of life. [...I]n very dry years these assets are deeply impacted."

The spokesperson said the city is "contracted with an environmentalist" to investigate options for the species at Truxtun Lakes and River Walk.

"The City relies on rainfall and snowfall in the mountains to feed the Kern River. As weather cycles continue, the City looks forward to future years when more water will be available to fill both Truxtun Lakes and the lake at the Park at River Walk to assist the City to help it reach higher levels and mitigate the loss of wildlife due the conditions of the drought. Also, the City is continually trying to find additional water supplies to help these facilities."

This is not the first such instance to occur.

Utah's Great Salt Lake is also vanishing due to the southwestern megadrought. The lake's water levels are now at the lowest ever recorded. Per a Guardian report from earlier this month: "The disappearance of the lake has been attributed to drought caused by climate breakdown and water use, along with the redirection of water from streams used to replenish the lake for use in residential spaces and agriculture."

Lake Mead—a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam in Nevada and Arizona—is also rapidly drying up and is only at 27 percent of its usual capacity.

In July, a reservoir in North Carolina called Lake Wilson was drying up so rapidly that it was "killing and endangering fish."

Lake Wilson's levels have been dropping through the whole summer. It's now about six feet below where it normally would be.

"The U.S. Drought Monitor currently shows nearly all of Eastern North Carolina in drought with Wilson County nearly divided between abnormally dry and moderately dry," said the City of Wilson, North Carolina, in a statement shared in a Facebook post from July 25. "Meanwhile the U.S. Geological Survey shows most areas of the county have received less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation in the last week."

Update 8/26/22,10:31 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from the City of Bakersfield.

Fish
Above, a stock photo shows a dead fish in a lake. A drought in California is reportedly causing lake wildlife to die. Mario Martija sevilla/Getty