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Dreams of dust

How Central Valley communities are coping with prolonged water shortages.


Autumn rains may have eased concerns about water scarcity in northern California, but the rest of the state remains in a historic drought that has persisted for five years. Among the most affected, is the Central Valley, where the majority of the state’s farmland is. For years, communities in the Valley, many of them Hispanic and low-income, have faced severe water shortages.

Zoë Meyers and Sarah Craig are documentary storytellers whose multi-media project, Dreams of Dust, explores the impact of drought on communities in California’s Central Valley. The project focuses on the reasons behind the instability of Central Valley communities, “migration within and out of the Valley, and what will happen in the future if the area continues to become drier and drier – as is predicted in years to come.”

While reporting in California, Meyers and Craig found that the narrative of people simply picking up and moving away from the Valley in search of water or jobs was an oversimplification of the economic, environmental and social complexities of the Central Valley. Instead, the pair seeks to understand the drought’s impacts on the patterns of their subjects’ day-to-day lives.

Meyers, a documentary photographer and videographer, also produced The Worth of Water, a video series for High Country News that explores how California communities are impacted by water scarcity. 

Lyndsey Gilpin