The Kern County Water Agency serves as the local contracting entity for the State Water Project, and participates in a wide scope of activities to preserve and enhance Kern County's water supply, including the provision of a supplemental water supply for portions of the metropolitan Bakersfield area.
The Agency is the second largest participant in the State Water Project (SWP), a water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants. The SWP extends for more than 600 miles (two-thirds of the length of California), and was planned, built, and operated by the California Department of Water Resources. The Agency has long-term contracts with 13 local water districts, called Basic Contract Member Units, and Improvement District No. 4 for SWP water. Since 1968, about 36 million acre-feet of water have been delivered for use within Kern County using SWP facilities.
In 1971, the Kern County Water Agency (Agency) Board of Directors formed Improvement District No. 4 (ID4) to provide a supplemental water supply for the urban Bakersfield area through the importation of water from the State Water Project. As a participant in the Cross Valley Canal, ID4 utilizes the 21.5-mile facility to move water into ID4 and to adjacent groundwater banking areas.
Water delivered to ID4 is either directly recharged to replenish the underlying groundwater aquifer or delivered to the Henry C. Garnett Water Purification Plant where it is treated and then delivered to retail water purveyors. These retail purveyors include the California Water Service Company, the City of Bakersfield, East Niles Community Services District and North of the River Municipal Water District, which wholesales water to Oildale Mutual Water Company. In response to declining groundwater quality and to meet additional demands in the growing Bakersfield area, the Agency began developing the Treated Water Capacity Expansion Project (TWCEP) in 2001 for the expansion of existing facilities, and construction of new pump stations and pipelines, to deliver treated water to the north, northwest and east portions of metropolitan Bakersfield. The project also included construction of a large-scale power project and electrical substation. The TWCEP was completed in 2011, and provides a safe and affordable water supply to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the metropolitan Bakersfield area.
In an effort to increase flexibility of water deliveries to residents and farmers alike, the Cross Valley Canal (CVC) was constructed in 1975 to move State Water Project (SWP) water from the California Aqueduct to urban Bakersfield. The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) had contracted with various water districts (CVC Participants) for the construction and operation of the CVC. The first 17 miles of its 21.5-mile length are concrete-lined to minimize water losses, while the remaining section is unlined to facilitate ongoing percolation (recharge).
The CVC Expansion Project began in 2005 to expand the ability to accept imported water. The expansion will increase the CVC’s capacity and water supply reliability by approximately 54 percent, allowing 1,422 cubic feet per second of flow. This represents incredible infrastructure, with the CVC connecting to the California Aqueduct, local banking projects and districts, the Agency’s Henry C. Garnett Water Purification Plant and the Friant-Kern Canal. The delivered water is then used for agricultural, municipal and water recharge purposes.
With an average of less than six inches of rainfall per year, Kern County is a semi-arid region. Surface water supplies are not enough to meet the needs of citizens, businesses and farms in the area; therefore, groundwater plays an integral part in how water is managed in Kern County. The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) works to improve groundwater levels and to monitor groundwater quality throughout Kern County, especially in the areas surrounding groundwater banking projects.
The Agency collects, interprets and distributes groundwater data for the Southern San Joaquin Valley and Indian Wells Valley groundwater basins. This information is used for the operation of groundwater banking and recharge programs, and in the preparation of a variety of reports, which include the Agency's Improvement District No. 4 Report on Water Conditions, and the Kern Fan Area Operations and Monitoring Program report. Approximately 800 production wells and 200 monitoring wells are measured for groundwater levels on a semiannual basis within the Kern sub-basin of the San Joaquin Valley groundwater basin, and approximately 350 production and monitoring wells are measured monthly within the Kern River Alluvial Fan area.
Kern County is home to one of the world’s most innovative groundwater banking operations. Between 1977 and 2005, Kern County invested more than $300 million to build its groundwater banking infrastructure throughout the county. The groundwater banks can store approximately 5.7 million acre-feet of water during wet years, and through pumping, extract water for use during dry years. The City of Bakersfield's 2800 Acres Spreading Area was the first full-fledged banking project. In the 1990s, banking programs were expanded with the construction of the Kern Water Bank, which encompasses 20,000 acres of recharge ponds and habitat/wildlife land; and the Kern County Water Agency's (Agency) 2,233-acre Pioneer Banking Project, which was created for groundwater recharge and recovery operations. In December 2010, the Agency’s Board of Directors passed a resolution ceremoniously renaming the Pioneer Project the “Thomas N. Clark Recharge and Banking Project” in honor of its former General Manager Tom Clark.
Groundwater banking is so important to Kern County that nearly all groundwater districts have banking projects within their district’s boundaries, and those districts that do not overlie the groundwater basin participate in banking projects.
The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) has limited flood control responsibilities through Improvement District No. 1 (ID1) and Improvement District No. 3 (ID3). ID1 was established in 1969 to provide specific flood control structures to the Rosedale area of Bakersfield for controlling flows into Goose Lake Slough ("Jerry Slough") and increasing the recharge capacity. ID3 was formed in 1970 to provide specific flood protection to Weldon residents within ID3, located east of Isabella Reservoir.
Other flood control projects include the Kern River-California Aqueduct (Aqueduct) Intertie (Intertie), which is a structure connecting the two bodies of water near Tupman. Sponsored by the Agency and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in 1977, its purpose is to convey Kern River flood water into the Aqueduct to avoid damages to lands downstream of the Intertie. The Agency acts as the superintendent of the project and works in cooperation with the California Department of Water Resources, the Corps and the Kern River Watermaster, along with several water districts that receive benefits from reduced flooding in Buena Vista Lake and Tulare Lake.
Each year, the Kern County Water Agency’s Improvement District No. 4’s (ID4) comprehensive Water Education Program educates thousands of local students about Kern County’s local and state water supplies, and the importance of water and its conservation. In doing so, it provides the public the opportunity to make informed decisions when it comes to water and its conservation.
The regional program incorporates teacher workshops, curriculum materials, assemblies, classroom presentations and student contests. All curricula and instruction that is offered through ID4’s Water Education Program support the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten through 12th grades.