Kern County Water Agency BAKERSFIELD, January 16, 2024 –
The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) announces the successful culmination of Water Year 2023. The year was marked by unprecedented water levels in the Kern River and record-breaking precipitation, securing water supply for the previously drought-stricken Bakersfield and neighboring communities. The Agency and the Water Association of Kern County collaborated in commemorating this historic water year with a visual narrative video entitled “Charting The Course: Managing an Extraordinary Water Year 2023”.
What contributed to this remarkable water year? Notably, all water destined for Kern County remained in the county, benefiting the local community and economy. Local water managers enacted a collaborative and comprehensive plan spearheaded by the Kern River Watermaster. The plan to secure Kern River runoff involved seamless coordination with State, federal and local entities, including the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Additional contributing factors to the successful water year include increased spring runoff, strong snowpack and reservoir utilization. The spring runoff was an extraordinary 429 percent of the average, equating to approximately 1.8 million acre-feet (af) of water flowing into Lake Isabella. This surge comes after enduring years of drought, signifying a remarkable reversal in water availability. Local agencies effectively managed and retained the increased water within Kern County. These local agencies successfully recharged 600,000 af of water on the Kern Water Bank, surpassing the capacity of Lake Isabella. Within the 2023 calendar year, over 1,000,000 af of water was successfully recharged within Kern County, marking a significant achievement in water management and sustainability.
Nearly 2,270,000 af of water were derived from the snowpack, which reached 320 percent of the average, enough to fill Lake Isabella four times during the year. Recharge of this runoff into groundwater banking projects, in turn, attracted a diverse population of up to 35,000 water birds.
The surplus water recharged will have a substantial economic impact, benefiting not only Kern County but also communities from the Bay Area to Southern California, who also store their water in Kern County.
Tom McCarthy, General Manager of the Kern County Water Agency, comments, “In an extraordinary water year, like the one California had in 2022-23, in order to secure what mother nature provided, you need an incredible amount of cooperation from the federal to the state to the local level, and that’s what we experienced this past year. People really rolled up their sleeves and worked together.”
The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) was created in 1961 by a special act of the State Legislature and serves as the local contracting entity for the State Water Project. The Agency, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2021, participates in a wide scope of management activities, including water quality, flood control and groundwater operations to preserve and enhance Kern County’s water supply—the main ingredient for the well-being of an economy.