The Kern Water Bank is an alluvial fan that can store in exceess of a million acre-feet of water (that’s about 326 billion gallons of water).
Paramount Farming (a private corporation) owns a majority interest in the Kern Water Bank. But the state didn’t originally intend for that to happen.
The primary purpose of the Kern Water Bank is to recharge, store, and recover water to improve the water supply for its’ participants during periods of water shortages. The Kern Water Bank also provides significant environmental benefits, including the enhancement of habitat for threatened and endangered species, waterfowl, and other wildlife.
It is located due west of Bakersfield in Kern County, and is very close to the intersection of the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Cross Valley Canal (which connects the federal Friant-Kern Canal with the California Aqueduct through Bakersfield).
The day after the Monterey Agreement was signed, which gave the Kern County Water Agency the Kern Water Bank, the Bank lands were deeded over to the Kern Water Bank Authority—a questionable gift of a public asset to an entity that includes a private corporation, Paramount Farming.
The Kern Water Bank Authority’s web site provides this excerpt of “frequently asked questions”:
Where is the Kern Water Bank and how big is it?
The Kern Water Bank is located in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley southwest of the city of Bakersfield. It occupies about 20,000 acres (32 square miles).
Location of Kern Water Bank recharge ponds and recovery wells.
How much water can the water bank recharge?
We have about 7,000 acres of recharge ponds which, on average, recharge at a rate of 0.3 feet per day. At the beginning of a recharge program, we can recharge up to 72,000 acre-feet per month. As a recharge program progresses, average recharge rates decline, and after a year of continuous recharge, the rates may be as low as 30,000 acre-feet per month.
How much water can the water bank hold?
There is no fixed amount for how much water the water bank can hold.
According to the Kern County Water Agency, the Kern County portion of the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater basin has about 10 million acre-feet of total storage capacity. Theoretically, recharge from the Kern Water Bank could eventually fill most of this available storage. More practically, the amount of storage readily accessible to the Kern Water Bank is about 1.5 million acre-feet. A better question might be “How much water can be recovered from the water bank in a prolonged drought?” See the answer to that question below.
How much water can the water bank recover?
We currently have 79 wells which can each produce about 5 cubic feet per second (2,250 gallons per minute) of water. In a 10-month recovery program, we would expect to recover about 240,000 acre-feet of water. If we recover water in successive years, well production and annual recovery will decline. In a 5-year drought, we may be able to recover about 1 million acre-feet.
Is the Kern Water Bank recharging recycled or reclaimed water?
No, the Kern Water Bank only recharges surface water supplies from the State Water Project, the Central Valley Project, or the Kern River.