Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project
Water is a key resource to the health and livelihood of communities. Storing it and saving it — like money in the bank — is an investment in the future. The Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project is a sustainable water-banking program that brings two water agencies together to build recharge basins and settling ponds to capture and store significantly more water than one agency could do alone. Working together, the member agencies can dramatically enhance local groundwater, ensure its sustainability through water-banking management and — as part of a larger statewide initiative — significantly improve California’s water future.
For more than 15 years now, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (Rosedale) has partnered with Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) to develop win-win groundwater banking projects. The idea began in the 1990s when the State Water Project changed the contract rules allowing its urban contractors and agricultural contractors to store water in each other’s groundwater basins to help protect California from drought emergencies. Urban agencies with a larger tax base partnered with local Kern County water agencies (Kern Delta Water District, Semitropic Water Storage District, and Arvin-Edison Water Storage District) to develop groundwater banks that the Kern agricultural interests could never afford. Californians know that the key to our state’s success is to gather as much water as possible during wet years so we can make it through the dry ones. For that reason, California has invested heavily in the development of groundwater banking.
Since 2006, Rosedale and IRWD customers have reaped mutual benefits from smaller joint projects developed during their partnership. Along the way new opportunities were considered, but there was always one large impediment to getting sought-after high-flow supplies into the projects: Canal capacity. The cost of building a new canal to bring water in was considered cost prohibitive. Kern County’s Cross Valley Canal had already been expanded, so a whole new canal would have to be built.
With the passage of The Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act of 2014 (Proposition 1), the California Water Commission’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) was established, and a new funding opportunity was available for constructing the canal and new recharge ponds. The purpose of the WSIP is to fund water storage projects that provide public benefits, improve operation of the state water system, and provide a net improvement in ecosystem and water quality conditions. Neither agency could qualify itself in such a competitive grant program, so by working together with the California Department of Water Resources, the Kern Fan Project was able to receive a conditional funding award of $87.8 million.
The Kern Fan Project would consist of construction of up to 1,300 acres of recharge basin facilities and up to 12 recovery wells on the Kern Fan Project Properties. The Kern Fan Conveyance Facilities would consist of canals and/or pipelines, pump stations and a new turnout at the California Aqueduct to convey water between the project facilities and the California Aqueduct. Water stored by the proposed project would be recovered when needed to provide ecosystem and water supply benefits.
The proposed project would be operated so that surplus surface water from the State Water Project, Central Valley Project, Kern River and other available water sources would be recharged and stored for subsequent recovery. It is estimated that the project would be able to recharge and store upwards of 100,000 acre-feet per year.
The project would be located in the Phase 1, Phase 2 and Kern Fan Conveyance Facilities Areas shown on the map below.
What is Water Banking?
Much of California’s water lies underground in tiny spaces between soil particles, sand, and fractured rock — which act like sponges to absorb and store water that percolates into the earth.
Rainfall, snowmelt, and other water can be stored or “banked” in these aquifers in wet years, without risk of evaporation, and pumped out when the weather is dry.
California’s groundwater basins can store more water than its surface water reservoirs— up to 20 times more, according to the Department of Water Resources. That’s why the state is calling on water agencies to work together to establish “banking” programs to take advantage of this storage capacity. These groundwater banking programs allow agencies to share the cost of building recharge ponds and other infrastructure — along with the costs of water — to manage these basins for long-term sustainability.
Groundwater supports the health of our communities, the economy, and the environment.
Water banking programs promote regional self-reliance and encourage responsible resource management for long-term sustainability throughout the state.