Frequently Asked Questions

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).

The water bank contains about 7,000 acres of recharge ponds which, on average, recharge at a rate of 0.3 feet per day. Up to 72,000 acre-feet per month can be recharged at the beginning of a recharge program, a rate that declines as the program progresses. After a year of continuous recharge, the rates may be as low as 30,000 acre-feet per month.

An acre-foot of water is enough to cover an acre (43,560 square feet) with water 1 foot deep (326,000 gallons). One acre-foot of water is typically enough to meet the needs of two families of 4 for a year.

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 available storage capacity. The amount of storage readily accessible to the Kern Water Bank is estimated to be about 1.5 million acre-feet.

 The water bank’s 85 recovery wells can each produce about 5 cubic feet per second (2,250 gallons per minute) of water. In a 10-month recovery program, about 240,000 acre-feet of water could be recovered. If water is recovered in successive years, well production and annual recovery will decline.

No, the Kern Water Bank recharges surface water supplies from the State Water Project, the Central Valley Project, and the Kern River.

No, all recharge is accomplished with recharge ponds where water infiltrates into the underground aquifer.

The KWB has a strong commitment to operating in an environmentally sound manner. Some 17,000 acres of previously farmed land at KWB has been dedicated for environmental purposes and with diligent effort, this land has reverted to environmentally significant upland and intermittent wetland habitat. Biologists report great increases in biodiversity, with 77 new species occupying KWB lands. The KWB is also home to many endangered and sensitive species.

The Kern Water Bank is operated by the Kern Water Bank Authority, which is a public agency known as a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The JPA includes six member entities, including several water districts, a water agency, and a mutual water company. The JPA is governed by a board of directors which oversee operation of the Kern Water Bank.

In 1996, the Kern Water Bank participants retired 45,000 acre-feet of State Water Project entitlement (now known as Table A water) in exchange for acquisition of the Kern Fan Element (KFE) property. Table A water at the time was worth about $1,000/acre-foot, or $45 million. (By 2012 its’ value had risen to about $6,000/acre-foot, or nearly $270 million.) The Kern Water Bank Authority has also invested approximately $65 million in infrastructure and improvements, including wells, canals, pump stations, and pipelines, to turn the KFE lands into a functioning water bank.

No. Each participant pays for the water they deliver to the Kern Water Bank.

 No. The Kern Water Bank lands are used to serve two primary purposes: water banking and wildlife preservation, and operates under a Habitat Conservation Plan / Natural Community Conservation Plan that stipulates specific uses for the property through the year 2072. These uses include Sensitive Habitat, which is set aside for endangered species, Compatible Habitat, which can be used for recharge, conveyance, and recovery of water, the Conservation Bank, which provides mitigation for other properties, and a Farming Sector. The Farming Sector has not been farmed, but rather used in the same manner as compatible habitat. The original HCP/NCCP does provide for the commercial development of 490 acres, but the KWBA has since committed not to develop this acreage.   Additionally, there are recorded limitations on any potential development of the water bank for other purposes.

Some of it would have been used consumptively by others and the balance would flood farmland or flow to the ocean.