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Drought intensity extreme, officials to discuss groundwater at Kern Water Summit

Posted at 5:48 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 09:41:28-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Whether you’re a resident, in the agriculture industry, or the industrial sector, water supply in California and in Kern County is going to impact your day to day life.

“We’re really in uncharted territory with multiple years of drought," said Tom McCarthy, General Manager for the Kern County Water Agency. McCarthy said during this year's Annual Kern County Water Summit, drought conditions and conservation efforts will be a top priority.

California is seeing one of it’s longest and dryest periods, with a historic lack of precipitation from January to March. Here in Kern County, drought conditions remain extreme as well as across the Central Valley. Now the state is pushing for a reduction on water consumption but that proves difficult in area where water plays a vital role in some of our leading industries.

“The drought isn’t going away. So we can’t really rely on one versus the other, it’s all of them which is why I think it’s important for our community to conserve," said Jenny Holtermann, Executive Director of Water Association of Kern County.

Kern Water Summit brings together various sectors like agriculture and oil to talk about water supply at the local, state, and federal levels. With Kern’s drought impact sitting in extreme conditions, and the state seeing a record period of no precipitation — water managers are looking for answers.

One of those answers is groundwater — a longterm reservoir the resides underground and can be used when surface water isn’t available.

“Groundwater is extremely important to use here in Kern County. We all use is, but we all need to be aware of its usage as well," said Holtermann. "When agriculture irrigates crops, part of that water does back down into the aquifer, so farmers aren’t just irrigating their trees, but that water also goes down and helps replenish the aquifer.”

“The region has been one of the leaders in groundwater banking. So when there is plentiful surface water you get that water and you recharge it into the ground," said McCarthy.

On the agricultural side, improvements in technology and efficiency are where water reliability comes in.

“What water agencies across the state do is try to provide a portfolio of reliable supplies and that’s been hard. So I think we’re all looking to improve our reliability but this is uncharted territory," McCarthy said.

On the municipal and urban side of water conservation, change comes with individual use of water.

“Major changes in record years of wetness to record years of dryness," said McCarthy.

The Water Summit is taking place Thursday morning at Mechanics Bank Convention Center. This Saturday, the community is invited to a Conservation Festival hosted by the WAKC and CalWater. It's taking place at Jastro Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.