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After years of drought, the Kern River thunders through Bakersfield once more

The city's assistant director of water resources says Bakersfield's lakes are already full and the groundwater basins are recharging after years of operating at an extreme deficit.
kern river in bakersfield
Posted at 9:02 PM, Mar 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-24 00:02:01-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — After years of drought, recent rains means more water for the Kern River, and the river is flowing through Bakersfield once again. But what are the impacts to the city's water supply, and will the increase in water flow help Bakersfield in the end?

"We are going to be maximizing our recharge and keeping this water as best we can within the City of Bakersfield," said Assistant Water Resources Director Daniel R. Maldonado.

According to Maldonado, groundwater is used when there isn't enough surface water available, and recharging groundwater basins that have been depleted can take a long time.

"Recharge is always a good thing for the residents of Bakersfield, and Bakersfield in general. We've had some prolonged drought, periods of drought, which have required us to pump water more than we would've liked to," said Maldonado.

The increased river flow also means that lakes and ponds, like the lakes just off Truxtun Avenue, are full.

"In 2020, we added a fourth lake there, and that fourth lake is being filled. It's been filled to the brim right now, all four lakes there," said Maldonado. "The Park at Riverwalk, both lakes are being filled and will continue to be filled through the year."

Daniel Maldonado
Assistant Director of Water Resources for the City of Bakersfield, Daniel R. Maldonado

One of the challenges of a full river is that it sweeps up everything in its path, including garbage and debris.

"We have experienced some debris because of the recent storms. The operation of the Kern River is still under normal operation. This is nothing that we haven't seen before, but the debris did cause an impact," said Maldonado. "We've had city staff working vigorously night and day to make sure that debris is cleared up to maintain the safe operation of the Kern River for the residents of Bakersfield."

Maldonado says that so far, this year has been positive in terms of the water coming to the city.

"We're looking at the third highest snowpack that we've seen and observed in the Kern River Basin, so it's a fun year for everyone here on the river," said Maldonado. "There's a lot of water available, and we'll be recharging and utilizing all of our facilities to make sure it stays within Bakersfield."

Maldonado says the Kern River should be flowing through Bakersfield at the same capacity is is right now through the summer and into fall.

We at 23ABC would like to remind our neighbors that the Kern River is dangerous in even the best conditions. Please, stay out of the river at this time. The level is high, the current is fast, and the water is carrying debris from the mountains on down. Stay Out, Stay Alive.