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The Kern Water Bank is a semi-private groundwater bank operated by the Kern Water Bank Authority in Kern County, CA. The bank stores water from the State Water Project (SWP), Central Valley Project (CVP), and the Kern River. It is massive in scale, covering over 20,000 acres, with approximately 2.5 million acre feet diverted to the bank since 1995. The bank stores water on behalf of its member water agencies, which include both public and private water entities mainly focusing on agricultural use, along with a small number of municipal and residential customers. Water is withdrawn by the member agencies during droughts when surface water supplies from the SWP, CVP, and Kern River are insufficient to meet local demand or when member agencies elect to sell their stored water to outside third parties. In addition, the overlying land and infiltration ponds serve as habitat for some endangered and threatened species. Legal and political controversy surrounded the bank’s creation, but its unique suite of physical assets, creative enabling agreements, and clear operational rules and incentives have enabled it to use managed aquifer recharge to make significant contributions to the flexibility of regional and statewide water systems over decades of operations.

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Case Studies in the Environment