The Kern River Flow and Municipal Water Program would increase river flow by allowing several thousand acre-feet of potentially available water to flow down the Kern River channel seasonally and percolate to the groundwater basin below. The City of Bakersfield (City) would draw off of the recharged basin to support future municipal water supply demands. In this way, the Program would support the City’s plans and policies to enhance and protect natural resources of the Kern River while providing a reliable municipal water supply.

To assist the City, Horizon provided research and expert testimony to a State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) review, hearing, and decision process regarding the river’s fully appropriated status. The City was successful and the SWRCB ruled that the Kern River was no longer fully appropriated, that several thousand acre-feet of water had been forfeited from previous water right holders and was now available for appropriation. Horizon is currently supporting the City’s with an application to the SWRCB to request that a portion of the unappropriated water be awarded to the City for its River Flow and Municipal Use Program.  The City’s Program also supports the goals and objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to manage local groundwater resources sustainably for the long-term.

Horizon developed a programmatic EIR for the Program. The City intends to conduct more specific project-level CEQA evaluation of potential effects once the SWRCB has made a decision on the City’s water right application. Horizon integrated surface flow and groundwater modeling results into the EIR analysis of the proposed program and alternatives. Other complex issues included evaluating potential effects on future population growth and subsequent indirect effects due to removal of an obstacle to growth, groundwater levels and quality, potential air quality and climate change effects due to increased emissions from groundwater pumping, and biological resources management.

Kern River Flow and Municipal Water Program EIR

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