The Kern River has a complicated network of water rights that date to the late 1800’s. In 1964 water supply sources from the Kern River were declared fully appropriated. In 2009, Horizon helped the City of Bakersfield with a State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) process to rescind the river’s fully appropriated status. Horizon conducted research and provided expert testimony to the SWRCB through a public hearing process. The City was successful and the SWRCB ruled in 2010 that the Kern River was no longer fully appropriated and several thousand acre-feet of water was forfeited by previous water rights holders and was now available for appropriation.

Since that time, Horizon has assisted the City 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 would use the additional water to 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 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.

The City’s proposed Kern River Flow and Municipal Use Program would support domestic uses (aquifer recharge for municipal and industrial uses) and environmental purposes (streamflow restoration, wetlands, recreational uses, fish and wildlife restoration, and aquifer water quality enhancement). The City’s River Flow Program also supports the goals and objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to manage local groundwater resources sustainably for the long-term.

Kern River Water Rights

Back To Top