The West Kern Water District has inked another water purchase agreement.

The West Kern Water District has inked another water purchase agreement.


This one is with the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District for 2,000 acre feet of water a year for the next three years.


That water would come from the State Water Project (SWP) allocated to Tehachapi-Cummings.


The cost is $270 per acre-foot.


“That’s a pretty good price for water,” said West Kern General Manager Harry O. Starkey.  “It goes into our entire portfolio of water.”


The district has been on the hunt for additional water to replace the shortages from the State Water Project that have been worsened by the three-year drought.


Water entities got some good news last week when a federal judge ruled in favor of Central Valley farmers and other water agencies seeking to loosen restrictions on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.


The same judge – Oliver Wanger – had ordered water deliveries from the delta drastically reduced to protect endangered fish.
Wanger ruled the federal government did not properly develop a management plan that restricted water exports to protect steelhead, salmon and other fish.


San Joaquin Valley farmers and southland urban users joined to file a lawsuit over the restrictions.


A ruling also is anticipated on a similar lawsuit that seeks to overturn pumping restrictions imposed two years ago to protect the tiny delta smelt.


“This is fantastic news,” Starkey told his board.  “It should be interesting to see how this plays out.”


Water allocations to districts such as West Kern are increasing this year – to about 45 percent of normal.  Deliveries have been severely restricted the past two years because of the endangered fish issue and the drought.


Late-spring snowstorms in the Sierras have also factored into the optimism.


“It would be interesting six months from now to look at our hydrograph (that measures levels in the district’s well field),” Starkey said.


For the past three years those wells have had to pump deeper to reach the water.


Since March of 2007, water levels have dropped from 82 feet below the surface to an average depth of 255 feet.


In the last three years, the average depth of monitor wells has gone from 54 feet to 236 feet.


One of the district’s eight production wells can’t pump any deeper and two others are close to that point.


That’s why the district is embarking on a $35 million expansion project designed to add new wells to its field near Tupman.


The board authorized creation of an interest-bearing account with the county to deposit funds from the sale of bonds for the project.