Kern Groundwater Authority responds to newly-adopted racial equity plan

December 15, 2022
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
by Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
A field northwest of Bakersfield after a storm. Lois Henry / SJV Water
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern

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The Kern Groundwater Authority discussed the anticipated effects of a new state-level racial equity plan at its December 14 board of directors meeting, specifically considering ways to minimize any potential impacts on its operations.

On December 8, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a racial equity resolution with proposed goals and guidelines to increase racial equity and access to clean water. This resolution comes on the heels of the State Water Resources Control Board’s adoption of its own racial equity resolution in November 2021.

Valerie Kincaid, an attorney for the Kern Groundwater Authority (KGA), pointed out several features of the Regional Water Quality board’s resolution that specifically affect the authority’s work. 

First, she said, per an Oil Fields program, the board will assess which sites are close to residential areas and prioritize them for program work. Second, any new application for a waste discharge permit will have to include environmental justice findings about exposure to vulnerable communities, Kincaid said. 

Lastly, in 2023 the Regional Water Quality board plans to designate specific bodies of water for tribal beneficial uses, and will develop water quality objectives or industry flow requirements to protect that use, she added.

Gene Lundquist, director of the Kern County Water Agency, asked at the meeting whether the KGA should comment on the resolution, object to it, or find out more. Though the resolution was already adopted, Kincaid said the directors could comment on its implementation, particularly the programs that affect their operations. 

Kincaid added that designating water bodies for tribal beneficial use would be a big project for the Regional Water Quality board, and one in which the KGA might be able to affect the implementation.

“We should probably all be eyes wide open about when and where and how those water bodies are designated because the next step is a water quality objective,” Kincaid said.

The item was for discussion only and the KGA board took no action.

Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern

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