Locals gear up for fight to keep Kings River water

 •  by Lois Henry
Phil Desatoff, General Manager of Consolidated Irrigation District, points to recharge projects that are planned or underway in the Kings River Water Association area of service.

Farmers in Kern County applied to the state to take floodwater south to make up huge groundwater deficit

Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the north to refill their groundwater shortfall.

But this time around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water grab.

The sprawling Semitropic Water Storage District, in the northwest corner of Kern County, has filed an application with the State Water Resources Control Board claiming the Kings River Water Association has forfeited two of its floodwater licenses by not using that water.

It has applied for 1.6 million acre feet of water from the Kings River, about a year’s supply for million and a half homes.

Mackenzie Faulkner and her children Mathias and Marley Torres, wade in the Kings River in Oct. 2018. Credit: Lois Henry


To some, the action is unsettlingly familiar to what happened on the San Joaquin River more than 80 years ago. Farmers on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley petitioned the federal government to build Friant Dam and the Friant-Kern Canal in order to take most of the San Joaquin River’s water south to replenish groundwater.

“Here we are again, talking about potentially exporting our river water to the south.” said Mike Carbajal, Fresno’s Director of Public Utilities in an interview earlier this month.

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Lois Henry

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