UPDATE: Popular I-5 oasis has a line on water but will have to pay

November 11, 2021
Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern
by Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern
Kettleman City's commercial district, which caters to motorists along Interstate 5 in western Kings County, could run out of water by December. CREDIT: Kings County
Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern
Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern

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Kettleman City needs $375,000 to keep from going dry, possibly as early as the end of next month.

The popular pitstop along Interstate 5 in Kings County between Los Angeles and San Francisco needs 214 acre feet to supply residents and keep its raft of gas stations and fast food joints open.

But in this severely dry year, that water will be pricey — about $1,400 an acre foot. One acre foot is enough to cover a football field in a foot of water.

The town has found a likely seller, the Mojave Water Agency, which serves customers in San Bernardino County east of Victorville.

Now, it’s just a matter of hustling up enough money, according to Brian Skaggs, a civil engineer for Summers Engineering, the principal engineer for Kettleman City Community Services District. The district submitted a grant application to the United States Department of Agriculture on November 9, asking for $375,000 to pay for the needed additional water, said Skaggs. It’s waiting to hear back.

“We’ve looked at maybe drilling another well but it won’t be in the short term,” Skaggs said. “We need water starting in January which is not very far off.”

The town contracts for 900 acre feet of water from the State Water Project but because of the drought, state allocations were slashed to 5%, meaning Kettleman City only received 45 acre feet this year. The town had some stored water from last year which has lasted until now. That supply is almost out.

California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) agreed to provide 96 acre feet of water but only for residents’ household use. Kettleman City needs a minimum of 310 acre feet to serve both homes and all those businesses visited by I-5 travelers.

DWR has had two meetings so far with representatives from Kettleman City, Kings County and Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, the state water contractor that provides the town with its state allocated water.

A third meeting will happen on November 12. The meetings are mostly update calls, said Justin Mendes, regulatory specialist for Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District. DWR has been asking for updates about where things stand.

“Our biggest issue is, we’re hoping that if Kettleman does secure the remaining 214 acre feet that the state doesn’t pull their 96 acre feet of health and safety (water),” said Mendes. “And we have not gotten a commitment on that. That’s the main thing we’re paying attention to.”

Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern }

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