As headlines warn of the impact of climate change on water access, state and local agencies in California are working diligently to protect groundwater resources for long-term use. With groundwater accounting for nearly 60 percent of California’s water supply in drought years, finding smart ways to make the most of limited supplies is critical.
The High Desert Water Bank, a partnership between Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) and the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency (AVEK), is Metropolitan’s largest-ever investment in groundwater storage. The multi-year project can annually store and withdraw up to 70,000 acre feet of water – enough to serve the annual needs of 210,000 homes – while also helping Southern California reduce its reliance on the Colorado River, where reservoirs are at historic lows.
The project is located on a 1,500-acre site in unincorporated Los Angeles County, adjacent to the East Branch of the California Aqueduct. Kennedy Jenks provided program and construction management services for AVEK, including support with implementation strategies, facilities planning, value engineering, team management, technical oversight and support, cost and schedule management, construction management, and inspection.
The water bank significantly increases Metropolitan’s total storage capacity along the State Water Project: the newly built infrastructure allows water managers to take water directly from the East Branch of the SWP’s California Aqueduct and move it into recharge basins, where it percolates into the underlying aquifer. When needed, water can be pumped back out using newly built wells and delivered to Southern California communities through the California Aqueduct.
In Fall 2023, the KJ team joined AVEK and teaming partners to celebrate a critical milestone – after three years of construction, water is flowing into storage marking an important achievement.
We are seeing more of our clients, like Metropolitan and AVEK, turn to groundwater banking as one of the most reliable ways to guard against extreme droughts or drought emergencies in the Western US. In 2023 we had a wetter year than usual in California. For the first time in several years, our reservoirs are at healthy levels. But we cannot become complacent and take that for granted. We are finding smart ways to make the most of limited water supplies in the Western US now and in the future.