Agriculture

Desert-based water agency eyes multi-million dollar deal to buy water out of Kings County

A Kern County water agency is looking to purchase water from a state contractor located in Kings County. 

Earlier this week, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, located in eastern Kern County, signed a letter of intent to buy the lifetime rights to 750 acre-feet of Kings River water from Utica J.L.J. LLC. 

SJV Water first reported the deal. 

Utica J.L.J. is a State Water Project contractor located in Kings County that is developing a truck stop and industrial center south of Kettleman City on a 400-acre location at Utica Ave. and Interstate 5. 

The deal requires approval from the Dudley Ridge Water District and the Department of Water Resources and will total $6.4 million. 

The cost per acre-foot would come to $8,528, and the deal will not be a one-time purchase, but rather a permanent sale. 

This is not the first time that state water from Dudley Ridge has been permanently sold. 

In 2009, water giant John Vidovich sold 14,000 acre-feet of state contracted water to the Mojave Water District in Apple Valley for $77 million, coming out to $5,500 per acre-foot. 

While the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is not a state contractor, the water publication reported that it has held discussions with the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency to store the Dudley Ridge water. 

A feasibility study is currently in the works to explore extending an existing pipeline from California City to the Indian Wells Valley, which would be funded by a $7.6 million grant from the Department of Water Resources. 

Why is the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority looking to purchase state water? 

That’s because the authority only has 7,600 acre-feet of natural flow annually while pumping out 28,000 acre-feet of groundwater. 

The outflow to inflow discrepancy led the authority to impose a replenishment fee to all groundwater pumpers of $2,130 per acre-foot over a five-year period, which is expected to raise $50 million to be used to purchase more water.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.