Could Kern really be free of drought?
For the first time since 2011, the U.S. Drought Monitor map, produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is showing Kern County to be virtually free of the drought that has plagued the county and the state for more than five years.
But keep that champagne on ice a little bit longer.
Because while the Sierra snowpack is magnificent, and the Kern River is raging, there’s one crucial component of the southern valley’s water health that remains in critical condition: Groundwater.
As of Feb. 21, just 8 percent of Kern — concentrated in the extreme southwestern section of the county — was deemed to be in “moderate drought,” the lowest of the four drought levels, according to the drought map.
Nearly 39 percent, also on the south and west sides of the county, was still categorized as abnormally dry.
But what a difference several weeks of winter storms can make.
“We have had a wonderful start to the water year,” said the City of Bakersfield’s Water Resources Manager Art Chianello.
But the groundwater problem, Chianello said, is not going to be solved in a single year.
According to the drought map, the Southern Sierra Tulare Basin for Feb. 21 showed 223 percent of average precipitation for the date, which is very near the 1968-1969 record.
And the city still has a responsibility to meet its water conservation goals, Chianello said.