How deep is the lake?

In the interest of finding a solution to the water dilemma this valley currently faces, the News Review will publish a series of editorials telling the other side of the story. The currently stated position of the IWV Groundwater Authority is that we are a closed basin in critical overdraft. It is important to recognize that although this is continually referred to as a fact, it has not been proven. It is an assumption derived from the faulty Todd Engineers report published in 2014 at the direction of the Kern County Board of Supervisors. We believe that assumptions should be challenged. There is strong evidence of water availability in our basin that needs to be explored. This evidence is clearly being ignored by the IWVGA. The State Groundwater Management Act requires that governing boards use the best available information and science. That is clearly not the current mode of operation. — Pat Farris, publisher


By CMDR BILL MANOFSKY, USN (ret.), Guest Editorialist

Originally published March 18, 2016.

For the past year, I have been studying all the published water reports going back 20-plus years. All of them focus on the various interpretations of how much the water level is declining ... yet none address how deep the water actually is.

So I went to the IWV Water District office and retrieved the sounding data for the 11 wells owned by the district. Wells 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 are located to the southeast of the intersection of Jack’s Ranch Road and Inyokern Road. Wells 17, 30 and 31 are located in the Buttermilk Acres area, and Wells 18, 33 and 34 are clustered south of Bowman Road and Inyokern. I specifically wanted data showing the 10-year static water level decline, well depth and pump settings.

The data show that there is plenty of water below static level. Wells 17 through 33 are all over 1,000 feet, The deepest, Well 31, has water down to the bottom at 1,220 feet. I plotted a cross-sectional chart showing the ground level elevation and the depth of each well. On this chart I also plotted the last recorded static water level and the pump setting depth. I found that all static water levels “line up” (are all at about the same elevation). I call this the “level of the lake.” My chart clearly shows that we are sitting on top of a very deep underground lake with the lake level (at my reference point of Buttermilk Acres area) at approximately 275+/- feet! And that water is present to at least 1,000 (+/- feet) below that.

To simplify: picture the water table as the lake. The depth to water is then determined mainly by the ground surface elevation. As you go up in elevation, the water gets deeper and as you go down in elevation, the water gets shallower.

The plotted pump setting depths show that the pumps have been set at a very shallow level. For example Wells 30 and 31 are 1,200 feet and 1,220 feet respectively, But the pumps are set at 390 feet and 370 feet respectively. The pumps are set in the water at only 100 feet and 60 feet respectively, so we are to assume these are high-producing (volume) wells.

What surprised me the most was to see that the static water level decline chart clearly shows that Wells 8, 9 and 13 are actually coming back up. In fact, within the past 10 years, Well 8 has risen 48.3 feet, Well 9 has risen 6.1 feet and Well 13 has risen 7.4 feet. The charts also show that Well 17 has declined only 2.4 inches per year (2 feet in 10 years) and 30 has declined only 1.6 inches per year (1.33 feet in 10 years). The greatest decline has been in Wells 33 and 34 in the southwest well field which showed declines of 1.15 feet per year and 1.16 feet per year respectively.

This data begs the question: 1. Recharge; 2. Open vs. closed basin; 3. Well locations; and most importantly, why the rush to designate the basin critically overdrafted?

How can the situation be “chronic” and “critical” when Wells 8, 9 and 13 are coming back up and Wells 17 and 30 have shown marginal declines?

We would recommend that the IWVGA take advantage of evidents that suggests water availability is the southwestern portion of the basin, not yet accounted for in groundwater models. See related story ( — Ed.

Story First Published: 2019-09-20