A Kern County Superior Court judge recently approved an updated water management plan for the Cummings Basin groundwater west of Tehachapi.

"The goal is to ensure that sufficient, safe and clean drinking water will be available for decades to come,” said TCCWD General Manager Tom Neisler.

On Jan. 5, Judge Stephen Schuett approved the Cummings Basin Amended and Restated Judgment and Physical Solution, which was prepared and presented by the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District.

In 1972, TCCWD was appointed by the Kern County Superior Court to serve as watermaster.

Acting in the role as watermaster, TCCWD monitors water levels in the basin and reports to the court annually, according to Neisler.

“For a number of years, we have observed water levels across Cummings Basin declining. These declining levels indicate that more water was being pumped from the basin than can be naturally replenished,” Neisler said.

Neisler went on to say that, based on these declining water levels, TCCWD contracted for an updated hydrogeologic report for the basin. The report, completed in 2015, showed that the Natural Safe Yield, or amount of water that can naturally replenished, was less than the court determined it to be in the 1970s.

"TCCWD embarked on a five-year effort to meet with stakeholders and build consensus on a management solution that all could support and would protect the basin. After more than 30 public meetings and many hundreds of hours of staff and legal time invested, the plan was presented to the court with no opposition," Neisler said.

The Cummings Basin Amended and Restated Judgment reduces the Natural Safe Yield from 4,090 acre-feet per year to 2,990 acre-feet per year (an acre-foot of water contains 325,851 gallons).

It includes procedures to allocate the water annually. It also requires that all wells be metered to accurately measure extractions and other provisions that will allow TCCWD to effectively manage the basin.

“The importance of this Amended and Restated Judgment cannot be overstated. It was needed to ensure groundwater security for the Cummings Basin and all those who utilize and depend upon this natural resource,” said TCCWD Director Richard Zanutto.