Anyone who cares about seeing water in the riverbed as it runs through Bakersfield knows what a great summer it's been.
Aside from the obvious dangers to swimmers and tubers, the sight of the Kern River swollen bank to bank with precious snowmelt lifts spirits and makes residents feel that their river is alive and well.
But this week the water is finally starting to visibly recede. Sandbars are appearing where just days ago, only flowing water was visible.
After years of drought, and years of seeing only an arid riverbed running through town, the question had to be asked:
How much longer will we see water in the river as it winds through Bakersfield?
"I would say we'll see water (in the river channel) to the end of the year," said Dana Munn, who as the Kern River watermaster is responsible for ensuring that the Army Corps of Engineers is satisfied with Isabella Lake's inflow and outflow operations and storage levels. Munn also coordinates with the City of Bakersfield and other river interests to ensure storage levels and water flow rates are safe and reasonable.
Munn noted that the Kern was at 255 percent of the normal April-through-July runoff, making this the sixth wettest year on record for the Kern River basin since 1894.
But as the snowpack in the basin is nearly depleted and flood control at Isabella Lake is no longer a concern, releases from the reservoir are being cut.
"We are releasing significantly less water," Munn said.
Late this week, the mean outflow into the lower Kern was about 2,528 cubic feet per second, Munn said, nearly half of the 4,708 cfs that was roaring down the canyon on July 1.
John Ryan, hydrographic supervisor for the City of Bakersfield's Department of Water Resources, was in full agreement with Munn.
"It's not going to dry up," Ryan said of the river.
With water likely to enter the river channel this fall from the State Water Project, via the Cross-Valley Canal, and federal water coming from the Friant-Kern Canal, as well as possible precipitation from early fall storms, Ryan also expects to see a wet river through Bakersfield into the new year — although nothing like the volume of water that has been been delivered this summer and spread over thousands of acres of water recharge ponds west of the city, including the city's 2,800 acres.
"The confidence level is very high," Ryan said of his projection.
Of course the confidence level will grow if the Kern River watershed experiences another great water year.
One can only hope.