Water is an essential part of our livelihoods and economy. Water is not just a valuable tool to grow the world's food, or a resource in aiding the valuable oil industry, and it is not just an element to keep our yards and cities looking their finest. Water has become an expected resource when we turn on our faucets to do our dishes, run a load of laundry, take a shower or brush our teeth.
Just as diverse as our uses of water around Kern County, the Water Association of Kern County has a wide array of members. The Water Association of Kern County represents municipalities, oil industry, agriculture businesses and water districts alike. All these various members of our organization are all dependent on water the same. We all need water to thrive and prosper.
The Water Association of Kern County was established to communicate the various water needs and educate on water issues. Over the years, the needs and issues have changed but the water users and driving force remains the same. Municipalities, landowners, oil industry, farmers and water districts come together under one unifying voice to further educate on our water needs.
As we have heard a time or two, before we can look to the future, it is important to understand our past. As the new executive director to WAKC, I will bring forth new ideas and campaigns to advance our water education and outreach efforts, but first I needed to embrace our history.
Kern County is unique in so many ways; from the Bakersfield Sound, to the legacy of Basque restaurants, the candy chews that everyone loves, or the hiking trails that surround our county. Kern County’s water is no different. The history of the Kern River is a legacy worth being told.
When Native Americans settled in Kern County, they utilized the Kern River for its valuable resource to keep their people nourished. As more residents began to settle in Kern County, the river became more evident as a true lifeblood to progress. The Kern River was a beacon of future and opportunity to expand our area like never seen before. As farmers and landowners established businesses and an agriculture industry, the river brought forward a chance to grow food not just for our county but for a reach well beyond.
Canals, reservoirs and banking projects would come over the years to capture, divert and store water for times when it was not as plentiful. As more water was being delivered to Kern County through the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, our water issues grew and the need for education expanded. The path that brought us here today, is a unique and captivating story.
To end the year, WAKC commemorated our legacy with a History of Water Campaign. We debuted a mural on North Chester Avenue and El Tejon Avenue to celebrate the heritage of Kern County water with historic images of our water landscape. The same images accompanied a video that is now available on Water Association of Kern County’s YouTube on the History of Water in Kern County. We plan to expand this campaign to honor our past and look to our future.
In 2021, our goal is to continue to expand our water education, outreach, and informational campaigns. We know that water is essential for putting food on the table, and you can bank on the fact that the Water Association of Kern County will continue to advocate on water issues in our community.
Jenny Holtermann is the executive director of the Water Association of Kern County. WAKC’s mission is to inform and educate the public and water community about water issues in Kern County. As a fourth generation farmer herself, who farms almonds with her husband and family in Wasco and Shafter, Jenny understands water issues first hand. Jenny has a passion for her community and giving back through the numerous local, state and national boards she serves on as an advocate for agriculture and water.