Think about an ATM and imagine using the same approach to deposit and withdraw water.

Parker: “Water banking is the storage of surplus water that’s available during wet years in an aquifer for later recovery during dry years.”

That’s Jon Parker, general manager of the Kern Water Bank Authority in California. The bank serves six members, including several agricultural water districts and the district that provides water to the City of Bakersfield.

Making a deposit is pretty simple when there is extra water available.

Parker: “We simply spread the water on the ground in shallow ponds and it infiltrates into the aquifer.”

Withdrawing the water is also simple – they just pump it out when needed.

Parker says the Kern Water Bank can hold more than 450 billion gallons of water. But because the current drought has prevented any new water deposits since 2012, the bank has less than a 155 billion gallons left. Parker says it’s only enough to last two to three years.

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Groundwater banking is already common in Arizona. And as the climate warms and droughts become more frequent, other communities are thinking of opening their own water banks.

Reporting credit: Pam Memmott/ChavoBart Digital Media.

More Resources
Even if El Nino delivers, California drought may never release its grip
California drought is made worse by global warming, scientists say
Kern Water Bank Authority
California dreaming: Developing an ATM for groundwater

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...