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The Arvin-Edison Water Storage District is located at the southern end of California's Central Valley, about 20 miles south of the community of Bakers-field. The district contains approximately 132,000 acres of highly productive agricultural land. The economy of the area is almost wholly dependent on agriculture, as there is little other industry. The value of agriculture in the district approaches $300 million annually, and land values range from $1,600 to $2,300 per acre. The principal crops include grapes, potatoes, truck crops, cotton, citrus, and deciduous fruit. Seventy-five percent of California's carrot acreage is found here. The climate is hot and arid, with average annual precipitation totaling only 8.2 inches. Almost all precipitation occurs between October and April. The sparseness and seasonality of precipitation means that irrigation is essential. On average growers apply 3 acre-feet of water per acre (Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, 1996).
Development of the area began after the turn of the century, and growers relied primarily on ground water supplemented by small and erratic flows from minor local streams. Most growers had their own wells and were responsible for providing their own supplies of irrigation water. As agriculture in the region grew, ground water extractions began to exceed rates of recharge and growers experienced declining ground water tables. Between 1950 and 1965, for example, water tables fell from an average depth of 250 feet to 450 feet. In 1965, average annual overdraft in the district totaled 200,000 acre-feet, which accounted for almost half the water applied districtwide. Continued overdrafting threatened the area's economic base.
Some years earlier local growers anticipated this situation and organized the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District to bring supplemental surface water sup-