History of the District  


Much of the lands within the District prior to 1907 were owned by a large land company and were used for grazing purposes. Due to extremes climatic conditions, the area was bypassed by most travelers. In the winter, the land was marshy, and in the summer, high temperatures and scarcity of potable water forced the travelers to the foothill areas to the east. In 1907, approximately four hundred farm families from all parts of the United States settled in the local area. The initial settlement was the result of activities of the California Home Extension, which was organized for group colonization. Land was purchased by the original group at an average price of $22.50 an acre for farms of 10 to 40 acres in size.


As a result of the long, dry, hot summers and an average rainfall of 6.53 inches, the first settlers realized the need for irrigation. The District area was one of the first important farm areas in California to have its crop production based entirely on pump irrigation. The first domestic well drilled in Wasco was to a depth of 66 feet and cost $66. Production from this early well was 2,200 gallons per minute through use of a 50 horsepower gasoline-driven centrifugal pump. The decline in the groundwater table was very gradual until 1921, which indicated that the increasing number of pumps to serve larger irrigated acreage created, with a few exceptions, a decline in the groundwater table. The progressive lowering of the District groundwater averaged 2.3 feet per year, from 1921 to 1949.


The District was formally organized in September 21, 1937, by  Shafter and Wasco area farmers after careful studies of the needs and problems peculiar to the area and on legal advice of James Burke, a Visalia attorney.  The District’s purpose was to find ways and means of replenishing rapidly dwindling underground water supplies.


The District’s first attempt for groundwater replenishment was a joint adventure with North Kern Water Storage District for groundwater-recharging.  The operation of the percolation ponds appeared to be uneconomical due to silting and sealing problems so Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District withdrew its support. North Kern Water Storage District continued with a percolation pond project for groundwater-recharging and has successfully operated said project since the mid-1950’s.


With the start of construction of Friant Dam on November 5, 1939 a future source of water for the District became a definite possibility.  Even with a supply of supplemental water in sight, considerable agitation for the dissolution of the District occurred in 1941.  This agitation resulted in an election November 12, 1941 to determine whether or not the District should continue to function.  Although a majority of the voters indicated they desired that the District should be dissolved, the Superior Court of Kern County ruled that the District would have to continue operations.


The District formally applied to the Bureau of Reclamation for Central Valley Project water for the 37, 528 acres within the District boundaries on February 5, 1946.  Water service to the District would be from the Friant-Kern Canal, which passes close to the eastern District boundary.  On February 11, 1955 the Board of Directors of the Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District executed a contract with the United States providing for a water service contract for 50,000 acre-feet of Class I water and 39,600 acre-feet of class II water and a repayment contract for the construction of a distribution system.


Commencing in 1995 the District enter into a series of interim renewal contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation, followed by a 25 year contract in 2005.  Then on November 17, 2010 the District repaid early its share of the capital for construction of the Central Valley Project and converted its repayment contract to a permanent repayment contract as authorized by the San Joaquin River Settlement Act, granting the District permanent rights for the same water supply.


The District is a member of the Poso-Creek Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.  The District also has a 25 year exchange and transfer program through the Poso-Creek Integrated RWMG.  Water supply reliability and sustainability within the Region are being impacted by changing dynamics of water supply timing and availability.  The Poso Creek RWMG identified the need to offset the projected losses of their available surface water supplies resulting from court-ordered actions, the San Joaquin River Settlement, environmental regulations, increased urbanization and changes in weather patterns as a result of climate change.


The District, in cooperation with North Kern Water Storage District, installed interconnection facilities between the districts' distribution systems in 1993. The districts then established a groundwater banking water exchange agreement in which surface water in above average water years, the water will be returned to the Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District for delivery to its water users. The interconnection facilities were later enlarged by Bureau of Reclamation grants.


The District, in cooperation with Semitropic Water Storage District, constructed an interconnection pipeline and pumping plant to connect the distribution system of the two facilities in 1995. The districts also established a groundwater banking water exchange agreement similar to the Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District- North Kern Water Storage District agreement.


The California Legislature enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“Act”). The Act provides authority for local agency management of groundwater, and requires implementation of plans to meet the goal of groundwater sustainability established by the Act within basins of high- and medium-priority which includes the basin underlying the District.  (Water Code § 10727(a).)


In February of 2015 the District certified a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the “SWID Recharge Project”.  Implementation of the SWID Recharge Project will help achieve sustainable groundwater levels and avoid the corresponding adverse environmental and economic burden associated with groundwater declines, including increased use of power and energy resources as well as the potential for fallowing or conversion of agricultural lands in the District to non-agricultural uses.


In April of 2016 the District held a Proposition 218 election that increased the assessment collected on all lands in the District. This increased funding for water supplies and recharge areas to help meet goals identified in the SWID Recharge Project and provide additional reserves for dry year operation.


The District entered into the Kimberlina Recharge Area Water Management Agreement with Homer LLC in November 2015. This provided funds for the construction of the 264 acre Kimberlina Recharge facility. The agreement provides for groundwater banking with up to 50 percent leave behind of water banked and recharge and recovery capacity in specific periods for each party. With the capital provided by Homer LLC and a Bureau of Reclamation grant, the project required little capital from the District. The recharge portion of the project started substantial operation in the spring of 2017. 

In 2019 District annexed in approximately 10,000 acres of formerly non-districted land that is called the “7th Standard Annex”. This was done so that said land could prepare a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. This land was annexed in with the condition that it does not get a share of the existing District’s surface water supply or facilities.

The Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District is a political subdivision of the State of California-an independent agency operating under the California Water Code.  The District is governed by a five member elected board of directors and is operated by a General Manager and a staff of 10 employees.



District Water Deliveries