AECOM has declined to continue as consultant to the local governments working to update a Tehachapi, Calif., regional water use and shortage contingency plan—citing continuing disputes among the municipal entities and the regional water resource utility.

"Due to the unexpected conflicts between participating agencies, we feel we are unable to complete the work in a way that would not result in a conflict of interest," Dan Conquist, an AECOM department manager in Bakersfield, Calif., wrote in a letter to the general manager of the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District.

The May 13 letter said AECOM had completed no work since July 2023, was paid in full for its services and would turn over all documents and work products to the district. The firm was hired to develop the new water use plan, replacing one written in 2016, for the city of Tehachapi in Kern County and the service districts of Bear Valley, Golden Hills and Stallion Springs.

According to Tehachapi News, the regional entity has asked AECOM to reconsider.

The conflicts that have stalled work on the plan relate to groundwater use in the Tehachapi Basin—the water source for the city and service districts. The average annual safe yield of groundwater within the basin is 5,500 acre-feet, according to a state court that ordered the water district to report annually on groundwater conditions.

One focus of conflict relates to an apparent clash between the growth-minded city of Tehachapi and the water district over water supply use and allocation. 

In a comment made to Tehachapi News, Tom Neisler, water district general manager, is quoted as saying that the city of Tehachapi "has not been able to close the gap between its available water supplies and its desire for growth.” 

He also is quoted as saying: "We can only assume that the city’s recent comments created a toxic environment for our consultant AECOM.”

Officials of the water district and of the city of Tehachapi could not immediately be reached for comment.

A fresh sign of the difficulties, however, is Tehachapi's newest lawsuit against the water district, filed May 1 in state court in Bakersfield, which accuses it of violating a 2020 memo of agreement regarding treated recycled water and the granting of recharged water "credits" to the city. The dispute over that matter dates to 2021.