BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – For three years the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has been working on a new water plan.
At public hearings and during meetings with local business and civic leaders, the commission has gathered ideas on how to revise the current water plan, which was completed in 1990.
The goal is to secure safe drinking water for all citizens and to address the needs of the varying economic interests in Arkansas over the next several decades.
We have navigable rivers for transporting goods. We have underground aquifers, from which wells provide clean water for agriculture, industry and municipal water systems. We have clean streams, rivers and lakes for recreation. Boating, fishing and swimming are mainstays in the Arkansas tourism industry.
We have the water necessary for production of oil and natural gas. Some of the best paying jobs in Arkansas are in paper mills and other industries that require large amounts of clean water.
Cities and towns with abundant water supplies have more options for processing sewage and wastewater. The drought in California is creating headaches not only for farmers and homeowners with dying lawns, it also is causing financial and technical problems for municipal water and sewer departments.
The demand for water in Arkansas is growing rapidly. Groundwater, which comes from underground aquifers, supplies about 71 percent of the demand for water in Arkansas. One result is that underground reserves are being pumped faster than they’re being replenished naturally.
Population growth requires additional capacity to treat waste water, which strains the budgets of local governments.
Other infrastructure needs include levees, canals, dams and drainage systems for navigation, agriculture and industry. The new state water plan will set out methods of proactively addressing water issues, to prevent a lack of water from jeopardizing economic growth.
For planning purposes the Natural Resources Commission divides Arkansas into five regions. The East Arkansas region includes the counties that border the Mississippi River, as well as the lower White River basin and the Arkansas River basin downstream from Little Rock.
The North Arkansas region encompasses the Ozark Mountains. The West-Central Arkansas region is the Arkansas River valley from Fort Smith to Little Rock. The South-Central Arkansas region is the basin of the Ouachita and Caddo Rivers from around Hot Springs south to the Louisiana border. The Southwest Arkansas region is the basin of the Red River.
The commission will hold more hearings before it submits a final version of the water plan to legislators.
All the hearings will be at 11 a.m. at these locations: August 11 at Fayetteville in the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Arena, Room 107, 1335 W. Knapp — August 13 at El Dorado in the Charles H. Murphy Boardroom, Chamber of Commerce Building, 111 West Main Street — August 18 at Stuttgart in the Phillips Community College Grand Prairie Center, Classroom C, 2709 Highway 165 South — August 20 at Texarkana in the Ag Learning Center, Four States Fairgrounds, 3700 East 50th Street — August 25 at Monticello in the Drew County Conservation District, 419 West Gaines — August 27 at Harrison in the John Paul Hammerschmidt Conference Center, 1515 Pioneer Drive.