“There is no resource more important to our state than water. We depend upon water for our very existence. Water grows the food we eat, nourishes our bodies, and supports our businesses, industries, and overall economy. Water is equally vital to our natural environment, fisheries, wildlife, and recreation opportunities.” — J. Randy Young

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission Director J. Randy Young so clearly stressed the importance of water as the state began a comprehensive water planning process in 2011. Young invited all Arkansas citizens to participate in the process of updating the 1990 plan.

To encourage participation and diverse representation, meetings have been held regularly in five regions of the state since 2011 and an important public input meeting is being held Tuesday, April 29 in Little Rock from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Wyndham Hotel. The purpose of this meeting will be to prioritize the recommendations that were generated during the five regional working group meetings. Recommendations were developed to resolve statewide and regional priority water issues. The consolidated list of recommendations can be found here.

 

AR Water Plan 5 Regions

Five Water Resources Planning Regions in Arkansas state

 

Diverse sectors across the regions that have been active in the Water Plan process include:

· Agriculture

· Fish and Wildlife

· Recreation

· Thermoelectric Power

· Industry

· Public Water/Wastewater

· County and Municipal Government

· Navigation

· Conservation Districts

 

I participated in the Recreation Sector for the North Region which encompasses approximately 12,400 square miles in northern Arkansas. This region is bounded on the west by Oklahoma and on the north by Missouri. All or part of 19 counties are located within the North planning region including the Illinois River Watershed in Benton and Washington Counties in Arkansas. The major cities identified in the North planning region include Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, and Fayetteville.

North Region Map

North Arkansas Water Resources Planning Region

 

Major recommendations for the long-term health of our State’s water resources focus on these topics:

· Surface Water Quantity

· Groundwater Quantity

· Water Conservation and Shortages

· Water Quality

· Infrastructure

· Funding and Incentives

· Water Law and Regulations

· Measurement and Assessment

· Planning

· Public Awareness of Water Resource Issues.

 

An example of one of top 10 recommendations from the North Region related to water conservation:

a. Conservation, particularly on-farm and offchannel storage, needs to be emphasized as the way to offset groundwater use.

b. ANRC should encourage outreach and education on water conservation to reduce the need to build impoundments. Emphasize outreach to small communities.

c. Conservation issues can be offset by additional storage on farms that will be filled during the night while uses for homes and businesses would be at the lowest.

d. Surface and groundwater should be managed together to address water needs of all sectors.

e. Water in the form of rainfall must be slowed in its travel from the time it hits the ground until it reaches the Gulf. ANRC should promote public education in the wise use and conservation of water. More funding would be needed for conservation organizations and conservation districts.

f. ANRC should provide a model for “Best Site Selection” for new impoundments built for public or agriculture water supply. It should specifically include consideration for proximity to areas of deficit and cost of infrastructure for allocation, and preference of non-perennial streams and streams that do not have significant ecological sensitivity.

 

To review the complete list of recommendations, click here. We value your input and encourage you to represent your interests. We want your thoughts, comments, and participation in identifying the highest priority recommendations for consideration by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

Attend the Arkansas State Water Plan meeting in Little Rock or contact us with your suggestions for prioritization of the recommendations that have been identified during this three-year process of extensive public input across five regions of the State. For more information go to http://www.arwaterplan.arkansas.gov/meetings.html

 

To contact the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, email contact@irwp.org.