Since 2012, state officials have been in the process of drafting a new water plan for the state. That process is nearing completion, as a final set of meetings are set to take place across the state next month. The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has been holding meetings on existing and future water use, quantifying available water supplies to meet existing and future water use, and the development of water resource solutions and recommendations. Tony Ramick is with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and tells why a water plan is needed in the state.
“If you think about it, every sector of the state—and every person in the state—is dependent on water in some shape, form, and fashion. We are trying to update the policy directives for the appropriate management of water. That touches the agricultural sectors, industrial, fish and wildlife…everything that happens in the state is centered around water”.
Statewide water planning has a long history in Arkansas. The Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission starting handling the plan in 1969; in 1985, the legislature directed the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission to update the original plan and this update was completed in 1990. Since then, an updated water plan has not been in place. Ramick says this updated plan will address current and future water use, both on the surface and in underground aquifers.
“In the state, there is surface water and groundwater. We don’t own the aquifers. Aquifers run across state lines and political boundaries. The same is for rivers; since we don’t own those sources solely, we are tasked with making sure we have good management and conservation to adequately use the resource for the betterment of the citizens of this state.”
Ramick says the water plan will focus on projected water needs up to the year 2050 for all of the state’s water demand sectors. Those sectors include municipal, residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and energy. The plan will also cover what is needed to protect fish and wildlife, as well as addressing solutions in problem areas where shortfalls between supply and needs occur. Ramick explains.
“We look at usage—and when we talk about usage, we are talking about all sectors and all types of usage. Then we have to use it as a planning tool for infrastructure, growth, and development. In some portions of the state, growth and population is growing rapidly. In other parts, population is declining. Infrastructure means water systems, water lines, and water distribution; there is a cost to that. In those places where the population is increasing, they have the base to sustain and upgrade their systems. In other areas that are losing population, they don’t necessarily have the population base to sustain it. Well, what do you do? Do you just forget about it and leave it and let it dilapidate? That’s not proper. We just have to look at the resources that we have [to move forward].”
After two years of meetings and public comment periods, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission is holding meetings next month to present to the public a draft of the Arkansas Water Plan’s Updated Executive Summary. Here is where the meetings will be held in the state:
- Sept. 3, Stuttgart, 10 a.m., Grand Prairie Center, Phillips Community College, U of A, 2807 Highway 165 South
- Sept. 4, Jonesboro, 9 a.m., Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, 1709 East Nettleton
- Sept. 5, Russellville, 10 a.m., Lake Point Conference Center, 171 Lake Point Lane, Training Room C
- Sept. 15, Smackover, 1 p.m., Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, 3853 Smackover Highway
- Sept. 16, Texarkana, AR, 10 a.m., Southwest Arkansas Electric Coop, 2904 East Ninth St., (must park in designated areas)
- Sept. 17, Little Rock, 2 p.m., Central Arkansas Main Branch Library, 100 Rock St., Darragh Center Auditorium
- Sept. 19, Fayetteville, 10 a.m., U of A Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center, Room 109, 1335 West Knapp
After the meetings, public comments on the executive summary will be taken through October 24th. After the comment deadline has expired, a Final Executive Summary will be prepared and submitted to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission in November. The plan would then go before the Legislature for final approval. You can read the Arkansas Water Plan Update Draft Executive Summary here.