White River is at lowest levels in 58 years, area farmers struggle with irrigation

White River Dam in Batesville (Source: becky.box via The Loop)
White River Dam in Batesville (Source: becky.box via The Loop)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - While much of Region 8 picked up nearly 2 inches of rain over the weekend, it's still not enough for some of the worst drought-stricken areas.

The winding white river is known for producing hydro-electricity and drinking water.

For some farmers along its banks, the river is also a crucial source of crop irrigation.

Independence County Extension Agent Stan Carter says the river needs to stay around 8 feet deep to sustain proper irrigation heading into the summer months.

"People worry about the wells, and how far down you have to go to get the water. If the water gets very low, it may change, you may get to salt water or something. I don't think we will in this area but it is a concern further down the river."

Carter says the conservation pool was lowered over the weekend for repairs, which has put added strain on agri-business.

Some farmers are requesting water to be released from dams upstream to raise the river level.

"If it goes up, some of these wells would recharge quicker."

Laurie Driver with the US Army Corps of Engineers says this is a typical dry year, and approval would be needed from other organizations to get the water flowing.

"Agriculture folks along the White River use that to water their crops and they're hurting right now. The river's low and it's taking more effort to get water. "

Carter says for now, farmers will just have to keep irrigating or just take what mother nature dishes out.

"This year's been pretty strange. Started out with a warm March and a cool April. But it's been dry for a good month now, except this last weekend we finally got some rain. So that's improved things at least temporarily."

For the latest updates on river stages in Region 8, click here.

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