Black River drops to lowest level since 1957

Pocahontas gets its drinking water from the river.
Pocahontas gets its drinking water from the river.
The Black River has dropped to its lowest level since 1957.
The Black River has dropped to its lowest level since 1957.

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT)- With in the past week or so, the Black River has dropped to levels that haven't been seen since the late 50's.

Only the cities of Poplar Bluff and Pocahontas draw their drinking water from the Black River. Current low levels have forced the city of Pocahontas to take steps to insure there is an abundant supply of drinking water.

Bill Daniel is the Manager for the Pocahontas Water Department. The comes out of the Black River via a large pipe that extends into the river. It is a gravity fed system going to the pumps.

Daniel, "The water flows in to what we call the pump house. These pumps lift the water up to our water treatment plant."

But now the Black River has dropped to level not seen since 1956 and that's causing problems.

Daniel, "The water level of the river has gotten so low that our pumps are cavitating for the gravity coming into the pump house."

Cavitating basically means sucking air instead of water. Daniel says they have had to fall back on an irrigation pump hooked up to aluminum and PVC pipe that runs from the river to the pump housing.

Daniel explained the reason for the pump. "What we've done is shut the valve off and pumping the raw water straight into the pump house and then re-pumping it up to the water plant." It's basically the same set-up as before except the water has to be forced up.

This pump is pumping about 1500 gallons a minute, more than enough to meet the average city use of 1.4 million gallons a day. The city is also asking citizens for help by watering their yards on even and odd days.

One interesting side affect of having the water so low is that treasure hunters are coming down to the river to see what they can find. They're finding everything from shells to shoe leather. Also rings and metal anchor bolts used to tie up steam boats are being exposed for the first time in decades and the foundation for the first bridge across the river has been exposes.

14-year old Adam Smith has been treasure hunting on the river banks a couple of times. This trip resulted in a rusty pair of scissors along with other things that he and his mom found.

Smith, "We came down here, she found a button and bunch of jars and buttons over there and I found part of the railroad track." The bank is littered with mussel shells and a pile of shells with button cut-outs has been exposed by the low water near the water pump.

Ironically last year the river was as high as the transformer and back up generator which platforms which sit about 15 feet above the river bank.

Daniel, "I've seen it up before but not as high as that." "Ever seen it this low?" we asked. "No. We could really use some rain."

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