ASU Researchers Hope New Project Helps Farmers Clean, Conserve Water

September 8, 2004 -- Posted at: 9:30pm CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Two years ago members of the Environmental Sciences Program and the College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University came together to start working on a water research facility. After gathering enough grants and funding, construction of the sight began last week. GPS systems and heavy pieces of machinery are transforming a formerly unused piece of land into a simulated farm field.

Doctor Greg Phillips, Dean of the College of Agriculture Dean and Director of Agricultural Research, said, "What we're hoping to demonstrate is that there are ways of recovering the agricultural water clean enough to re-use it again, so that we can conserve water."

The project starts at the north end of the land where a couple of ponds are being constructed, next comes a series of ditches where water flow can be controlled, and anchoring the south end, wetland filter areas. Dr. Phillips added that water conservation is important in eastern arkansas.

"...because a lot of our farmers are pumping water out of the aquifers, and some of the aquifers are not being recharged," explained Phillips.

The sight slopes to the south to simulate a farmer's field. Scientists will be researching quality and movement of water from fields through ditches, and looking at how chemicals adhere to plants to clean the water.

"It'll also provide on-sight, so if we have demonstration or field days or water conferences, people can come over to the agricultural farm to see the research," added Doctor Jerry Farris, Professor of Environmental Biology and Director of the Doctoral Program in Environmental Sciences.

Doctor Farris has been working with the USDA on farm ditch research for the last 6 years in Arkansas and Mississippi. His students and others will work on projects at the new sight. Shannon Davis is a farmer and former student of Farris'. He's helping to construct the water research facility.

"We surveyed the area and laid out where we wanted our ponds and ditches to go, and built in reservoirs," said Davis.

Construction is scheduled to be finished on Friday, September 10th, and students should start running projects in coming months. Major research will begin in the spring. Research grants will pay for most of the construction and the first few projects. Leaders of a few private companies have approached Doctors Farris and Phillips already about the facility. They're interested in cleaning up water coming off of the production fields they deal with.