Examining Arkansas Water Table

January 12, 2006--Posted at 5:30 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--3 quarters of the earth is covered by it, and around 65 percent of our body is made up of it....water. 

"Water is certainly the main driver in society whether it be drinking or whatever," said Mike Callaway of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Today leaders from across the region came together at ASU for the Arkansas Soil and Water Conference. They took a look at how drought like conditions here in region 8 are taking a toll on the area.

"This has been the 2nd driest year in the last 110 years so it is affecting everyone in the state," said Todd Fugitt of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

It's this dry weather that is forcing Arkansas to pump more water than usual from the underground water table.

"In Arkansas we use more water from our aquifers than what is safe or sustainable," said Fugitt.

This year's drought did have a minor effect on the area's water table but the real cause for concern is the area agricultural industry's dependence on the water table.

"What is a real concern to the Natural Resources Commission is the overall long term trend which we see water levels decline year after year because we are using that water," said Fugitt.

As levels slowly decline in the water table year after year the number of water related problems we can anticipate seeing in the region will increase.

"We're getting western problems in this eastern state," said ASU Professor and event coordinator Dr. Tina Gray Teague.

With a thriving rice industry dependent on water and a growing population across the state, securing a healthy water supply is becoming that much more important.

"We have been using a lot of water from our aquifers and how are we going to balance that with agricultural use, in municipalities, industrial development is all a concern as more people come into Arkansas. We have to bring this balance together," said Dr. Teague.

A balance that leaders from across the state hope to find with more events like the Arkansas Soil and Water Conference.

"Education is probably the key to figuring it out," said Callaway.

It's a problem they hope to solve before it becomes a major issue here in Region 8. Today's conference was a cooperative effort with ASU, the University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture, the USDA, and the Northeast Arkansas Conservation Districts.