There follows on behalf of
the Union County (Arkansas) Water Conservation Board (Board) the Final Report -
Sparta Aquifer Recovery Study to EPA Region VI in Dallas.
Report covers all activities throughout the five-year, federally funded, Sparta
Aquifer Recovery Monitoring Study from August 2002 through November 2007.
To recap primary events leading up to the Study, in 1999, and in order
to address Union County, Arkansas’s rapidly declining groundwater Sparta
aquifer, the Board determined by evaluating all options that providing an
alternative surface water source to three major industries offered the most
feasible, fastest, and cost-effective way to reduce groundwater consumption.
Time was of the essence: the U.S. Geological Survey, with concurrence from the
Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (then Arkansas Soil & Water
Conservation Commission), had advised Union County that it had five years or
less to reverse over-consumption of groundwater, or risk inflicting irreparable
damage to the Sparta.
The Board immediately undertook construction of the
$65 million Ouachita River Alternative Water Supply Project, and by 2002,
federal grant funds through EPA made the Sparta Aquifer Recovery Study possible.
The Study offered a method of measuring, with scientific integrity, the
Project’s impact on the Sparta aquifer. The Study would also provide the Board
with necessary data and information to evaluate whether or not further
conservation measures would be necessary.
In order to measure Project
impact and accumulate valid Study data, the Board established a network of
twenty-nine monitoring wells throughout five contiguous South Arkansas counties
and three adjacent North Louisiana Parishes. Five years later, and with ample
benchmark data for before and after Project completion comparisons, both water
level and water quality data are encouraging, and both indicate the Board’s
Project is achieving some measure of success.
While all Union County
wells were declining prior to 1999, water levels have increased in all the Study
wells over the five-year period, one as much as 48 feet. Also, as the Board had
anticipated, water quality degradation appears to have been halted.
quote Randy Young, Executive Director of the Arkansas Natural Resources
Commission, “Water levels in Union County, Arkansas are rising for the first
time in over sixty years.”
While the news is all very good, the Sparta is
continuing to rise and the Board intends to continue monitoring the aquifer for
both water level and water quality changes. As it has since launching its web
site in 2003, the Board will continue to post new data, reports and information
at www.ucwcb.org/color>. Public access
to the publicly-funded Project and Study information has been and will continue
to be a Board priority.
The following report summarizes Study period
activities by all project partners, including the Board, Burns & McDonnell/color> Engineers, the U.S. Geological
Survey, and the Union County Conservation