Arkansas has long been known as a powerhouse in agriculture, with a deep connection to the land and a commitment to feeding the world. However, as we look to the future, we must also consider the responsible maintenance of our water resources. Water is the lifeblood of our largest export, and it is essential that we protect both our agricultural heritage and our natural resources for future generations.

Inspired by Dr. Peter McCornick, the executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, we are launching a new program called Water, Agriculture, Technology, Education & Research (WATER). Dr. McCornick spoke at the Institute in May 2023 and challenged us to think about how we can continue to be a national leader in agriculture while also being responsible stewards of our water.

“This program will bring together the Arkansans feeding the world – producers, researchers, and future agriculture leaders – to create a collaborative effort for strategic, coordinated water use.”

WATER Mission Statement

To kick things off, we hosted a topic dinner last December. We learned that while we have many solutions to water management, what is needed is a shared resolution to face significant challenges. Arkansas has the third-highest amount of irrigated acres in the nation, with the primary source of irrigation water being the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer. Unfortunately, the rapidly declining levels of the alluvial aquifer have led to increased pumping in the Sparta-Memphis aquifer, our state’s water resource for drinking and industrial use.

The Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer sees a draw of 7.63 billion gallons per day with a replenishment rate of just 44.2 percent. The Sparta-Memphis Aquifer, on the other hand, has a draw of about 160 million gallons per day and a slightly better, but still concerning, rate of replenishment at 55 percent. (Source: 2022 Arkansas Groundwater Protection and Management Report)

The next step for WATER is to host listening sessions to understand the real-world challenges faced by agricultural producers. We want to hear from you about how we can best manage water in a water-rich state like Arkansas, what incentives or support mechanisms are needed for farmers, and how we can support the wider adoption of successful practices. If you work, teach, volunteer, or are otherwise involved in this field, we highly encourage you to submit the brief form below. A member of our Programs team will reach out to you via email about program registration, listening sessions in your area, future dialogues, and other in-person programming at the Institute.

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  1. 1
    Elan Sutton on February 28, 2024

    When are the Water listening sessions expected to happen?

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