Arkansas is known for its far-reaching influence on agriculture and the important role it plays in feeding the world. However, our state’s water resources — a crucial part of our success in this field — face significant challenges. It is a complex issue that requires discussions between many different industries and stakeholders. Water, Agriculture, Technology, Education & Research (WATER) is a new Institute program designed to facilitate those discussions.
“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
We aim to ensure water security for all, with the goal of solidifying Arkansas as a national leader in agriculture and responsible steward of its resources. In anticipation of this upcoming program, slated for October 2024, the Institute will facilitate community meetings statewide. These gatherings aim to engage with those interested in finding solutions, as well as to solicit innovative ideas about how to enhance Arkansas’s existing water management plans.
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.
In March 2023, the Institute had the honor of hosting Securing Water & Food in a Changing World, part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series. This event highlighted the unique opportunity Arkansas has to maintain our water-rich status in the future while protecting our position as a global food producer.
Following this event, in November 2023, the Institute hosted a topic dinner with 10 educators, researchers, and state agriculture leaders. From that conversation, we learned about the need for a shared understanding that smart water management is a common goal for all Arkansans and that fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing can yield substantial progress in the implementation of sustainable practices, technology, and resources available to current water management programs.
Together, we can ensure the sustainability of our water resources for generations to come. Please submit the form below to be notified of registration information, listening sessions, future dialogues, and other in-person programming at the Institute.
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