March 19 virtual field trip to address surface water irrigation issues

water virtual field trip

The pluses and minuses of building and maintaining a reservoir, implementing various on-farm water conservation practices, and the impacts of the Bayou Meto and Grand Prairie water projects are among the topics to be addressed during an Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Virtual Field Trip scheduled for March 19 at 10 a.m. — graphic courtesy University of Arkansas

As concerns over declining groundwater levels in Arkansas increase, some farmers have built their own reservoirs to ensure adequate irrigation for their crops.

Groundwater use from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer, which supports the Arkansas Delta, has increased over the last century and the “majority of the increase is attributed to irrigation,” according to the Arkansas State Water Plan’s 2014 Update.

In 1935, the average groundwater use was about 320 million gallons per day. By 2010, groundwater use grew to about 7.8 billion gallons per day (see: http://bit.ly/39ighbT). The report also noted that in 2010, “long-term water-level changes were evaluated … in the alluvial aquifer for a period from 1984 to 2008. The mean annual change in water level for the alluvial aquifer in eastern Arkansas was a decline of 0.38 feet per year.”

For farmers, cities and other groundwater consumers, these declines have translated into increased costs to drill deeper wells and increased fuel use to pump the water to the surface.

“Building on-farm surface water impoundments is one solution to ensuring adequate growing season irrigation,” Lee Riley, Discovery Farm program associate for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said.

The pluses and minuses of building and maintaining a reservoir, implementing various on-farm water conservation practices, and the impacts of the Bayou Meto and Grand Prairie water projects are among the topics to be addressed during a Soil and Water Conservation Virtual Field Trip scheduled for March 19 at 10 a.m. There is no cost to register for the field trip. Attendees can participate in the tour and talks, as well as take part in a live chat, from any device connected to the internet.

Learning moments

Trent, Terry and Lori Dabbs of Stuttgart will share their real-world experiences as part of the virtual field trip, Riley said. The Dabbs family farm is part of the Discovery Farm program, in which demonstrations and agricultural impact research are conducted on privately owned farms.

“We will also hear from Ed Swaim, executive director of the Bayou Meto Water management District, who is familiar with the water quality and quantity challenges of the Arkansas Delta,” Riley said.

Participate and learn

The field trip will also have curriculum appropriate for high school science classes. For information about the curriculum, visit http://bit.ly/2IzNC6u.

Register for the conference via http://bit.ly/Farm-Surface-Water-Irrigation-Aquifer-Virtual-Field-Trip. To learn more about the Discovery Farm project visit http://discoveryfarms.uark.edu/.

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.