The Arkansas Water Resources Center publishes this e-newsletter each month to highlight research, faculty, news and important events.
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December 2015
AWRC Announces 104G Funding Opportunity
The Arkansas Water Resources Center is requesting research proposals for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 104G competitive grants program.
Successful projects will advance the national mission of the USGS to support research that will help to improve and enhance the nation’s water supply. Special attention will be given to proposals that address issues in water treatment, climate change, land use changes, surface and groundwater management, and evaluation of conservation practices.
Eligible applicants are limited to researchers at institutions of higher learning in Arkansas. However, proposals should demonstrate a strong collaboration with the USGS.
Proposals may be for projects between 1 and 3 years in duration and may request up to $250,000 in federal funds. For every federal dollar requested, one non-federal dollar must be matched.
The deadline to submit proposals is February 25, 2016 at 4:00 pm central time and must be filed online at If you’re interested in submitting a proposal, please notify the AWRC director, Brian Haggard at, because these proposals are submitted through the Center. Read the
full announcement for more information.

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Persist in Stream Environments

Suhartono, Ph.D. candidate in the Cell and Molecular Biology Program and Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arkansas and advised by Dr. Mary Savin, is studying antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Suhartono and Savin received funding from the Arkansas Water Resources Center through the US Geological Survey 104B Program for their research.
The Problem: “Resistance to last-resort antibiotic has now spread across the globe.” Headlines like this are what you’ll find if you google “antibiotic resistance” in the news right now. Bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics quickly and easily by transferring genes in DNA called plasmids, which often have other genes to help facilitate this transfer. Wastewater treatment plants don’t completely eliminate bacteria and pharmaceutical drugs during the treatment process. Research has shown that antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria can be found in wastewater treatment effluent and in the receiving streams, which might be facilitating the transfer of antibiotic resistance among bacteria.
So What?: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria and 23,000 people die from these infections every year in the United States alone. The toll on human health is projected to become even worse in the future, and even the most basic surgical operations could result in life-threatening infection if antibiotics are ineffective.
The Research Question: Dr. Savin and Suhartono wanted to know, how is antibiotic resistance related to certain genes that are associated with the transfer of resistance genes, and how do these genes influence the persistence of antibiotic resistance in the aquatic environment?
The Methods: Dr. Savin and Suhartono studied antibiotic resistant E. coli isolates that were collected from water samples and stored during a
previous research project. They extracted DNA plasmids from the E. coli and identified the presence of 6 different antibiotic resistance genes and a group of genes that control their transfer, called integrons. Integrons function to transfer bacterial genes from one DNA molecule to another by assisting with the insertion of the new gene into DNA. To understand how these genes affect the persistence and survival of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment, they grew E. coli in synthetic treated wastewater with the addition of antibiotics. After 11 days, they measured the amount of E. coli that grew in each treatment.
The Findings: Integron genes were positively related to antibiotic resistance. For example, when E. coli were resistant to three antibiotics, 55% of the bacteria also had integron genes. But, when E. coli were resistant to six antibiotics, 90% of isolates had integron genes.
Interestingly, the E. coli isolates that actually had integron genes did not survive better than the isolates that didn’t have the genes. This seems counter intuitive since integron genes are related to antibiotic resistance and help to facilitate the transfer of resistance genes. However, harboring these extra genes is
energetically costly. It could be that E. coli with integron genes expended more energy to keep the genes and less energy on proliferation during the 11-day study period.
The Benefits: The work of Dr. Savin and Suhartono is adding to the growing body of knowledge about what controls antibiotic resistance gene transfer and proliferation of resistant microbes. This information can be used to develop novel antibiotic treatments or to inform wastewater treatment plant managers of effective disinfection protocols.
New Tool Rates Stream Vulnerability to Unconventional Oil and Gas Development
Study Looks at Natural and Man-Made Factors
From the

On average, streams in the Niobrara-Mowry Play of eastern Wyoming, 
Fayetteville Play of Arkansas, and Barnett Play of Texas ranked most vulnerable to unconventional oil and gas development, but for different reasons, according to recent U.S. Geological Survey coauthored research.

Streams in the Fayetteville and Barnett were vulnerable mostly from existing man-made stressors, whereas streams in the Niobara-Mowry were vulnerable largely due to a stream's natural sensitivity to alterations. However, the study also shows that streams in all regions have the potential to be impacted by such development.
A team of academic, USGS, and private-sector researchers computed potential stream vulnerability to unconventional oil and gas development in six shale plays, including the Bakken, Barnett, Fayetteville, Hilliard-Baxter-Mancos, Marcellus and Utica, and Niobrara-Mowry.  The newly developed vulnerability index shows that streams with the highest sensitivity and exposure to stressors may be most vulnerable to unconventional oil and gas development.
"Stream ecosystems show variation in potential vulnerability to unconventional oil and gas development across the contiguous United States," said Kelly Maloney, USGS research ecologist and coauthor of the study. "The index we developed incorporated a stream ecosystem's natural sensitivity to alterations and its exposure to man-made stressors, such as well pads, urbanization and agriculture."
What made areas potentially vulnerable varied across plays due to climatic, geologic and human caused differences. Low annual precipitation in the drier regions of the western US (Niobrara-Mowry, Hilliard-Baxter-Mancos, and Bakken) affected stream vulnerability to unconventional oil and gas development. In contrast, the steeper slopes in the watersheds of Appalachia made streams in the Marcellus-Utica play naturally sensitive.  The Barnett and Marcellus regions had areas with greater urbanization than other plays.
"The indices developed in this paper can be used to identify streams where aquatic life are particularly vulnerable, and then help prioritize stream protection and monitoring efforts," said Maloney.  "These findings can also be used to guide local development activities to help reduce potential environmental effects."
Research partners in this study included the University of Central Arkansas, Waterborne Environmental Inc., University of Arkansas and Wilkes University.
The paper "Stream vulnerability to widespread and emergent stressors: a focus on unconventional oil and gas" [Entrekin et al. 2015] is available in PLOS ONE, which is an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal and can be downloaded free of charge
Retention Ponds Can Significantly Decrease Runoff, Study Shows
Matt McGowan, University of Arkansas Newswire

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas researchers have simulated the effect of a series of retention ponds in the West Fork of the White River Watershed by using remote sensing data and advanced geographic information system tools.

The researchers found that construction of 22 one-acre ponds, with an average flood-pool depth of 8.2 feet, in sub-basin areas can decrease peak-flow runoff by about 15 percent. Sub-basins are natural valleys or “washes” of varying size that funnel runoff to a river. A retention pond system would have the potential to significantly decrease water loss from runoff in watersheds of at least 75,000 acres.
“These results show that relatively small water bodies placed strategically within a watershed can have a major effect on watershed hydrology,” said Thad Scott, associate professor of environmental water science in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. “By retaining runoff and preventing it from reaching a municipal water supply, such as Beaver Lake, the natural environment can treat nutrients on site rather than a having to spend a lot of money to do so chemically at a treatment facility.”
Scott conducted the study with Brian Haggard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Arkansas Water Resources Center. Their goal was to simulate the effect of building new ponds or retrofitting existing ponds on hydrology of the West Fork of the White River, which drains 124 square-miles of land between Fayetteville and Winslow in Northwest Arkansas.

Arkansas State Hosts Annual Soil and Water Conference

The 18th annual Soil and Water Education Conference will be held in conjunction with the Arkansas Irrigation Expo on January 27, 2016 at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Conference check-in will begin at 8:00 am and the meeting will adjourn at 3:00 pm.
This conference will cover a variety of topics related to current issues and trends in soil and water conservation. The Irrigation Expo will include a trade show with vendors and displays. Continuing education units for certified crop advisors will also be awarded.
The conference cost is $20 and the deadline to register is January 10th. However, day-of registration will be available at a cost of $40. Lunch is also included in the cost of registration.
You can
register online or contact Chris Jones for more information at 870-972-2043 or
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Calendar of Events

January 15

Deadline to submit abstract for OSU Student Water Conference

Deadline to register for Blue Pathways Workshop

January 19
Deadline to submit abstract for UCOWR/NIWR Annual Water Resources Conference

January 21
Blue Pathways Workshop
Fayetteville, AR

January 26
Deadline to submit ANRC 319 Program Workplan

January 27
Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference
Jonesboro, AR

February 15

Deadline to submit application for OSU Research Experience for Undergraduates
Stillwater, OK

February 25
Deadline to submit proposal for AWRC-USGS 104G Program Grant

February 26
Deadline to submit proposal for AGFC State Wildlife Grant

March 18-19
ONSC Teacher Workshop on Watersheds
Huntsville, AR

March 24-25
OSU Annual Student Water Conference
Stillwater, OK

May 2-6

NWQMC National Water Monitoring Conference
Tampa, FL

June 21-23

UCOWR/NIWR Annual Water Resources Conference
Pensacola Beach, FL
Job Openings

Aqua Strategies
Water Resources Engineer/Hydologist
Austin, TX

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission
Little Rock, AR

Several postings for Project Managers, Engineers and Interns
Little Rock, Fayetteville, and regionally