The Arkansas Water Resources Center publishes this e-newsletter each month to highlight research, faculty, news and important events.
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Arkansas Water Resources Center
Newsletter - May 2015
Course Offered on Construction Site Best Management Practices at AWRC 2015 Conference
Jessica Johnson, the stormwater coordinator for the City of Hot Springs, will teach a course titled, “BMP Design, Application, and Inspection for Construction Sites”. The course is designed for construction site managers and workers, designers, developers, inspectors and other interested individuals. You’ll learn about the importance of construction site BMPs to stormwater management, how to properly select and install certain BMPs and why evaluation and inspection of BMPs is so important.
Continuing education units will be offered. You can also choose to take a short exam, and with a passing score, you’ll receive Certified Inspector credentials recognized by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
Other conference sessions include animal manure and the land-water interface, agricultural water management in the delta, emerging research by students funded through the USGS 104B program and a poster session.
The conference will be held on July 21-22 at Global Campus on the Fayetteville downtown square. You can register for the conference here and the preliminary schedule will be available next week!
USDA to Help Clean Waterways in Mississippi River Basin Arkansas
Natural Resources Conservation Service - Arkansas 

Targeted conservation work in the Mississippi River basin will unite the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), farmers and local organizations to help clean waterways that flow into the nation’s largest river. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing $10 million this year in 27 new high-priority watersheds and 13 existing projects that will help improve water quality and strengthen agricultural operations. This investment is part of a commitment of $100 million over four years to address critical water quality concerns in priority watersheds while boosting rural economies.
“We know that when we target our efforts to the places most in need, we see stronger results,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These projects focus on watersheds in need, where we have opportunities to work with partners and farmers to get conservation work on the ground.”
NRCS worked with state agencies, farmers and other partners to identify high-priority watersheds that align with established state priorities and have strong partnerships in place — and where targeted conservation on agricultural land can make the most gains in improving local and regional water quality. Conservation systems implemented in these areas will reduce the amount of nutrients flowing from agricultural land into waterways, curb erosion and improve the resiliency of working lands in the face of droughts and floods. This investment builds on $18.5 million already allocated to projects in the basin in fiscal 2015.
These projects, including nine in Arkansas, are funded through the agency’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), which uses funding from several Farm Bill conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), to help farmers adopt conservation systems to improve water quality and habitat and restore wetlands.
Researcher Spotlight on Dr. Kent Kovacs
Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness
Kovacs received a base grant from the Arkansas Water Resources Center through the US Geological Survey 104B program to fund a research project titled “Economics of On-Farm Reservoirs Across the Arkansas Delta Region: A Conjunctive Management Approach to Preserving Groundwater and Water Quality.”
The Problem: If you live in Arkansas, the idea of running out of water probably hasn’t crossed your mind. However, in the Arkansas delta region, water availability is always a concern to agricultural crop production. Groundwater aquifers supply the majority of water for irrigation and the rate of withdrawal has long been exceeding the rate of recharge. Water quality is also an important issue, because nutrients from fertilizers applied to farmland can be transported by rainfall and irrigation runoff into agricultural drainage ditches and nearby streams and rivers.
So What?:  Agriculture is paramount for Arkansas’s economic well-being, accounting for approximately 17% of the overall economy in 2012.  Among all the states, Arkansas is the number 1 producer of rice, number 3 producer of catfish, number 4 producer of cotton, and the number 9 producer of soybeans, all of which depend on groundwater aquifers.  Water supply issues can be a huge financial burden for the State and for the farmers whose lives rely on a successful harvest.
The Research Question: Kovacs, in collaboration with Division of Agriculture researchers, wanted to know, what are some of the best irrigation policies for reducing groundwater depletion and protecting water quality that are also most cost-effective for the farmers? They wanted to know how water resource conditions and the crops grown will change over the next 30 years under various water management strategies.
The Methods: Kovacs and a team of cross-disciplinary scientists created a model to assess the effect of on-farm reservoirs on groundwater depletion and sediment and nutrient losses from the agricultural landscape in the delta, with a focus on maximizing farm profitability. They looked at how water use from surface and ground sources, the option to build reservoirs, and the types of crops grown affect the economic and environmental sustainability of the delta landscape.
The Findings: On-farm reservoirs can provide many benefits to farms in Arkansas. Reservoirs were shown to slow groundwater depletion, reduce sediment and nutrient losses, and raise farmer’s net returns in the long run.  Even though the construction of these reservoirs decreases the total land area that can be used for farming, profits rose because irrigation water from reservoirs allows farmers to continue growing high return crops like rice for longer before switching to low return crops like non-irrigated soybeans. 
The Benefits: The State continues to consider policy for sustainable management of groundwater supplies in the delta, including shifting use to surface water when it’s available. Kovacs’ work can help guide these decisions towards policies that are good for sustainable water use and for the farmers’ bottom line.
Arkansas Discovery Farms
Have you heard of Arkansas Discovery Farms? If you answered no, you’re not alone.
Arkansas Discovery Farms (ARDF) is a program that facilitates scientific research on water quality at privately owned farms, representing real world conditions. The program was developed in 2010 by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension Service, with support from many other sponsors and industry stakeholders.
There are several participating farms around the state which represent the diversity that Arkansas agriculture offers – from row crop to livestock farming. Agriculture in Arkansas has been under scrutiny for the impacts it might have on the water quality of streams and rivers. This puts pressure on farmers to better manage nutrients and sediments that might be transported from field to stream in rainfall and irrigation runoff.  Many farmers are eager to implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce their impact on water quality. BMPs can also save farmers money through more efficient use of fertilizers and irrigation strategies. But, many farmers are unsure as to which BMPs might be most environmentally and cost effective.
The neat thing about Discovery Farms is that it is completely farmer-led. The farmer chooses what fields to monitor and the conservation and management practices being implemented. The University researchers monitor the quality of the water that runs off the landscape during and after rain events and irrigation activities. Water samples are analyzed by the certified laboratory at the Arkansas Water Resources Center. Researchers then analyze the data to learn how different on-farm conservation practices influence nutrient and sediment concentrations in runoff. This partnership gives farmers the information to make informed management decisions and the choice to implement the BMPs as they see fit.
The Arkansas Discovery Farms program is in the process of expanding its reach as four privately owned farms are added, totaling 13 participating farms throughout Arkansas by the end of the year. For more information, visit the Discovery Farms website.
Upcoming Events

May 30, 2015
War Eagle Appreciation Day
War Eagle Creek, AR

Tour De Cave Bike Tour
IRWP Learning Center, Cave Springs, AR

June 6, 2015
IRWP Family Day
IRWP Learning Center, Cave Springs, AR

June 19, 2015
Surf the Bay
Fairfield Bay, AR
Upcoming Conferences

June 2
Connecting Families and Nature
Ozarks Water Watch

June 3-5, 2015
Designing 21st Century Grasslands: Fire, Water, Conservation, & Carbon
American Ecological Engineering Society

July 21-22
Meeting Arkansas's Water Needs Now and Into the Future
Arkansas Water Resources Center

October 14-15
60th Midwest Groundwater Conference 
Illinois River Watershed Partnership

Job Seeking?

Central Arkansas Water
Water Quality Intern

   Project Engineer

     Frisco, TX
   Summer Intern
     North Little Rock, AR

   Summer Intern
     Tulsa, OK

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission
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