EDITOR'S NOTE: EACH DAY, MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF WATER FROM NORTHWEST ARKANSAS ARE DISCHARGED TO THE ILLINOIS RIVER BASIN FROM WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANTS. THE WATER COMES FROM THE WHITE RIVER, SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER FOR NEARLY ALL OF NORTHWESTERN ARKANSAS.
WILL NORTHWEST ARKANSAS REGRET THIS EXCHANGE SOMEDAY? WILL ADVANCES IN WASTEWATER TREATMENT ALLOW ARKANSAS TO KEEP THIS WATER IN THE FUTURE, RETURNING IT TO THE WHITE RIVER? WHAT IMPACT WOULD THIS HAVE ON OKLAHOMA, ON ILLINOIS RIVER RECREATION, TENKILLER LAKE, AND DRINKING WATER FOR OKLAHOMA CITIES?
By John Henley Jr.
The Morning News
Monday, November 21, 2005
ROGERS -- Cities in Northwest Arkansas could face water shortages in the future if nothing is done to address the area's rapid growth.
But local officials are exploring ways to make sure this doesn't happen.
A regional growth study prepared by Carollo Engineers states that about 407,000 people live in Benton and Washington counties now. That number could be as high as 700,000 by 2025 and more than 1.25 million by 2055.
The study examined how the area's projected population growth will affect Beaver Water District's existing customers.
District officials constantly re-evaluate Northwest Arkansas' growth, said Alan Fortenberry, the district's chief executive officer.
More than enough water exists to meet the long-term needs of Northwest Arkansas, although the district may need a bigger space allocation in the Beaver Lake conservation pool in the future, Fortenberry said.
There is plenty of water in Beaver Lake to support growth, Fortenberry said. The problem is getting the water to residents.
The district's board voted Thursday to pursue easements for a transmission line west of Interstate 540, to which existing customers can connect.
Fortenberry said the water line could be 48 or 60 inches in diameter. It will be large enough to provide for the water needs of Northwest Arkansas well into the future, he said.
Two 36-inch transmission lines currently carry water to Fayetteville, and 24- and 36-inch lines carry water to Springdale. Fayetteville has a maximum deliverable capacity of approximately 45 million gallons per day, while Springdale's is about 33 mgd.
The Carollo study projects that if growth remains constant, and neither Fayetteville nor Springdale builds new transmission lines, there will not be enough water to serve customers' needs.
Fayetteville is projected to exceed capacity in 2025, and Springdale in 2010.
Fayetteville officials are already considering another transmission line, said David Jurgen, that city's water and wastewater director. The first step, he said, is contacting the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission for help in identifying a corridor for the line.
Springdale officials are also waiting to see what will become of the Beaver Water District's proposal to build a large transmission line west of I-540, said Rene Langston, executive director of Springdale Water Utilities.
"That will have a major impact on us as well, because a big part of where we're needing to pump water is on the west side of Springdale," Langston said.
Springdale also sells water to Tontitown, Cave Springs and residents in Elm Springs and southern Lowell, including areas west of I-540.
"There's no doubt that if we continue to grow, we'll need another transmission line," Langston said. "It's definitely a concern to us, but we're not panicking yet."
Rogers and Bentonville share 24-inch and 30-inch transmission lines. The maximum deliverable capacity of those lines is about 26 mgd.
Bentonville is to begin construction next month on a 48-inch line that will have a maximum capacity of 40 mgd, said Britt Vance, that city's utilities director. Construction is scheduled to be complete in 18 months.
Rogers has agreed to buy Bentonville's share of the two existing transmission lines.
Beaver Water District recently completed a new intake facility with five pumps and a capacity of 70 mgd. The facility can accommodate five more pumps, increasing its capacity to 140 mgd.
The district currently has a treatment capacity of 80 mgd. An expansion of the Hardy Croxton treatment plant will be completed in the spring, adding a capacity of 60 mgd. The Joe M. Steele plant has a capacity of 40 mgd and will be shut down for renovation when the Croxton expansion is complete.
Both treatment plants should be back on line by 2009 and will give the district a maximum capacity of 140 mgd.
The Benton/Washington Regional Public Water Authority also provides water for many communities west of I-540. Its intake and treatment facility is separate from that of Beaver Water.
A 36-inch pipe supplies water to customers on the west side of the two counties, said Scott Borman, authority manager. The line is adequate for the authority's current needs, he said, but "we will probably end up running a parallel line in the future."
The authority has a rated capacity of 13.7 mgd and sells an average of 196 million gallons per month, Borman said. He said there were days in July, August and September when peak demand hit as much as 15.7 mgd, but only for a few hours.
Borman has mentioned plant expansion at recent board meetings. He said any expansion would add 12 mgd at the least, and possibly as much as 20 mgd.
"There are three or four studies out there," he said, "and they all show the same thing: growth."