Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TOP STORY >>Collective efforts on new water

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

In the water world, five years is now, according to those who try to keep the faucets running for all the rest of us who give it no thought. That is to say, if you need the water in five years, it’s already too late to do much planning. It’s time to panic.
In the central part of the state, which is known for its shortage of ground water, those people who know about water have been busy for years trying to arrange for a plentiful supply of lake water.

Some like Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Water Users Association have been successful because they have signed contracts and borrowed millions of dollars to connect to Central Arkansas Water (CAW) which was formed when the water departments of Little Rock and North Little Rock merged.

But others like Ward, Austin, Bayou II Water Association and Grand Prairie Water Association have been trying, some for almost 15 years, to bring water down from Greers Ferry Lake by way of the Lonoke / White Water Project which is now estimated to cost about $60 million.

Recently, those Lonoke /White Project members received a water allocation from Greers Ferry Lake through the Mid Arkansas Water Alliance that would likely serve their needs for many years.

The total allocation available from the U.S. Corps of Engineers was 15 million gallons a day. The Conway area, which is not part of the Lonoke / White Project, but is part of MAWA, got half of it. Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Water Association each received 1.2 million and the balance of 3.9 million gallons a day will go to the members of the Lonoke / White Project, who need it now or in the near future. During a recent meeting of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, members voted to pay a one-time fee of $225,000 to secure its allocation.

“Getting their straw in the lake,” they called it. And although, the Cabot commission says the Lonoke /White Project will eventually be build, it won’t be soon, not within the five years that is “now” in the water world. And that begs the question: How will the people who need water now get it if funding isn’t found soon?

The answer for many is Cabot, which could supply water to its neighbors from the line it will lay to CAW. And if the state approves a request from the Water and Wastewater Commission to increase its take of water from its wells east of town from 3 million gallons a day to 6 million, water from that source could also supply Austin and Ward and, some say, Grand Prairie for many years to come.

Either way, Cabot could be the solution when the water runs low for its neighbors. And either way, Cabot’s neighbors could help pay for the water line that Cabot will run to connect to CAW.