Sparta Withdrawals by Parish (Figure 11) and Withdrawals by Use (Figure 12) in 2004
The Sparta aquifer is pumped in a large area of north central Louisiana and a narrow band through Natchitoches and Sabine parishes. (2) ‘Currently (2004), more than 1760 wells are screened in the Sparta aquifer in Louisiana and Arkansas.‘ (8) Figure 13 shows locations of Sparta-Louisiana water wells identified from USGS data in 2000 for the Sparta Groundwater Study. (2)
‘The earliest known withdrawals from the Sparta (in southern Arkansas and Louisiana) began in 1898 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.’ (8) In 1906, as many as six municipalities in south Arkansas and north Louisiana were pumping from the Sparta. (2)
In 1980, total Sparta pumpage was about 64.98 mgd. The next year, an International Paper mill in Morehouse Parish ceased pumping the Sparta (this paper, sec. 6.b.2.), but Sparta pumping elsewhere continued to increase. In 1994, total Sparta pumping reached a peak of about 72.73 mgd. (2) From 1994 to 1999, the Smurfit-Stone Container plant in Jonesboro-Hodge developed a Sparta recycling project (this paper, sec. 6.b.3.), which led to the saving of a significant amount of Sparta water. But, once again, some savings were lost to continuing increase of pumping elsewhere in the Sparta. In 2000, total Sparta pumpage was about 69.84 mgd.(2) Pumpage has remained relatively stable since then (2000 through 2009). After 1990, public supply withdrawals began to increase relative to withdrawals by industry. (6) By 2000, public supply use had exceeded industrial usage. (15)
New Demand for Water in Northern Louisiana
In 2002, Meyer, Meyer, LeCroix, Hixson, in their Sparta Groundwater Study, predicted an increasing water demand in the Sparta region because of projected growth in population and industry. (2)
Recently, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Office of Conservation (DNR) has permitted Sparta water use in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (‘frac well’) operations and two million gallons per day for a period of four or more years to leach a salt dome for storage of natural gas. (17) This action is part of expanding natural gas production in northwest Louisiana, which has come about because of advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, processes that are used in most natural gas wells in the United States today (16a).
Much of the Sparta region lies within the oil and gas producing North Louisiana Salt Basin. Figure 14 In 2006 and 2008 respectively, 444 and 511 oil and gas wells were permitted by DNR in the nine major Sparta using parishes. (17) Approximately two-thirds of the permitted wells were active and producing during those years. (17) Vertical drilling of a new well may require as much as one million gallons of water. (16b)
The multi-stage hydraulic fracture operations used in ‘frac wells’ may require 2 to 4 million gallons of water per well. (16b) Figure 15 One author provides perspective: this water use is less than that for coal, oil, and ethanol production; a golf course consumes about five million gallons of water per twenty-five days. (16c)
At the time of this writing, most ‘frac wells’ in North Louisiana are being drilled in the natural gas-rich Haynesville/Bossier Shale. This play lies within the Sabine Uplift, most of which is located just west of the Sparta region (16d) Figure 14
While Sparta water use for natural gas production is projected to be small relative to surface water and Wilcox aquifer use for most Haynesville/ Bossier Shale operations, it is recognized that ‘because the development of shale gas is new in some areas, these water needs may challenge supplies and infra-structure’. (16b) Any new Sparta water demand emphasizes the need to prepare for the region’s future water requirements.
Department of Energy-funded ‘Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer’ (16b) and ‘EPA Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing’ (16e) summarize federal, state, and local regulations of the natural gas production industry, environmental considerations, and water supply and management issues. ‘Natural Gas Drilling: Facts and Issues’, a League of Women Voters of Texas study funded by Lockheed Martin Corporation, discusses these issues related to development of the Barnett Shale in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. (16f)