The volume and distribution of withdrawal of water from the Sparta aquifer will determine whether there will be further degradation of the aquifer or whether Sparta well water levels will recover substantially, and, if the latter, what the time to recovery will be. (2, 8)
One approach is to increase potable water supplies by injection wells and by developing surface water alter-natives. The Ouachita River Alternative Supply Project in El Dorado, Arkansas is an important example of the latter. Also, Sparta Groundwater Study authors proposed projects to treat and pipe existing surface water in the Sparta region. (2) The City of West Monroe Wastewater Recycle Project (22) promises to serve much of the aim of the first prioritized project, which would draw from the Ouachita River. The Union-Lincoln Regional Water Supply Initiative, under study, was assigned second priority in the Sparta Groundwater Study. (2) Reservoirs are under study or consideration in Winn and Ouachita Parishes. New multi-purpose reservoirs in the recharge area have been suggested as a means to enhance aquifer recharge, with most benefit to immediately surrounding areas, while providing new surface water sources and paying for themselves by attracting retirees.
Another approach is to decrease demand for water. Conservation programs can consist of any or all of a number of measures, including on-going education and incentives to use water-sparing technology, reduce outdoor watering, repair water system leaks, and retrofit water-efficient fixtures. Water system managers can implement a tiered rate structure, source and end use metering, and best management practices in operation and maintenance. In EPA’s ‘Cases in Water Conservation’ (25), seventeen water systems, each implementing a different set of strategic water-use-efficiency programs, were able to achieve reductions in water use ranging from seven percent to thirty percent. Savings often allowed systems to defer or avoid significant expenditures for water supply facilities and wastewater facilities. Maddaus and Maddaus (26) used a model to provide a benefit cost analysis of water conservation measures for one hundred communities over five years. Their key conclusions were that plumbing fixture requirements represent a large portion of water and waste water savings; the majority of program benefits come from deferring new supply and treatment projects; measures that reduce peak demand can produce high benefit-cost ratios; technology to reduce demands significantly is readily available; and demand reductions through conservation of 10 to 20percent over 20 to 30 years are often cost-effective.
Aquifer conservation education is ongoing in the Sparta area. Through individual and local group efforts a Sparta video, ‘Our Lives, Our Water’, was produced. The video is available at Trailblazers and the Sparta Commission office. The media disseminate Sparta information. The ‘City of Ruston Water Utilities: Frequently Asked Questions’ webpage is an example of a city’s informing the public about the Sparta and ways to conserve water. In Claiborne Parish, public and private schools have teamed with LSU AgCenter and the parish Watershed District Commission to provide an annual Waterfest, a water resources education day at Lake Claiborne State Park for all parish sixth graders. The Sparta Commission encourages programs, such as Waterfest and Project Wet, a program to reach children, parents, teachers and the community with water education. The Sparta Commission’s educator and consultant conduct awareness activities, tying in with national and state campaigns such as national Groundwater Awareness Week. They collaborate, as opportunities arise, with civic and social groups, The LDNR Office of Conservation’s Groundwater Resources Program, and other agencies and organizations. The Sparta Commission rotates its meetings, bringing its information to each major Sparta-using parish.
The aim of educational outreach is to build a culture of care for the Sparta, because, in the end, Sparta aquifer protection and conservation will be founded upon public awareness and public appreciation of the Sparta aquifer.