Figure 32 Water Level Trends in All USGS Real-Time Sparta Wells in Louisiana to March 1, 2010
Conservation approaches have contributed to stabilization of withdrawal rates over the past decade at approxi-mately 70 mgd, still exceeding 52 mgd, the withdrawal rate recommended in the Sparta Groundwater Study (2). Largely as a result of the Ouachita River Alternative Supply Project, the project’s recovery study wells (Figure 31), and some Louisiana Sparta USGS Real-Time wells (Figure 32) are showing some degree of water level rise, most notable near the Arkansas border. Because response to major reductions in withdrawals occurs over years, the Sparta Recovery Study will continue to provide data to lead to better understanding of the aquifer and its potential yield.
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.
City of West Monroe Sparta Reuse Project-Under Development in March, 2010
‘Graphic (Packaging) currently pulls 10 million gallons per day from the depleted Sparta Aquifer and another 10 million from the Ouachita River. When the city completes construction of its $20 million facility that will convert wastewater into drinking quality water in 2011, Graphic will use 7 million gallons of the treated water per day, reducing its draw on the Sparta by 70 percent… We’re all about sustainability….That’s why company officials are excited about the city of West Monroe’s Sparta Reuse Project (Graphic Packaging spokesperson)’. (22a) Pre-2004, West Monroe and West Ouachita Sewer District No. 5 invested almost $1 million in studies and testing. (22b) In 2004, construction of a pilot project began, funded in part by $600,000 in state capital outlay funds. (22b) In 2009, the ‘Sparta Reuse Demonstration Project’ received priority 1 status for $7.6 million of capital outlay funds, with a $4 million local match. (22c) In 2009, LDEQ selected the project to receive $4.75 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (federal stimulus funds). (20d) An additional advantage of the project is its reduction of wastewater discharge into the Ouachita River. (22e and 22f)
Bastrop Paper Mill Off the Sparta in 1981
After a paper mill began operation in Bastrop in 1921, a Sparta cone of depression developed and, over years, extended widely. In 1981, the International Paper Co. (IP) paper mill went off the Sparta. As a result, between 1981 and 1990 the water level in a USGS-monitored Bastrop area well (MO-5) averaged a rise of more than 35 feet. (Figure 28) Unfortunately, in 2008, IP operations in Bastrop closed, and 550 jobs were lost. (All Headline News, November 8, 2008)
Smurfit-Stone Container Plant Reduced Sparta Use in a 1994-1999 Recycling Project
From 1994 to 1999, managers of the Smurfit-Stone Container plant, located in Hodge, built a water recycling system, thereby reducing the plant's daily use of Sparta water from 15.32 mgd in 1994 to 8.1 mgd in 2000.
(Ref.2, p. 24) The result has been substantial recovery in water levels in the plant’s twelve closely spaced wells, from 14 to 38 feet between 1995 and 2000 (2) and continuing. (Figure 29) During the five year reporting period, levels in other Bienville Parish wells continued to decline (from 0.4 to 1.44 feet). (2) The extent to which Smurfit-Stone Container’s Sparta savings will affect water levels within a wider radius of the plant will become known in time.
About the Union County, Arkansas Ouachita River Alternative Water Supply Project
Converting El Dorado industries to surface water use in the past decade is resulting in a significant water level rise in Union County wells and in some Louisiana wells, most notably in wells near the border with Arkansas. (Figure 30) The aim of the Ouachita River Alternative Water Supply Project was to reduce Sparta withdrawals by an average nine mgd. As soon as the Union County Water Conservation Board was established, the board began constructing a 65 mgd river intake, pumping stations, settling facilities, and piping to deliver non-potable river water to major industries in Union County. In 2004 and 2005, three major industries converted from Sparta to river water. An ongoing monitoring program is in place to document the widening area of recovery over years. In 2008, the Ouachita River Alternative Water Supply Project received the Dept. of Interior Cooperative Conservation Award for its successful 'Save the Sparta' public-private partnership endeavor. (Figure 31)
Ingredients of Union County’s Successful Sparta Conservation Program (23.a.)
The State got Union County’s attention. Union was among the first five Arkansas counties to be declared, in 1996 by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC), a Critical Groundwater Area; both ANRC and USGS agreed that Union County’s situation was the most critical.
Union County received a motivating shock: a USGS special report, solicited by Union County with strong support from federal elected officials, told Union County it must cut its aquifer water use by 72 percent or risk inflicting irreparable damage on the aquifer. (Ref. 27-e: USGS study by Hays)
State legislation established effective local authority. Act 1050 of 1999 created Critical Groundwater County Conservation Boards, providing them with well-defined state assistance and oversight (ANRC).
ALL Sparta stakeholders helped write the legislation. This was accomplished, in part, through many public meetings attended by county residents and representatives of county organizations.
ANRC approves locally sought boards that have plans to meet a defined shortage (law specifies board composition and that board members are to receive no compensation).
Board powers include: entering into contracts, setting fees, regulating, accepting grants, monitoring wells, generating funds, and conducting investigations related to groundwater use.
Arkansas law requires reporting of water use and sets penalties for non-compliance.
An empowered board of stakeholders formed. The Union County Water Conservation Board (first appointed, now elected) held its first meeting on June, 24, 1999.
The Union County Water Conservation adopted a clear mission statement at its first meeting.
Paid professional staff and contracted agents assure effective program components, including: credibility, cooperation, on-going education, efficient administration.
An opportunity arose. Union Power Station built a river water treatment facility with capacity to meet both its and Union County’s current/future needs; other local industries tied in; Union County paid 27% of cost and Union County now owns and operates the infrastructure.
The Public bought-in:
They paid 24¢ per1000 gallons of Sparta water pumped – as provided for by Act 1050 and adopted by the Board in 1999.
They voted for a 7-year 1¢ sales tax for a pipeline (cancelled after 4 years, when debt was paid off).
Industry bought-in. Industries paid for on-site infrastructure to convert to surface water, and they continue to pay a fee for river water used (originally 56 cents per thousand gallons). One industry spokesman described industry’s commitment: ‘We’re a part of the solution – we have to be if we’re to have a community to live in. It made sense to do this and the three big industries recognized it was the right thing to do.’
Figure 31 shows the many agencies, organizations, and citizen groups who worked closely together to assure the project’s success. The Ouachita River Alternative Water Supply Project was preceded by voluntary conservation measures by all Union County industries. These voluntary measures resulted in savings of about 10 percent of the total consumption in 1999. The substantial conversion of three industries to lightly-treated Ouachita River water in 2004 resulted in another 40 percent reduction in county-wide Sparta pumpage.
Alternative Supply Projects Under Study or Under Consideration
The Union-Lincoln Regional Water Supply Initiative was created as a non-profit organization by officials of Lincoln and Union Parishes, Farmerville, and Ruston. The purpose is to seek surface water supplies as alternatives to some Sparta use. In 2006, federal funding was received to conduct a study of D’Arbonne Lake water quality and water levels. (24) Congressional delegates have helped secure additional funds for the initiative.
A City of Winnfield Potable Water Supply Reservoir on Port De Luce Initiative is underway. Initial studies have been conducted by USDA, NRCS, and consulting firms.
In February, 2010, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury approved application for federal funding of a Western Ouachita Parish Water Management Plan, which addresses water supply concerns of Sparta-using City of West Monroe and surrounding unincorporated areas. A Ruston Leader article reported that the plan would identify major Sparta users and consider the development of a major water reservoir. The report continued that plans for a 3500 acre reservoir have been drawn and that the project now needs permits and funding. Police Juror and Sparta Commission Vice Chairman Mack Calhoun is quoted: ‘(Police Jurors) understand the most important thing in this parish is drinking water for the people and having enough water to attract new businesses.’
Improvements in Efficiency of Water Supply Systems
Area legislators sponsored a Town Hall Meeting, with the Louisiana Rural Water Association (LRWA), at the Ruston Civic Center on March 22, 2007. Among points made (Ruston Leader July 13, 2007):
The average amount of water loss for any given area due to leaks is 10 to 15 percent. A LRWA review of 29 of the 177 systems within Louisiana’s Sparta Aquifer area revealed an approximate 30 percent unaccounted for water withdrawn from the aquifer, either because records failed to reflect all water use or because of water loss.
Some factors that contribute to Sparta water loss: aging water systems, inadequate or lack of regular water audits, faulty water meters, no master meters, water operator turnover, low and flat water rates that provide no incentive to conserve, unmetered consumers, water systems too small to generate revenue needed for adequate maintenance, and lack of personal responsibility, e.g. sprinklers on when it’s raining.
Conservation can go a long way toward restoring the Sparta aquifer to its pre-overpumped state.
Among measures (first line) metering, water audits, water rate structuring to reflect the true value and cost of water, and a leak detection program; (second line) consolidating some water systems and local conservation incentives and penalties; (last resort) state-government mandates. LRWA Executive Director Patrick Credeur remarked, ‘All the systems need to review their rate structures and make sure they are charging a reasonable price so there will enough (money) in reserve if something breaks.’
If local practices are unwise, it is hard to justify asking for state or federal money to develop new sources of water supply.
‘Town of Dubach Water Not Accounted For Falls From 67 to 3 Percent’. (Ruston Leader July 26, 2007) Dubach received a 2007 Energy Conservation System of the Year award from Louisiana Rural Water Association for this achievement. Unaccounted for water was due mostly to broken water lines and meters. Mayor Margaret Rogers stated, ‘This actually saves the town money because it costs a lot of money to pump this water.’
Town of Homer Sparta Success Story (by Ronnie Anderson January 24, 2007, in records of the Claiborne Parish Watershed District). The Homer Sewage Plant was redesigned. Formerly, the plant used an estimated one million gallons of Sparta water per month to inject chemicals to treat sewage to meet discharge standards and additional water through jets to mix the waste water. By the new design, pumps were installed to recycle wastewater for injecting the treatment chemicals, and the jets were eliminated. The cost, $3000, was quickly paid for in water savings.
Meyer, Meyer, LeCroix, and Hixson selected several scenarios of Sparta use, using the ground-flow model described in the section above (5.f.3.a.). For all scenarios, they assumed that Sparta pumpage would be reduced by 8 mgd by El Dorado industries converting from Sparta to surface water. For all scenarios except the ‘No Change in Use’ scenario they projected demographic changes in the base case Scenario 2.
For the No Change in Use scenario, the model calculates for well water levels, by the Year 2025: (Ref. 2, p.6-2)
in the Ouachita Parish area: recovery of approximately five feet, largely because of decreased pumping in Morehouse Parish, Louisiana and Union County, Arkansas;
at the western edge of Ouachita Parish: additional drawdown;
in Lincoln and Winn Parishes: additional drawdown greater than 25 feet, (simulation was influenced by pumpage increases, between 1980 to 1999, in Winn Parish (from 1.67 to 3.74 mgd) and Lincoln Parish (from 4.24 to 8.94 mgd).
Meyer, Meyer, LeCroix, and Hixson reported in the Sparta Groundwater Study (2) results of the application of their model to Ouachita Parish, which is at particular risk of salt water intrusion because of heavy pumping in the area and close proximity to the freshwater/saltwater interface. The optimized solutions maintained hydraulic heads at or above the top of the Sparta Sand by the end of the simulation period (2025).
The researchers reported the following results by Scenarios 1 through 6: (2, pages 6-1 to 6-10)
Scenario 1. No Change resulted in an increase in westward hydraulic gradient and associated potential movement westward of the saltwater front. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 78 percent of the current pumpage rate.
Scenario 2. Projected Demographic Changes from 2000 through 2025 (5.5% Higher Usage Rates) resulted in a ten foot decline of water levels in areas of Ouachita Parish, water level declines across the area of the cone of depression, and water level declines in Lincoln and Winn Parishes. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 71 percent of the pumpage rate.
Scenario 2 was the base case for Scenarios that follow (Scenarios 3 through 6).
Scenario 3. Artificial Recharge (14 injection wells near Lake D’Arbonne and along the Ouachita River), replaced less than two percent of amount pumped over twenty years) resulted in a four percent decrease in the west-ward hydraulic gradient. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 71 percent of the pumpage rate.
Scenario 4. Decreased Groundwater Use by Selected Larger Users, Supplemented with Nearby Surface Water (supply from D’Arbonne 4.6 mgd, Bisteneau 2 mgd, Ouachita 7.5 mgd decreased Sparta use from 70 mgd to 42.86 mgd) resulted in reduced hydraulic gradient with accompanying widespread recovery of Sparta water levels, a rebound in the cone of depression in Ouachita Parish, and reduced potential for saltwater migration. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 100 percent of the pumpage rate.
Scenario 5. Water Use Reductions, through Conservation or Recycling (Sparta use decreased by four percent from 2005 forward) resulted in little change over the ‘Steady State’ scenario. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 74 percent of the pumpage rate. The researchers concluded that ‘Small scale water conservation efforts will not provide significant reduction in water level declines.’
Scenario 6. Potential High Use Estimate (groundwater withdrawal increased by 7 percent each 5 years, from 72.8 to 95.4 mgd over 25 years) resulted in a steep increase in hydraulic gradient leading to deeper, wider cones of depression, especially in Ouachita and Winn Parishes, and increased potential for salt-water migration westward. The sustainable yield for Ouachita Parish was 57 percent of the pumpage rate.
Sparta Groundwater Study –Recommended Approaches to Reduce Sparta Pumpage
Meyer, Meyer, LeCroix, and Hixson reported that the Sparta aquifer can be significantly restored within 25 years with an 18 million gallon per day (mgd) reduction of its current 70 mgd withdrawal rate, and another 12 mgd would provide for population and industrial growth. (2) The recommendation they put forth in greatest detail was to build new surface water treatment plants and pipe the water to current aquifer users. They calculated that, if this is the sole approach used, capital costs in 2001 dollars would be approximately $190 million, operating costs would add to those costs, and financing costs would add more. They suggested that revenue to pay capital and financing costs might be generated by a 1/4 cent sales tax in an eleven parish taxing district, surface water contract sales at $1 per thousand gallons, and groundwater extraction fees at 23 cents per thousand gallons.
Based on criteria that included area of greatest stress, demographic projections, and evidence of salt water intrusion, Meyer, Meyer, LeCroix, and Hixson recommended, as first priority, a 10 mgd project using river water from the Ouachita River at West Monroe to replace Sparta water use. The estimated cost of the project, in 2001, was $55.7 million ($82.8 million in 2009, adjusted for inflation-Ref.22d).