Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Watershed Restoration In Arkansas

The primary pollutant of water systems in Arkansas is sediment. This type of pollution can be just as detrimental as a chemical spill. The erosion of croplands contributes from 10 to 50 percent of all sediment deposited in the streams and rivers. Sediments can also carry contaminants that are detrimental to water quality. Phosphates and ammonium-nitrogen adhere to soil particles and enter streams through overland flow and erosion. When heavy rains occur after the application of the fertilizer, surface runoff carries the fertilizer into the streams. Pesticides deposited in the stream may become absorbed by suspended solids, deposited on the sediments, or absorbed by aquatic organisms.

arer1.gifThe most effective method of reducing sedimentation is having forest and other vegetative cover along riparian corridors. This is accomplished by establishing buffer strips around agricultural lands and maintaining vegetation year round. Legumes and perennial grasses can be planted in buffer strips to reduce the flow and cause sediments to fall out of the water before reaching the stream channels. The drainage ditches that carry runoff away from agricultural lands deposit sediments in the streams. Reducing the slope of the ditch and allowing vegetation to grow on the banks and bottom of the ditch will slow the runoff flow and trap sediments. Trees present along the riparian corridor should be managed to perpetuate the stand. If too many trees are removed, the banks will become unstable and erosion will cause the banks to wash away. This also causes the area to lose its ability to control sediments. If there are no trees in the riparian corridor, numerous programs are available to offset part of the cost of planting trees and establishing forested cover. Contact an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Private Lands Biologist for assistance with programs providing cost-sharing benefits.

Conditions in Your Watershed

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a directory of Arkansas river corridor and wetlands restoration projects. Watershed health information for the state of Arkansas is available from EPA’s Surf Your Watershed website.

Resources and Programs:

The University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff provide research, education and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for specific audiences, such as farmers, homeowners and youth. Below are some key links to information and resources available to assist you:

Extension Outreach

The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Cooperative Extension develop and deliver programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user, which is often a home or business owner or agricultural producer. Some of the major Extension education programs addressing environmental restoration are:

arer2.gifThe Bayou Bartholomew Water Quality Project. Bayou Bartholomew is the nation’s longest bayou. It drains approximately 997,000 acres in parts of Jefferson, Lincoln, Drew, and Ashley counties. Land use within the watershed is estimated at 73% forestland, 20% cropland, and 7% grassland. In 1998, eight segments of Bayou Bartholomew Watershed were on state’s impaired waterbodies (those that are too polluted to maintain their designated, beneficial uses) list prepared by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Water quality has been adversely affected by sediment, nutrients and mercury from unknown and nonpoint sources including cropland drainage, streambank erosion, and silviculture. Of 58 watersheds in Arkansas, Bayou Bartholomew was ranked fifth in priority by the Arkansas’ Unified Watershed Assessment. The Arkansas Soil and Water arer3.gifCommission has given the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service a grant to provide water quality education to landowners in the Bayou Bartholomew watershed. The goal is to educate agricultural land managers about the potential impacts of agricultural practices on water quality and how to minimize these impacts, largely by riparian restoration efforts. The program includes conservation/restoration farm tours, a water quality newsletter, public presentations and fact sheets.

Mudd Creek Urban Watershed Project. The goals of this project are to create community awareness of urban non-point source pollution potential impacts in the Mud Creek watershed through public education and demonstration. Our hope is that the Mud Creek Watershed Project will serve as a template for similar educational urban watershed demonstration projects throughout the state. The basic tenets and methods should, with perhaps minor adaptations, be applicable in many Arkansas urban watersheds, as well as those of other states. We hope to inspire others to develop educational demonstration projects on these important, yet under utilized and insufficiently studied, urban outdoor classrooms. The ultimate objective is restoration of these valuable urban resources.

Riparian Area Management and Crop Filter Strips In-Service Training. University of Arkansas Extension faculty conduct this program designed to provide professionals who work with landowners the latest information about recommended practices and financial assistance for managing the land-water interface. This two-day workshop prepares agency personnel to better inform landowners about riparian area management techniques and supporting programs. All participants receive a reference notebook containing materials for advising clientele about appropriate land management practices, resource personnel in their county and the state, and opportunities for financial assistance. Also included is the NRCS’ Stream Corridor Restoration CD.

arer4.gifThe Arkansas Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team consists of representatives from six state agencies including the Cooperative Extension Service. The Team promotes voluntary, incentive-based, locally lead conservation planning. Specific to environmental restoration is the goal to conduct analyses that identify priority wetland protection and restoration sites. The Team seeks to increase the level of public and landowner knowledge and benefits from wetland conservation on private lands through education and incentives for wetland protection, restoration, stewardship, and enhancement, and supports creation of urban riparian/wetland greenbelts for education and urban wildlife habitats.

Arkansas Cooperative Extension has prepared factsheets for EQIP (Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program), a cost-share program that can provide financial assistance for landowners undertaking property improvements resulting in improved water and soil conservation. The EQIP factsheets for Wildlife Habitat Assessment on the Farm include techniques for improving stream banks and riparian corridors, Assessment Worksheets, and an examination of Wildlife Considerations. EQIP, in combination with other federal and state programs, WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program) and AWHEP (Arkansas Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Program), can provide no-cost incentives for private landowners to develop, create, enhance or restore habitat, including improvement and restoration of riparian areas on private lands.

Other Education Outreach Resourcesarer5.gif
Arkansas Stream Team is an opportunity for all concerned citizens to get involved in river, stream and watershed conservation efforts in Arkansas. Through education, stewardship, and advocacy, the program encourages safe use of Arkansas’ streams, rivers, springs and bayous. Stream Teams in Arkansas help control litter, work on streambank stabilization projects, improve fish habitat, and monitor water quality.

Scientific Research

The Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team mentioned above has also developed the State Wetland Strategy, which outlines goals, objectives, action plans, and implementation schedules for state conservation efforts. One of the Strategy's goals is to develop better understanding of wetland hydrology, composition, structure, functions and values as well as techniques for management and restoration through research on Arkansas wetlands.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in environmental restoration are available within several departments at the University of Arkansas. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:

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