Louisiana Water Quantity and Policy
Louisiana is a surface water state; only 16% of Louisiana water use is from ground water sources. Irrigation is the largest single user of ground water accounting for an estimated 37% of all ground water withdrawn. Louisiana has access to the Mississippi, the Atchafalaya, the Red, the Ouachita, and the Sabine Rivers. Significant efforts are underway to further develop these surface water resources in the agricultural irrigation areas of Northwest, Northeast and Southwest Louisiana. Many years and many millions of dollars will be required to complete any of these projects. Existing projects divert water from the Mississippi, the Atchafalaya, the Red, and the Sabine Rivers for flood damage reduction, nourishment of stressed coastal marsh, maintenance of base stream flow, and relieving stress on an over-drafted aquifer. The technology is readily observable in action and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing new projects.
Legislation passed by the 2001 Legislature provided for a Ground Water Management Commission and Task Force which is developing water policy for the 2003 Legislature. The Commission has the authority to designate "Critical Ground Water Areas" and limit drilling of large wells.
Condition of Your Aquifer
Even though only 16% of Louisiana water use is from ground water sources, three of the 12 major aquifer systems are being over-drafted. About 70% of the 800 million gallons per day (Mgd) withdrawn from the Chicot Aquifer in Southwest Louisiana is estimated to be used for rice irrigation and aquaculture. About 70% of the 200 Mgd withdrawn from the Southern Hills Aquifer System in Southeast Louisiana is estimated to be used by industry, including paper mills, in the Baton Rouge area. More than half the 70 Mgd withdrawn from the Sparta Aquifer in North-central Louisiana is used for domestic purposes, with less than half withdrawn for industry which is dominated by paper mills
Resources and Programs
The LSU AgCenter provides research and Extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, businesses 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.
The LSU AgCenter has established programs designed to provide assistance in understanding water quantity and policy in Louisiana. Below are some key links to information and resources available to assist you.
The LSU AgCenter is home to Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, which develops and delivers 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 nutrient and pesticide management are:
The LSU AgCenter conducted a two-day "Water Summit" followed by a two-day "Water Symposium" to introduce Legislators, Commission and Task Force members, and agricultural stakeholders to water resource data available from the U.S. Geological Survey, technical assistance available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the water policy experiences of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas.
Domestic water conservation programs have been conducted with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) workshops and facilitator training have been conducted using Ground Water Simulators and Enviroscapes in cooperation with the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the NRCS, the EPA Region 6, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, the Louisiana Environmental Education Association, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Family and Community Education Environmental Committees, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, the Ag-in-the-Classroom program, and local school boards.
Precision grading, including zero slope fields, is being used by some rice growers, as well as side-inlet irrigation. The Arkansas Irrigation Scheduler has been demonstrated on farms by county agents and researchers. All of these techniques improve water use efficiency in rice, the largest ground water user. Research and Extension work by the LSU AgCenter, University of Arkansas, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, the Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program, and Auburn University are being implemented by many growers to increase water use efficiency.
Researchers at the LSU AgCenter investigate and develop new technologies to improve water conservation. Some examples of major research efforts in Louisiana include:
Crop coefficients for rice in varying stages of growth have been determined. New varieties of rice have been developed which may reduce future irrigation water needs. Rice fields are being instrumented with flow meters and recording rain gages to estimate actual water consumption under varying soil types, field designs, and weather conditions. Border irrigation of drilled soybeans has been implemented on Soybean Research Verification fields. Sub-surface drip irrigation of cotton is being evaluated.
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 water quantity and policy are available within several departments at LSU. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:
- Department of Agronomy
- Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
- Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
- Department of Environmental Studies
- School of Renewable Natural Resources
- Department of Geography and Anthropology
- Department of Political Science
- School of Landscape Architecture