Friday, May 13, 2016

TOP STORY >> Officials tour water plant

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority celebrated the completion of its $58.9 million water intake and water treatment facilities at Greers Ferry Lake with an open house on Friday.

Planning for the project began 21 years ago. The water intake facility can withdraw 20 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. It has three 700 horsepower pumps and standby generator. It is able to withdraw water from three different lake elevations.

The water treatment plant can treat and clean 10 million gallons of water a day.

The facilities include a one million gallon storage tank. Water is delivered using 76 miles of distribution lines.

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority is owned by Austin Water, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Fur-low Public Water Authority, Grand Prairie Bayou Two Public Water Authority, Jacksonville Water, Mid-Arkansas Utilities Public Water Authority, Vilonia Waterworks Association and Ward Water and Sewer System. Lonoke White Public Water Authority sells water to the Mountain Top Public Water Authority.

Funding for the project was provided by a $30.9 million loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, a $24.5 million loan from USDA Rural Development and a $2.5 million from Lonoke White Public Water Authority members.

Sen. John Boozman (R- Ark.) said, “It is a great example of public and private entities getting together and getting good things done.”

Boozman said water projects are not glamorous but are the underpinnings of the state.

“As a result we are going to have economic development, increased property values and jobs,” Boozman said.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said having an alternative water source is critical to the area and the future of Little Rock Air Force Base.

“In an emergency, we wouldn’t need Central Arkansas Water,” Johnson said.

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah said, “We can’t grow without this kind of infrastructure. Today we face challenges with a shifting climate, threats of droughts and more frequent storms that have significant implications to agriculture production and the rural economies.”

She said the USDA helps with mitigation plans, water conservation and provides clean drinking water. The strategies help with clean soil and air and provide productive sustainable working lands.

“When you improve a water infrastructure, it improves manufacturing and other growth. When we improve water systems we are supporting the future generations,” Mensah said.

She said the Lonoke White Public Water Authority serves in an area of the Sparta and Alluvial Aquifers, which have been classified by Arkansas as a critical groundwater area that’s vital to the state’s growing demand for water. Finding a source of surface water was needed.

“When you have a safe and sustainable water system, you are building the future in the state. You are alleviating the fiscal pressures of small rural communities that are dealing with combined effects of aging infrastructure, climate change and drought and in some places declining tax revenue. As Lonoke White has proved, when we work together to improve our water systems we contribute in key ways to help all of us grow. Water is critical to health and viability of our rural areas,” Mensah said.