Wednesday, May 18, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Dependable water source

Some of us here remember the Lonoke White Public Water Authority project finally getting off the ground back in the 1990s when area officials had a goal of providing water to the area from Greers Ferry.

The authority celebrated the completion of the $58.9 million water intake and water treatment facilities with an open house on Friday. Local, state and federal officials, engineers and others were there to see the results of the decades-old project.

Staff writer Jeffrey Smith reported Saturday that planning for the project began 21 years ago. That was more than a decade before the Great Recession, when Bill Clinton was still in the White House. Federal grants were easier to come by back then. The U.S Department of Agriculture provided a $24.5 million loan for the project through the rural development program in 1995. A $30.9 million loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, plus $2.5 million from Lonoke White Public Water Authority members made the project possible.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said the additional water source makes the area less dependent on Central Arkansas Water in case of an emergency, such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack. What’s more, Lonoke White Water will meet the needs of Little Rock Air Force Base for decades to come.

As Johnson said, in the next round of base closure reviews, the Air Force can be certain that LRAFB will have plenty of water and will not have to worry about shortages. That will help our base tremendously the next time BRAC rolls around.

The water intake facility can withdraw 20 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. It has three 700 horsepower pumps and a standby generator. It gets 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 through 76 miles of distribution lines.

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority is owned by Austin Water, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Furlow 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 also sells water to the Mountain Top Public Water Authority in Heber Springs.

The area needs more infrastructure projects like the Lonoke White Water Authority. They should include better highways to meet the needs of our growing communities.