Some Webster Parish officials have proposed building a recharge lake in the Minden area, and while this lake could help the rapidly depleting Sparta Aquifer, it could also be a huge boost for tourism.
Recently, District 3 Webster Parish Police Juror Daniel Thomas called a special meeting to discuss the possibility of adding a recharge lake to the "bar" (or borrow) pits between Dixie Inn and Minden.
The Sparta Aquifer has been rapidly depleting for 50 years from overuse, which has led to saltwater leaking into the freshwater. The proposed recharge lake would help with the depletion.
Thomas thinks the "bar" pit area is the best because it is already at a place where Webster Parish, a donor parish, adds to the aquifer. He also added the area they will look into is mostly desolate.
"The groundwater that all of us take for granted will become a major issue in the future," said Thomas. "It just really makes sense to me that we need to look at the possibilities of building a lake over the major recharge to the Sparta. I feel that adding head pressure (in the form of depth of water) makes sense. These bar pits go dry some years and a lake naturally would hold the water where the recharge would potentially continue 365 days a year."
There are currently other conservation efforts going on around the state and some have seen major results from efforts in southern Arkansas.
Another conservation project expected to be in place by the end of this year will be in West Monroe. The proposed project would take 10 million gallons of waste water and run it through a treatment plant for reuse.
"We've continued to see water level increases in some wells in northeast Louisiana in the Sparta," said Ben McGee, a supervisory hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Ruston. "And the effect of those increases are extending further into Louisiana. We're seeing the northern parts of Lincoln Parish responding positively to that conservation effort, as well as parts of Ouachita, Union and Claiborne parishes."
Currently, seven parishes take 90 percent of the water drawn from the Sparta. Those include Ouachita, Bienville, Lincoln, Webster, Union, Claiborne and Jackson.
Commission information says it takes 70 million gallons of water a day to service these areas. In order for the water rate to stabilize, that number needs to drop to 52 million gallons a day.
If the Monroe project is successful, the amount of water being taken from the Sparta would still need to drop by eight million gallons a day or the aquifer would need to gain that much water a day.
That's where Minden comes in.
This recharge lake could prove beneficial to another major concern in Webster Parish: tourism.
"I think it is very obvious that the City of Minden and Webster Parish would greatly benefit from the development of a recreational lake that would recharge our water supply," said Lynn Dorsey, Executive Director of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau. "However, I think the committee was only wanting to promote the recharge aspect at this point based on the need for replenishing our water supply."
With the rise of Nature Based Tourism (NBT), however, a lake would promote itself. NBT is the interest in non-consumptive forms of recreation like hiking, canoeing, fishing and camping.
It is a new tourism effort for the state, but it has been widely and quickly accepted.
The idea behind NBT is that successful programs will promote a balanced approach to conservation that leads to public appreciation of an area's natural and cultural heritage.
This appreciation, in turn, results in conservation of those resources while providing an economic alternative for businesses.
This means tourism can become sustainable. This also means that a recharge lake, which would help conserve the aquifer's water, would also be a tourist attraction.
NBT contributes more than $4.7 billion annually to Louisiana's economy, supports 48,000 jobs statewide, generates $225 million in annual state tax revenue and produces $3.2 billion annually in retail sales and services across the state.
For now, Thomas has proposed another meeting on how to go about getting a study completed to find the best location for the recharge lake.
He wanted to present the idea to the Sparta Commission, a commission that oversees issues with the Sparta Aquifer, but they do not have the authority to approve or fund such a project or even a study.
The meeting date has not been set, but Thomas wants community members and those who have information about the Sparta Aquifer to show up and join in the discussion.
Check the Minden Press-Herald for updates on the Sparta Aquifer and the new meeting date and time.