State legislative assistance is desperately needed to protect and preserve our water resources. The prolonged drought, fires and water woes that recently have dominated local headlines should have every responsible citizen putting pressure on lawmakers to take the necessary steps now to save our aquifers.
The fact that Shreveport is becoming proactive on water conservation issues is commendable. Unfortunately, some small-town officials continue to bury their heads in the sand while citizens throughout north Louisiana face serious water quality and supply issues. Because the effects of aquifer overuse are far-reaching, residents may need to look outside their community to find some of the factors that contribute to the problem.
Officials in Arcadia have no qualms about providing millions of gallons of water a day for commercial purposes. In the name of industrial development and a mere handful of new jobs, town-owned wells are made available without restrictions to one relatively new enterprise that uses water from the Sparta Aquifer to create underground natural gas storage caverns. The process involves high-pressure, high-volume streams of water pumping as much as 3 million gallons a day — more than Minden might use in a day.
Recent claims that town wastewater is finally being diverted to this project are of little consequence since total water sales of less than a half million gallons a day cannot possibly provide a significant amount of effluence to offset a multimillion-gallon requirement. Using aquifer water for this purpose turns pure, potable water into brine that must be disposed of by injection into the ground at salt-water disposal wells.
Other industrial users requiring large amounts of water for natural gas well fracturing and pipeline testing regularly pull their big rigs up to town-provided outlets. Contrary to one popular argument, failure to allow this would not bring the industry to a halt; it simply would require the industry to use surface water as in other areas of the state.
Arcadia is fortunate in that it sits atop the deepest part of the Sparta Aquifer, much like the position right above your shower drain. This prompted one parish official to say to a concerned citizen, "Don't worry, we'll be the last to run out" and the mayor to proclaim, "We got plenty o' water!" Such an outrageous attitude should be particularly disturbing to residents along the Sparta Aquifer's outer edges.
According to geologists, recent overuse in the Arcadia area has created a significantly large "cone of depression" in the aquifer that hastens the decline of the water level in adjacent areas as the water seeks equilibrium, flowing to the lowest point.
The quest for new industry to provide jobs and tax revenue for town coffers is admirable. But no amount of tax revenue, charitable donations to local causes or new jobs will be adequate to make up for the depletion of our water supply. Current policy virtually assures the day will come when we find ourselves without potable water; and it should be addressed at the state level. Today's elected and appointed officials may have ridden off into the sunset with their accolades of "industrial development" when the wells run dry, but the tragedy of their legacy will live on.
Kathy Towns lives near Arcadia.