Saving Land for Water

March 14, 2012

 

It's easy to take clean drinking water for granted. Turn on the tap and out flows unlimited fresh, safe water. Yet few people realize what a luxury clean drinking water truly is— and how threatening poorly planned development can be to its supply.

In central Arkansas, the largely undeveloped Lake Maumelle supplies drinking water to 400,000 local residents. Thanks to past visionaries who understood that the quality of our water depends on the amount of forest cover and natural area within a watershed, Lake Maumelle was protected years ago.

But protecting the lake itself is no longer enoughin recent years, the watershed has become threatened with chemical runoff and residential development on private land surrounding the lake. To ensure the future of clean water for the region, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), in collaboration with the USDA's Forest Legacy Program, helped Central Arkansas Water acquire two critical properties within the watershed.

Proactive Conservation

Top priority was the purchase of a 915-acre sod farm along the river that feeds into the lake. With a sod farm comes herbicides and pesticides and pollutants. Drainage of these contaminants into the water supply not only harms local wildlife but increases costs associated with water treatment.

"Reforestation of the sod farm will eliminate future pesticide runoff and bring the land back to its natural state, which will decrease erosion and safeguard the water level of the lake—and health of the watershed—by reducing sediment from the riverbanks," explains Chris Deming, TPL project manager.

Next on the list was a 488-acre lakeside property slated for residential development. Similar to toxic runoff, development would have decreased the forest cover and significantly increased erosion and sediment buildup in the water supply. Protecting this land also enhances public access for recreation and restores wildlife habitat.  

"The forefathers in Central Arkansas were visionary to protect the watershed and the current leaders are wise to further protect the land now to keep costs down," says Deming. "It's far better to be in protection mode of a watershed than to find the water supply in destruction mode down the line."