Newton County Times
Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project encouraging landowners to develop ponds
By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project working to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality
Buffalo River Watershed encourages installing ponds, alternative watering systems to protect water quality
LITTLE ROCK — Farmers and ranchers living in the Buffalo River Watershed should consider pond construction as insurance against drought and to ensure a high-quality water supply for livestock and crops.
“The current flash drought in Arkansas brings one of the most important reasons to focus,” said John Pennington, extension water quality educator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Water is the most critical need for crops, livestock and wildlife most of the time. Livestock and crops, especially, have little ability to adapt to water restrictions, and optimal growth and production can be interrupted as a result of only short periods without water.”
Pennington said landowners within the Buffalo National River Watershed are especially encouraged to establish ponds on their property as part of an alternative watering system for livestock that could also involve use of a spring, or piping water to different fields.
“Ponds are important for many reasons,” Pennington said. “They’re a simple way to help meet water demand and quality for your crops, livestock and wildlife, maybe to build a pond and fence it to exclude livestock.”
Slowing nutrient movement
While these practices will help meet water demand, aspects associated with these practices will also protect help protect water quality of the water source and water quality downstream by preventing erosion and nutrient loss from fields and receiving streams, he said.
“The benefits of ponds extend beyond the property where they are located,” Pennington said. “Ponds have been shown to reduce peak flows of streams during rain events by decreasing runoff, capture potential pollutants to waterways such as nutrients and sediment and reduce streambank erosion.”
While nutrients are important for crops and pastures, too much can cause illness or feed buildup of cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, which feed on nitrogen and phosphorus.
Bacteria can contribute to health issues for livestock, recreation enthusiasts and anyone who consumes irrigated crop food products if it is present at high enough levels.
The Cooperative Extension Service is working with multiple agencies and organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and others to form the Buffalo River Watershed Enhancement Project, which seeks to help reduce the forces of soil erosion. There is $359,851 Natural Resource Conservation Funding obligated for agricultural conservation as part of the Buffalo River Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
The partnership makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding available to landowners participating in the project each year. To learn more, visit https://www.uaex.uada.edu/environment-nature/water/buffalo-river-project.aspx.