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Success Story

Healthy Land and Waters- Naturally

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Arkansas healthy land and waters

A feature on resource conservation at work in Arkansas

From the Mississippi Delta to the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Arkansas strives to assist farmers, ranchers and foresters in enhancing soil health, water quality and water quantity in the Natural State.

Water Quality

  • Producers voluntarily applying water quality-related conservation practices benefit all Americans by improving water quality and helping sustain rural economies and maintain food security.
  • Runoff water moves sediment and nutrients into surface waters. Water conservation systems also minimize or eliminate runoff from irrigated fields. Every drop of water that does not run off to a receiving stream improves water quality.
  • Prescribed grazing systems improve plant and animal health while reducing sediment and nutrients delivered to streams.
  • Forested wetlands or a buffer along a stream improve wildlife habitat and can remove up to 80 percent of phosphorous and up to 90 percent of nitrogen from water.

Water Quantity

  • Irrigated agriculture uses more than 90 percent of the consumptive water in Arkansas. Farmers and ranchers implementing conservation practices have the greatest benefit to water conservation efforts.
  • Although Arkansas has an abundance of ground water in most parts of the state, ground water is being depleted faster than it can be replenished in critical ground water areas.
  • NRCS uses its programs, conservation practices and technical expertise to help producers voluntarily improve irrigation efficiencies (10 to 40 percent) and install irrigation and tailwater recovery systems that convert from ground water to surface water use.
  • Surface water systems save producers in Arkansas an average of $25 to $40 per acre over groundwater systems.

Healthy Soils

  • Healthy soil holds more water (by binding it to organic matter), and loses less water to runoff and evaporation.
  • Organic matter builds as tillage declines and plants and residue cover the soil.  Organic matter holds 18-20 times its weight in water and recycles nutrients for plants to use.
  • One percent of organic matter in the top six inches of soil would hold approximately 27,000 gallons of water per acre!
  • Most farmers can increase their soil organic matter in three to 10 years if they are motivated about adopting conservation practices to achieve this goal.