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Irrigation Development in Eastern Arkansas: Water Supplies, Uses, and Efficiencies

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  032140,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.13784) @2003
Authors:   Robinson, Peter, Clemmens, Albert, Carman, Dennis, Dalmut, Zach, Fortner, Tom

Irrigation has expanded rapidly in Eastern Arkansas over the last four decades. Arkansas currently ranks fourth in the United States in irrigated acreage, with more than four million irrigated acres. This area receives more than 40 inches in annual rainfall, but extended periods without summer rain make irrigation necessary in most years. Much of the irrigation development over the last several decades has relied on deep groundwater. However, rapidly declining groundwater levels over much of the area has prompted the State of Arkansas to examine surface water sources as a replacement to groundwater. Ten irrigation projects have been identified that rely on surface water diversions, covering nearly 2 million acres. Progress on these projects range from a completed small demonstration, to initial planning. This paper focuses on the Grand Prairie Project, which is currently under construction. In addition to the major diversion works and canals, these projects have a significant on-farm component, with water supply reservoirs and tailwater recovery systems that are used to capture and store rainfall-runoff prior to the irrigation season and irrigation runoff during the irrigation season. The capture of rainfall-runoff allow the size of the canals, delivery pipelines, and diversion works to be reduced. It also provides storage during the irrigation season to allow a low continuous flow supply to be used effectively on farm. Tailwater recapture and pumpback systems are used to reduce the amount of runoff that leaves the irrigated area. A water balance for a small sub-watershed is used to describe and compare these systems and their performance under groundwater pumping only and under post-project conditions.

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