Margaret F. Stoker, Branch, Bill, Sanders, Jr., Fred S., Chaney, John A. | 4/19/2005 10:29:12 PM
NATCHITOCHES – More than 60 people gathered here this week to discuss water issues facing citizens of the area, and one of the key messages was that policies on water use are important to economic development.
Sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Aug. 17 meeting at Northwestern State University provided a forum for participants to interact and exchange ideas with leading water management experts from Louisiana, according to Mimi Stoker, coordinator of the meeting and an LSU AgCenter watershed educator for the Red River and Sabine watersheds.
"The summit was planned to inform the public about the current water situation and the water projects being conducted in the state," said Stoker.
State Rep. Taylor Townsend said navigation on the Red River through northwestern Louisiana holds many economic opportunities for the area.
Also, as an outdoorsman, he emphasized the need for landowners to consider enrolling marginal crop land in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s environmental programs. These programs can help landowners enhance conservation efforts and develop the wildlife habitats on the land.
Townsend also stressed that the state Legislature depends on scientists and professionals to help write public policy that addresses water issues.
"Water is important in economic development," said LSU AgCenter water specialist Dr. Bill Branch, adding, "It is needed to grow crops, process food commodities, support industrial growth, for navigation, household use and many other uses.
Branch also pointed out that people enjoy living near water bodies – citing evidence of the migration to and homebuilding in areas like Toledo Bend Lake and Poverty Point Reservoir.
These water impoundments also provide storage for water during heavy rainfall, thus reducing the impact of flooding, assisting in recharging aquifers and providing numerous recreational opportunities for citizens.
Three major aquifers are being overdrafted – even though 84 percent of the water used in Louisiana comes from surface water resources such as rivers, lakes and bayous according to the latest USGS survey.
"We have an abundant supply of surface water and need to find additional ways to use it," said Branch, adding, "This will help conserve the ground water and provide additional resources to support economic growth."
Surface water can be lifted from an impoundment for less than one-half the cost of lifting water 50-60 feet from a well, said Branch, and most community wells are much deeper than that.
The two largest agricultural industries in the state, forestry and poultry, need high-quality water to wash their products and to use in manufacturing processes.
The use of water is important to the forest industry in the manufacturing of various products and in preserving raw products from harvest until being processed. The forest industry is the largest agricultural segment and the second largest manufacturing industry in the state. It returned more than $3.7 billion to the state in 2003.
Buck Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association, said more than 90 percent of the loggers and landowners use the best management practices adopted by the industry and approved by the state and federal agencies. These practices help landowners manage their forestry lands in an environmentally friendly way and improve the water quality.
"The roots of trees in the soil on forest lands help filter water as it moves across the land and improves the water quality," he said.
Vandersteen said Louisiana also is first in cooperation on water quality and conservation issues. He said government leaders, industry representatives, universities and private landowners fully cooperated to develop the first Master Logger Program – which teaches forest professionals how to maximize both environmental conservation and profitability. Today, there are more than 1,200 master loggers in the state.
The poultry industry is the second largest agricultural industry in the state and returned $1.2 billion last year.
Pilgrim’s Pride, which has plants in Natchitoches and Farmerville, uses water to wash the birds and carry byproducts to other locations in the plant. They need high quality water to produce a high-quality food product.
Tim Wier, director of environmental engineering at Pilgrim’s Pride, said the company uses about 2.5 million gallons of water per day to operate the processing facilities. But the company has reduced the amount of water required to process a bird from 9 gallons to 4 gallons in the past 15 years and continues to work on further reductions.
In other comments during the summit, LSU AgCenter water quality specialist Dr. Fred Sanders discussed the LSU AgCenter’s Master Farmer Program. That program, which now is being copied by other states, follows a similar model to the Master Logger program and is designed to teach producers of other commodities how to operate in the most environmentally friendly manner.
Sanders and other LSU AgCenter specialists said developing plans for water conservation and use are important to the state.
"The development and implementation of a comprehensive water strategy are important in the economic development of the state," said Branch.
For more information on the use of water in the state, contact Bill Branch at (225) 578-6919 or email@example.com. Or call your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.
Contact: Mimi Stoker at (318) 256-3406 or
Bill Branch at (225) 578-6919 or
Fred Sanders at (225) 578-6998 or
Taylor Townsend at (318) 357-7048
Buck Vandersteen at (318) 443-2558
Writer: John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or