U.S. Water News Online
LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas saw only 34 inches of rainfall
during 2005 to maintain the state's natural beauty that it markets to
attract tourists for fishing, boating, swimming and other recreation.
Forecasters say Arkansas usually receives about 50 inches of rain
Preliminary estimates show 2005 as the second-driest year on
record for most of Arkansas. All of the state's 75 counties have been
declared disaster areas because of the drought.
"It does not look like we're going to do a whole lot of catching
up on rain during the wintertime," says John Robinson, with the North
Little Rock office of the National Weather Service.
The subsequent droughts and warmer winter weather have prompted
two-thirds of Arkansas counties to declare 52 burn bans and has
farmers worried about their cattle and crops.
Cattlemen had problems because their pasture grasses dried too
early this season forcing them to buy hay to feed their animals at
the last minute. Farmers are also considering if they should plant
water-consuming rice this coming season.
Drinking water has proven scarce in some part of the states where
wells and lakes are low. Perryville in Perry County recently
installed a pump after the town's water nearly ran dry.
Fort Smith city officials may have to draw water from the Arkansas
River to stretch the water supply. And the popular tourist spot, the
Buffalo River, is nearing a record-low water level.
Rainfall is down 20 inches in De Queen, where rancher Al Wright is
"If the prices we receive for calves weren't at near-record levels
there would be a lot of people out of the cattle business now,"
Wright thinks buying hay for his 500 cows will cost him about
$30,000 and if things don't improve by spring the cows will have to
be sold because there's no grass for them to eat.
The rice crop wasn't affected by the drought much in 2005, but
that will change in 2006, said Phil Tacker, an engineer with the
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
"The concern is if diesel prices are still high, and water is
short, that there will be less rice acreage," Tacker said. "The
farmers are wondering... what crops can I even afford to plant next
The drought also means fire danger. The Arkansas Forestry
Commission had posted burn bans in 52 of the state's 75 counties.
Experts describe the wildfire conditions as ideal. Fourteen western
Arkansas counties were on the "extreme fire danger" list. Others were
either moderate or high risk. The counties where burn bans weren't in
effect were in northeast, eastern, and south-central Arkansas.
As of early January there had been 256 fires in Arkansas. The
10-year average is about 67 for this time of the year, forestry
commission officials said, adding that fire crews and equipment are
ready just in case.
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