Fort Smith water supply ‘doing quite well’ despite drought conditions

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 944 views 

With city reservoirs over 90% full, Fort Smith residents have no need to worry about water conservation requests from the city. Most of the watershed for the city’s water supply is in a “Moderate Drought” condition.

The National Integrated Drought Information System, which sets the drought condition, said the dry conditions began in mid-June.

“Starting in mid-June and continuing into the first half of July, rain pretty much shut of in Arkansas. A big ridge of high pressure nudged over the area from the Plains, and downpours went on hiatus,” noted the agency report. “Fort Smith (Sebastian County) had no precipitation at all, with a paltry 0.03 inch at Fayetteville (Washington County), 0.06 inch at Jonesboro (Craighead County), and 0.07 inch at Little Rock (Pulaski County).”

The “Moderate Drought” condition means forage crops are stunted, river levels decline, and more wildfires occur than normal.

Though several cities in Arkansas, including Cedarville and others in South Sebastian County, have water restrictions in place because of the lack of rain and excessive heat of the past several weeks, Fort Smith’s water supply is fine, said Fort Smith Utilities Director Lance McAvoy.

“While the excessive heat might be causing issues for some communities in our region, The City Fort Smith is doing quite well with our water supply. We have no alerts or restrictions in place, so please help us spread the word …,” a post on the city’s Facebook page Friday (July 22) said.

McAvoy said Tuesday (July 26) the city’s reservoirs are over 90% full and water conservation does not begin until storage capacity is down to 60%.

Fort Smith provides water to 14 other water systems from the Lake Fort Smith and Lee Creek plants, McAvoy said. Among those are Winslow, Chester, Mountainburg, Hwy 71 Water Users, Cedarville, Van Buren, Barling, Arkoma, Franklin/Sebastian Water Users, Central City, Rural Water District No. 7 in Oklahoma, Fort Chaffee, Concord Water and Lavaca, he said. Fort Smith is also an emergency supply for Alma.

A Facebook user commented on the city’s post Friday that Cedarville is in water restrictions even though they get their water from Lake Fort Smith.

“Fort Smith is able to supply water during this time; however, individual systems may not be able to meet the current demand or their customers due to their current infrastructure,” McAvoy said. “The lack of rain may be driving the demand of the systems’ customers.”

Fort Smith also has maximum daily allotment in most of the contracts to ensure Fort Smith has ample water, he added. McAvoy also said that even though growth in the city is creating more customers for the city’s water system, the city is handling the increase without issue.

“We are not experiencing any issues with supplying water to Chaffee Crossing or the City of Fort Smith,” he said.

Lake Fort Smith, located in Crawford County, was developed in 1935 and significantly expanded in 2006. Lee Creek Reservoir, a secondary water source, was built in the early 1990s. According to city info, Fort Smith manages more than 700 miles of water transmission and distribution water mains, two treatment plants, 16 pump stations, 11 pressure reducing stations, and 13 water storage tanks. The city also says it produces more than 10.5 billion gallons of drinking water per year.