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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Corbet Deary: DeGray's Lower Lake, located just below the DeGray Lake Dam in this July 22, 2016 file photo.

Central Arkansas Water has secured a new water source that officials say provides a much-needed, viable supply for generations to come.

A storage agreement approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District that gives the utility ownership of up to 100 million gallons a day of water from DeGray Lake has been cleared federally, Central Arkansas Water chief executive Tad Bohannon said Friday.

It's the largest water storage agreement ever approved by the Vicksburg District. DeGray Lake, a reservoir on the Caddo River outside Arkadelphia, is used for both recreation and hydroelectric power. It's also a flood-control reservoir.

Central Arkansas Water currently gets its water from Lake Winona in Saline County and from Lake Maumelle in western Pulaski County. Both are tenable for the coming years, Bohannon said, but securing another source is a proactive measure because there's a finite number of lakes in the state, and is a precaution in case water quality in either of the current sources is ever compromised.

"It's water for our kids, not for us," Bohannon said. "We're very fortunate to be able to think this far ahead. In Arkansas, we're fortunate to have a fairly water-abundant state, but the storage for it is not always available."

Central Arkansas Water has paid about $150,000 annually for 30 years to retain rights of first refusal to 120 million gallons per day from DeGray Lake -- starting back when the utility was Little Rock Municipal Water Works -- but the process to actually take on the lake as a water source began about seven years ago.

The utility is required to give the Corps of Engineers 10 years' notice before laying pipes to move the water, so it won't be put to use immediately. Though certain types of recreation are allowed on DeGray Lake, Bohannon said the lake is large enough that any impact on water quality would be minimal.

Central Arkansas Water will pay about $1 million annually over four years for the water. That amount is already accounted for in the utility's budget for 2019, which anticipates approximately $67 million in revenue and $46 million in operating expenses. The utility has already set its rates through 2022.

Hot Springs is set to sign a separate agreement for 20 million gallons per day from DeGray Lake. The Garland County city has paid Central Arkansas Water about $20,0000 annually for the rights to that water.

Bohannon said Arkansas' congressional delegation was essential in getting both cities' agreements federally approved.

In an emailed statement, Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs commended the utilities and the Corps of Engineers for the agreement.

"Their joint efforts will benefit the entire [Central Arkansas Water] service area, including ensuring future long-term water supplies for Hot Springs and the surrounding area as it continues to grow and attract new industry," Westerman said. "This agreement, on top of the recent allocation to the city of Hot Springs from Lake Ouachita, should settle long-term water supply issues for perhaps centuries to come."

Officials from Central Arkansas Water, Hot Springs and the Corps of Engineers will officially sign the agreement at a ceremony at Oak Bower Group Use Area at DeGray Lake at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

"We appreciate the partnerships we have with all those interested in maximizing the benefits derived from the flood control reservoir at DeGray Lake," Vicksburg District commander Col. Michael Derosier said in a news release. "We are incredibly pleased to be a part of a collective effort to identify mutually agreeable and beneficial solutions for all involved."

Metro on 03/30/2019

Print Headline: Central Arkansas Water deal sets up new source; will supply water for generations, officials say

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  • RBBrittain
    March 30, 2019 at 6 p.m.

    If the numbers are right, does this mean CAW has been making $50,000 a year profit off DeGray water rights at Hot Springs' expense?

  • NoUserName
    March 30, 2019 at 6:40 p.m.

    I don't get $50k, but it does appear CAW was making a profit on essentially pass-through rights. $20k/year for 20m gpd is higher cost per than $150k/year for 120m gpd.

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