Running dry

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Nov 11 07:19:16 MST 2002

NY Times, Nov. 11, 2002

Arkansas Rice Farmers Run Dry, and U.S. Remedy Sets Off Debate

ULM, Ark., Nov. 5 — Rice farmers like John Kerksieck are on the brink of
draining one of Arkansas' biggest aquifers dry.

That alone is troublesome, in a state that gets almost 50 inches of rain
a year. But even more confounding — since these Southern farmers will
not be the last to find themselves in such a pickle — is the question of
what to do about it.

Most of the farmers want the government to send them replacement water
from the White River. The Army Corps of Engineers and the state support
a plan to spend more than $200 million in federal money on the project,
or about $300,000 a farmer. It is time, they say, for the government to
do in other states what has long been done in the West — provide
irrigation water to farmers who have no other resort.

But others are concerned about the precedent such a project would set.
If the government rewards farmers who use up their water here, they say,
what is to stop others from doing the same?



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