Living in Arkansas, we are blessed with an abundance of water which falls into different categories of water quality. We have not reviewed Extraordinary Resource Waters (ERWs) for several years, so hang on! ERW is a special use designation made by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APC&E) to protect Arkansas’ most valuable water resources. About 16 % of Arkansas’ total stream miles have been designated as ERWs. The ERW designation gives the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality the responsibility of providing extra protection to those waters.

APC&E Regulation 2 defines ERWs as “This beneficial use is a combination of the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of a waterbody and its watershed which is characterized by scenic beauty, aesthetics, scientific values, broad scope recreation potential and intangible social values.”

ERW designation provides extra stream protections:

  1. No significant physical alterations of in-stream habitat are allowed, including channelization of a significant portion of the stream bed or construction of a major impoundment.
  2. Bacteria concentrations must meet swimmable (primary contact) standards year-round.
  3. No commercial gravel mining is allowed below the ordinary high-water mark.
  4. All point-source (pipe) discharges must meet “advanced treatment” technology – a technically feasible, established treatment method already being met by other facilities.
  5. The highest level of pollution prevention is required for new road and bridge construction, major pipeline construction and solid waste disposal sites.
  6. Streams and watersheds receive higher priority to receive technical and financial assistance for voluntary watershed and water quality protection projects.

ERW designation does not infringe on many activities.

  1. Does not provide any additional authority to acquire private lands for any purpose.
  2. Does not add any additional restrictions on livestock use on private lands in the watershed.
  3. Does not add any additional restrictions on the application of fertilizers within watershed.
  4. Does not require any additional fencing to prohibit livestock access to streams.
  5. Does not require that additional public access be provided across private lands.

The 56 ERW’s of Arkansas:

There are two more categories of protected streams:

Ecologically Sensitive Waters, requiring continued protection.

These include: Wetlands of Pristine or Conservation value: Seeps or springs of Arkansas, Groundwater, Aquifers, Private water supply sources for human or livestock consumption, commercial or industrial with qualities supporting aquaculture, cooling, food or mineral processing which can impact human health; also includes protected species. Beneficial use identifies stream segments known to provide habitat within existing range of threatened, endangered or endemic species of aquatic or semi-aquatic life forms.

Natural and Scenic Waterways, this beneficial use identifies stream segments which have been legislatively adopted into a state or federal system. Protecting these precious waters in Arkansas requires constant monitoring to assure these streams remain Extraordinary in water quality. Whose responsibility is this mighty task? All of us – DEQ, APC &E and individual citizens of Arkansas. To quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge, recalling the “Rime” of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, Water, Everywhere, nor any drop to drink” = our fate if we are not faithfully vigilant.

Resource information: Army Corps of Engineers, Arkansas DEQ, APC&E and Dept. of Water for Western Australia (similar practices for sustaining high water quality).