The Sparta Aquifer is the major water source for North Louisiana and Southern Arkansas. Aquifer levels have been a concern since the early 1990s, and in 2006 water withdrawals for municipal and agricultural uses outpaced the maximum possibility to withdraw without lowering aquifer levels. The debate continues as to whether to declare the aquifer as in a critical state or not, which if declared critical by the state of Louisiana would give authority to ration, control, or tax water usage. There are no comprehensive conservation education programs in place.
The Rural Development Center met with the Sparta Groundwater Commission, and the Trailblazer Resource Conservation and Development in August 2008 to discuss coordination of a region-wide conservation education effort involving Louisiana Tech University students. Both of these organizations are highly involved in developing approaches to preserve the Sparta Aquifer. The project will engage businesses through chambers of commerce, parish police juries, civic organizations, and city and town officials in an eleven parish area that encompasses the Sparta Aquifer.
The Louisiana Rural Development Center next coordinated with the Louisiana Tech University Department of Agricultural Sciences faculty to develop and implement service learning materials for students within selected agricultural science courses. Using these materials, faculty will engage students in a class project that promotes conservation and sustainable water use practices in an effort to increase public awareness of issues concerning the Sparta Aquifer. These students will help to inform community businesses and public officials to participate in a conservation campaign through presentations and distributions of promotional materials, such as pamphlets, window stickers, and videos in an effort to inform and remind the public about water conservation. These students will also present conservation techniques, thus recommending best practices and actions. These service learning projects began in the winter quarter of 2008-2009 and will finish in the 2009 fall quarter.