MAUMELLE, Ark. – If you’ve been out to Lake Maumelle recently, you’ve probably noticed the water levels are lower than usual.
This is a method used by Central Arkansas Water to get rid of an invasive species called Hydrilla which can produce bacteria that’s not wanted in a drinking water reservoir.
Central Arkansas Water is a metropolitan water system that serves almost 500,000 Arkansans in eight counties.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to ensure the water coming out of this lake is safe for generations of Arkansans,” Douglas Shackelford with CARKW said.
Shackelford said the Hydrilla plant itself isn’t the real danger for drinking water, it’s what can come from it.
The species can house algae that can form algal blooms that can form cyanobacteria.
Back in the mid 1990’s, several bald eagles were found dead in or near DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia. Shackelford says it was found that the eagles were dying from eating fish that consumed Hydrilla.
He says when Central Arkansas Water spotted the first sight of Hydrilla in the Summer of 2022, they began their plan to kill the plant.
That proactive approach is a part of Central Arkansas Water’s infrastructure improvement plan which will cost about 150 million dollars.
“This is going to be a big expense but the health of this reservoir which is the primary drinking water reservoir for half a million people is the most important thing,” Shackelford said.
The purpose of lowering the Lake Maumelle waters was to expose the bottom of the lake to the winter weather as the Hydrilla is not spreading this time of year.
Shackelford says the hydrilla is dormant, but in the spring the plant will begin to sprout again. When this happens, central Arkansas Water plans to apply herbicides to kill the species.
Shackelford said that 150 million dollars isn’t just to get rid of Hydrilla. For the next decade, Central Arkansas Water will be working on projects at the lake, underground and essentially a brand-new treatment plant.