The drinking water that quenches the thirst of most people in Northwest Arkansas started collecting behind the completed Beaver Lake Dam in 1966.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and regional leaders are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dam’s completion at a ceremony today, and why not? There’s likely no piece of Northwest Arkansas infrastructure that’s more important to the region’s long-term growth.
The drinking water from Beaver Lake makes it possible for the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area to keep adding to its population or more than 500,000 residents, but the dam and lake are important to the region’s business community, too. High-volume water users couldn’t operate in Northwest Arkansas without a plentiful supply.
The Beaver Lake drinking water that’s consumed by more than 400,000 people in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties is pulled out and treated by the Beaver Water District, the Carroll-Boone Water District, the Madison County Regional Water District, and the Benton/Washington Regional Public Water Authority.
The Beaver Water District is one of the state’s largest providers, delivering its water to the cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. Those cities pass some of that water on to 14 secondary customers, including Bella Vista, Farmington, Tontitown and Lowell. In all, about 300,000 people get their water beause of the treatment operations at the Beaver Water District.
The public water authority, which is more commonly referred to as “Two-Ton,” maintains its treatment plant near Avoca. It delivers water to 60,000 people who are customers of the cities of such places as Centerton, Gentry, Pea Ridge, Decatur, Prairie Grove and Lincoln.
The Carroll-Boone and Madison County systems provide water primarily to Eureka Springs, Berryville, Harrison, Green Forest and Huntsville.
There’s a well-written history of Beaver Lake and the dam on a page within the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History’s website. It describes the cost of the entire project ($43 million) and that included the construction of the dam by North Carolina and Louisiana companies.
The lake also helped provide more flood control for the region that was familiar with large areas being overwhelmed by the White River. The biggest of those was the Great Flood of 1927, which covered 6,600 square miles and flooded portions of at least 36 counties.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates Beaver Lake’s dam as part of a system with other dams in Arkansas and Missouri, aiming to reduce the impact of flooding in all of those areas.
The lake, which will once again be home to a Walmart FLW Tour event that occurs in April, has also provided fishermen with record breakers in the past. The lake’s tailwaters produced a 64-pound striped bass in 2000, and the lake itself gave up a 105-pound paddlefish last year. Both are state records, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The protection of the lake is critical to the region's growth and long-term economic success, and that's among the reasons that the Northwest Arkansas Council and regional leaders created the Beaver Watershed Alliance. Established in 2011, the nonprofit organization leads many of those water protection efforts.