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New Report from Arkansas Policy Program Focuses on Protecting Drinking Water for Arkansans

CONWAY, Ark. (July 27, 2018) – Hendrix College student Drew Coker ’19 recently published Protecting Drinking Water in Arkansas: Challenges and Opportunities in the “Natural” State through the Arkansas Policy Program (APP). The report was developed in partnership with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

Developed by Hendrix politics professor Dr. Jay Barth with the support of the Bill and Connie Bowen Odyssey Professorship, APP builds upon Barth’s ongoing public policy and public opinion research and advocacy work related to Arkansas. Through APP, students and faculty provide nonpartisan, original analyses of key public policy issues in Arkansas through a new undergraduate think tank.

Protecting Drinking Water in Arkansas provides information on public water systems, regulated and unregulated contaminants that can threaten human health, how residents can learn more about their tap water, and policy recommendations to ensure all Arkansans receive safe drinking water. It also notes that outdated infrastructure and water resource management do the most harm to vulnerable citizens: children, those living in poverty, and communities of color who already suffer from lack of resources.

Coker, an international relations major from Russellville, has long paid attention to environmental problems facing Arkansas. “My parents instilled in me from an early age a healthy respect of the environment and the effects that humans can have on it,” he said.

From the moment Coker learned of his acceptance into APP, he knew he wanted his report to address some type of environmental concern. Barth helped him hone in on examining the quality of drinking water to illustrate how public policy can have a bearing on fixing environmental problems, and provided guidance throughout the report’s development. Anna Weeks, environmental policy coordinator for the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, shared her expertise related to the research process and helped Coker pinpoint significant details to highlight in the report.

“Over the three years of the undergraduate think tank, students who’ve developed reports have worked with foundations and advocacy groups on an array of issues, but Drew is the first who’s had a particular interest in the environment,” Barth said. “This well-done project that hopes to empower the citizens of the state to ask the right questions about their drinking water quality really expands the scope of the APP’s work to date.”

Arkansas has allowed drinking water quality to deteriorate over the years, Coker said, but public policy provides an avenue for action.

“When we as a society acknowledge something as a problem it needs to be addressed, plain and simple,” he said. “I believe that with the prescriptive elements outlined in the report and realistic applications of this public policy, these problems can be addressed properly and remedied.”

For a free PDF file of the latest report or to learn more about APP, email, or download the report here.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit