Arkansas Waterways Commission

Our Rivers. Our Responsibility.


Why Waterways?

Waterways: Working For You

Waterborne transportation requires significantly less fuel than rail or trucks. Freight transportation is often measured in ton-miles. A ton-mile is equivalent to a ton of freight moved one mile. Air pollution resulting from water transportation is negligible. As a precaution, the waterway industry is installing vapor control systems to capture any emissions. 

Fuel Efficiency 

The number of ton-miles per gallon of fuel by barge is 514 miles, by train 202 miles and, by truck 59 miles.

Barge traffic does not add to the noise pollution or congestion that is common with other modes. It is the safest type of transportation to move chemicals and toxic materials. 

Compare the Costs

The cost per ton-mile for a barge is only $0.97, compared to $2.53 for rail, and $5.35 for trucking.

Other benefits include an improved natural environment for fish and wildlife, parks and recreational areas, generation of clean and renewable hydroelectric power, reduced soil erosion and flood reduction.

Saving Money

The benefits realized from lower fuel consumption, less pollution, and economy of scale combine to make barge transportation the most economical of the major modes. Where waterborne transportation is available, rail and truck costs are lowered. An economical and sustainable transportation link to world markets provides American producers with a competitive advantage. 

Benefitting You

American Consumers 

Prices for consumer products remain reasonable. Water-related recreational opportunities are available. Cities have a reliable water supply for cities, farms, and industries. People are protected against floods and have low-cost energy due to hydropower generation. All of these are added benefits to citizens because navigation is available on our waterways. 

American Workers 

Miners, farmers and other workers earn more because waterborne transportation allows their company to reduce transportation costs. In fact, industries that use barge transportation typically pay higher than average wages. 


Raw material costs remain low because inexpensive transportation is available and allows manufacturers to distribute products in a less expensive manner.

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