INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana business leaders are hoping a study of the
state’s water supply leads lawmakers to create a plan to protect the natural
resource that provides drinking water and fuels key industries.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has enlisted Bloomington-based
hydrogeologist Jack Wittman to lead a study this fall to examine the state’s
water supplies and identify gaps between supply and demand and ways to
"You can’t run a car without paying attention to the gauges,” Wittman told
the Indianapolis Business Journal. “It’s the same thing with these aquifers
Scientists have long urged the state to improve its data collection, since
much of what’s known about Indiana’s water supply was published in the 1970s
and 1980s. But the push for water planning gained momentum this year when
the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission surveyed 555 water utilities about
their use, costs, customer bases and service territories.
The IURC recommended proactive regulation of facilities that can draw more
than 100,000 gallons per day to prevent adverse effects to residential
drinking wells. It also recommended that all utilities plan for droughts and
evaluate whether the current 36 monitoring wells across the state are
State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, hopes Wittman’s study will spur
lawmakers to take additional steps. Charbonneau spent his career at U.S.
Steel in Gary, a major industrial water user, and later was CEO of the
Northwest Indiana Forum, a seven-county economic development group.
“It just got hammered into me all the more, the importance of water,”
Indiana wouldn’t be the first state in the Midwest to adopt a water plan.
Part of a 2008 sales tax approved in Minnesota in 2008 goes toward
protecting water. Minnesota lawmakers also spent $750,000 to create a
25-year plan that will guide allocation of the sales-tax revenue dedicated
to water, estimated at $85 million a year.
Indiana’s reputation doesn’t hinge on pristine lakes like Minnesota’s, but
the stakes are still high. The agriculture, electric power and
pharmaceutical industries all are dependent on water.
“This is our advantage,” Wittman said of Indiana’s water supplies. “Let’s
pay attention to it.”
Shawn Naylor, a hydrogeologist with the Indiana Geological Survey who is
president of the Indiana Water Monitoring Council, said he hopes to see
legislative interest that extends beyond a drought year.
"We tend to be very reactionary,” Naylor said. “There tends not to be that
long-term vision in the state.”
He suggested the state could start by installing 200 to 500 strategic
monitoring wells. The Indiana Geological Survey, a research institute of
Indiana University, currently maintains 11 monitoring wells.
Wittman said the state needs to assess how long its groundwater supplies
will support agricultural growth and how to address supply in places like
central and southern Indiana.
He would like to see Indiana create a non-regulatory state water survey
office that could help utilities work together and prevent misunderstanding
in the general public about where water supplies stand.