Indiana isn’t facing the dramatic water shortages hitting California, but a new report from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce warns the state’s water supply won’t be adequate to meet future needs unless government better manages and distributes the valuable resource.
A study released today by the chamber’s foundation calls for the development of a statewide water resource plan to better conserve and manage the state’s water supply.
Without it, the chamber warns, “a large portion of the state likely won’t have the local water resources needed to meet growing needs.”
In Southern Indiana, specifically, local water supplies are insufficient for meeting future public needs, the study said. The report noted that few aquifers or perennial streams exist immediately south of Bloomington — a prime area for business development with the expansion of I-69 and continued work at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.
Kevin Brinegar, chamber president and CEO, said the state legislature needs to set aside least $10 million next year to make an initial investment to start collecting water resource data and begin work on a water resource plan.
Chamber officials and Bloomington-based Jack Wittman, geoscientist with INTERA Inc., which conducted the study this year for the chamber, released findings during a news conference this morning.
“This is definitely a jobs and economic development issue,” said Brinegar. “Our state’s economy is growing more diverse, but we always will make things. And it often takes large, reliable supplies of water to do so.”
He said a recent report out of Michigan found that Indiana is the most water dependent state in the country, as it relates to its impact on the economy.
Water resources and needs vary around the state, but chamber officials stressed the importance of cooperation of local governments and developing a new governance structure for managing water resources.
Northern Indiana has more water, but irrigation usage is fast increasing and more data needs to be collected on aquifers and streams.
Central Indiana could see an increase in demand of 50 million gallons used per day by 2050 due to continued population growth, the study finds. Although utilities have identified the need and taken initial steps, the report said “supplies are limited and, without new sources, economic growth is at risk.”
Chamber officials stressed that improving and managing water resources is a long-term issue that needs to begin to tackled now for the good of businesses and citizens alike.
“What this study does is set the stage for creation of a long-needed, long-range water plan for the state,” said Vince Griffin, the chamber’s vice president. A credible plan make take three to five years to put in place, he said.
Wittman said the state needs to plan now to be ready for needs 15 years from now. “It takes decades to build these (water) infrastructure systems,” he said.
In addition, he urged that more attention needs to be focused on water conservation by everyone.
“Conservation has to become a normal part of policy on water and has to be adopted across the state,” Wittman said.
The full study and county-by-county data on water usage and resources are available at www.indianachamber.com/water.