Indiana legislators and water industry officials are commissioning a study to look at water supply and demand in the state.
Historically, Indiana hasn’t worried about water shortages, but last year’s severe, widespread drought came as a wake-up call.
“What’s problematic is if you formulate policy without knowing which thing matters most,” hydrogeologist Jack Wittman says.
Indiana has an existing water shortage plan.
Wittman was part of the task force that updated it seven years ago. He says a big gap in Indiana’s plan though is that there’s no policy for determining which water users get priority in the event of severe shortages.
Wittman and an advisory committee representing various industries and municipalities will spend the next eight months surveying the supply of water throughout different regions in Indiana.
They’ll also talk to local governments and utilities to find out what plans they have in place for water shortages.
“Really the goal of this study is to create a framework for statewide water supply planning,” he says. “That’s the idea, not to solve the problem but to prepare the state for and look at options for different ways to solve the problem.”
Wittman says northern Indiana is relatively home free on ground water levels, while southern Indiana is significantly worse.
Central Indiana, with Indianapolis and its water demands in the middle, is the most vulnerable.
Indiana Chamber Vice President of Environmental and Energy Policy Vince Griffin says they’re pushing for this data collection and policy changing before Indiana reaches the brink.
“I think the key to this is think outside the box, look at local, regional or statewide approaches to water resources, not just this little parochial attitude of ‘This is my water, nobody’s going to touch it,’” he says.
The study begins in November and runs until next summer.