COLUMN: We count on clean water

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District 47 Stare Senator

As a result of an increasing population and the amount of fresh water needed for public usage, agriculture, industry and the environment, the competition for water resources today is far more intense than 50 years ago.

That competition is only amplified when you consider that only 3 percent of the planet’s supply is fresh water. Ensuring that Indiana is able to sustain fresh-water supplies is the key charge of the legislature’s Water Resources Study Committee. As a member of this committee, we are reviewing the state’s water-supply needs, quality and quantity of water resources, current processes and methods used in determining water-resource allocation and distribution, as well as the appropriate policies for governing future water-resource allocation and distribution planning.

Fresh water, ground water, river water, waste water, water drainage, water quality and quantity, wetlands preservation and industrial use were several issues discussed during a recent Statehouse meeting. Considering the historic drought we experienced last year and Lake Michigan’s dropping water levels, it is imperative that we recognize the importance of our water resources.

The makeup of our state’s water supply changes from north to south. More groundwater is available in northern Indiana while the south of the state is more vulnerable. The southern part of the state – where usage is growing, but limitations exist – faces a unique set of challenges.

In 2012, state lawmakers approved legislation I authored to address some of these issues. The act requires all Indiana water utilities providing water service to the public to annually submit to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission a report containing the types of water resources used to deliver service to customers.

It also instructs utilities to report their operation and maintenance costs. IURC Commissioner Carolene Mays updated the committee on the status of the first water resources data report, which will be available Sept. 4.

Other state agencies testifying before the committee included the departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Affairs, Agriculture and Health. Committee members also heard from Jack Wittman, a hydrologist; William Guertal of the Indiana Water Science Center; climatologist Dev Niyogi, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

One issue that quickly became apparent during the meeting is that Indiana has numerous programs tracking water quality and demand. Moving forward, we need to consider streamlining what’s already in place and take a look at water plans advanced by other states.

It is vitally important that the state continue to collect data on the state’s water-supply needs, encourage collaboration between all agencies that oversee fresh-water laws, regulations and programs and begin to develop a comprehensive plan to protect and preserve what we have today.

As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas on the issues that matter most to you. Contact me at (800) 382-9467 or s47@iga.in.gov.

Young represents Perry County in the Indiana Senate.