There’s nothing like floating in a pool on an otherwise unbearably hot day. Or soaking in a hot tub when you’ve come in from the bitter cold. Water is a high percentage of our body’s chemistry. And yet we rarely think about the supply of water we need to survive.
I think about it when I see a farmer’s irrigation system running during a heavy downpour. Or when I see an irrigation system watering the road as well as the field. There’s only so much water in the aquifer. What will happen if wasting water makes it run dry?
In Indiana, that’s something to think about.
“Water is a very sensitive issue. Everybody believes that water is theirs,” said state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. Charbonneau has spent the last several years working on this issue.
He knows that when push comes to shove, someone’s going to get hurt. You know the global battles we’ve had over oil. Think how much more fierce those battles could be when it comes to water.
An Indiana Finance Authority report with a title that is, ironically, dry — “Evaluation of Water Utility Planning in Indiana” — notes 26 percent of Hoosiers have their own wells. They’re the ones who worry about their wells running dry.
But for the other Hoosiers, there are reasons to worry about water supply.
Northwest Indiana is unusual in that there are two plentiful sources of water. Southern Indiana has the Ohio River it can tap. We have Lake Michigan if we’re within the watershed, or a good aquifer if we aren’t.
Central Indiana, where the state’s largest population growth is occurring, is more concerned about water supply and is more focused on planning. Think of it as the nation’s Southwest, with people flocking to areas where water is in short supply.
Irrigation systems are popping up throughout the northern third of Indiana. Specialty crops, including tomatoes and some corn varieties, being grown by more and more farmers require additional water to gain more profitable yields per acre.
With increasing demands for our available water, conservation and reuse of water should be a bigger focus.
“We should be paying all sorts of attention to that,” Charbonneau said.
Some of this is easy, like shutting off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth and only turning it back on when it’s time to rinse. Some areas are encouraging the use of rain barrels to water gardens.
At BP’s Whiting Refinery, we were reminded recently of industrial use of water and what’s at stake when the pollutants released into our drinking water supply exceed available standards. If you complain about government regulations, you might want to go easy on this one.
Charbonneau and the Indiana General Assembly are concerned about all of these issues, but frankly there isn’t enough data available to analyze it well. Or maybe the facts are available, but inaccessible.
One legislative initiative this upcoming session should be to appoint someone to gather data already being collected by various state agencies and make it accessible for planning how to address water issues.
It’s important but underfunded. When it comes to the state budget, addressing this water issue is just a drop in the budget.