By Madison County Chamber
The Madison County Chamber supports Mounds Lake for several reasons. We believe this regionally impactful project will indeed benefit not only the surrounding communities, but the entire State of Indiana. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce Water Report (Aug. 14 release) and the Indy Chamber’s Central Indiana Water Supply Report (Spring 2010 release) provide clear and precise reasons why water is needed as an economic development driver and a survival tool for future growth of Central Indiana. These reports call for varying methods to measure, preserve and manage water, not only locally but how the State of Indiana should approach water regulation.This region should embrace moving into Phase 3 of the Mounds Lake Project. Why?Top 10 Reasons To Move This Project to Phase 3:1. Population growth, variable weather conditions, and water-quality degradation in central Indiana require skilled management of our regional resources. As water becomes more valuable throughout the United States, central Indiana can become an economic destination. Long-term planning based on efficient use and a regional approach to managing finite water supplies will improve our economic opportunities, promote continued regional growth, and help secure central Indiana’s future.2. A 2004 central Indiana water report states that the region’s surface water supplies are nearly fully developed and that net surface water use will likely exceed minimum stream flow requirements (7Q10) before 2020 (Malcolm Pirnie, 2004). As a result, central Indiana’s surface water supplies will struggle to meet future water demand. Public water suppliers, industrial users, and energy producers (the three largest withdrawers of surface water) will be forced to use groundwater when new sources are needed. Central Indiana’s water resources are not limitless. Several factors, some natural and some human-made, impact the amount of water that can be withdrawn from our surface water and groundwater resources. Groundwater can be used to augment dwindling surface water supplies during water shortages if the appropriate infrastructure is in place. However, if a well is pumped at a faster rate than the aquifer is recharged, the water level will decline. This can happen during extreme rainfall deficits or if several wells are pumping at the same time when rainfall is less than normal.3. Dry weather is common during Indiana summers, and proper water resource management requires understanding water availability and viable alternatives that are available during water shortages. Dry, hot weather that lasts for more than a couple weeks can have an adverse impact on water availability. Low precipitation and high temperatures during droughts reduce streamflow and are usually coupled with increased withdrawals. Central Indiana experienced droughts lasting multiple years in the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s. The 1988 drought served as the catalyst for addressing the impact of water shortages on the health, safety, and economic well-being of the state.4. Today, the state of Indiana has three million more people than it did during the drought of 1941. Another million people will arrive before 2050. Clearly, the state is more vulnerable to water shortages than it was 70 years ago. There are more water diversions from streams for power, mining, irrigation, and municipal use. There are more wells pumping from aquifers. Some climate models predict reduced flows in Midwestern streams (Arnell, 2013). There is more investment depending on the reliability of that supply than ever before. In short, the risks are much higher as Indiana works to maintain its competitive economic position. Indiana wants to provide a business-friendly setting to attract companies in the industries of biotech, medical, and energy. Before committing to a location, companies ask about water resources.5. Public education is a necessary strategy for changing the common mentality of water being an unlimited resource to one of water being a limited one. During droughts or water shortages, water users may be willing to modify their consumption. However, after the return to normal weather, users do not maintain their same level of water savings and will revert back to previous consuming behaviors.6. Population growth is a major driver of water use. Central Indiana has several of the fastest growing counties in Indiana—and Hamilton and Hendricks counties are two of the fastest growing counties in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). The population in Hamilton, Hendricks, Boone, Hancock, and Johnson counties is expected to increase more than 20 percent between 2005 and 2025 (Indiana Business Research Center, 2008). Marion and Morgan counties will likely experience an 8 to 20 percent population increase, Shelby County will grow less than 4 percent, and Madison County is predicted to have the largest population decline in the state (Indiana Business Research Center, 2008). As central Indiana’s population grows, so will its demand for water.7. A recent action by the General Assembly was the 2009 creation of the Water Resources Task Force (Ind. Code §14-25-16). This task force is different from the Water Shortage Task Force in that it studies and makes recommendations concerning water availability as an economic and environmental necessity; it is not directly involved with water shortage planning.8. The ultimate step in managing shared water resources is regionalization. Regionalization involves one entity managing or owning the water sources, treatment plants, and regional distribution system. Managing water assets of natural and built infrastructure under one entity allows for optimized use of the resources. Regionalization provides economies of scale in regulatory compliance, funding, regional assets, and system flexibility. This option requires considerable political will and funding and does not occur quickly. Regionalization is a difficult step because of the variety of high-capacity users in the region, which includes private, public, and conservancy districts. Regionalization affords a stable, diversified, and balanced water source portfolio, which would provide the region with economic stability and growth.9. Water professionals throughout the United States have acknowledged that they can no longer disregard the regional implications of individual water system decisions. Water supplies do not stop at community or property boundaries, and consequently, interjurisdictional cooperation is critical to ensure maximum and efficient use of the regional water supply. Regional planning demonstrates we are committed to optimizing our water supplies for future growth. Additionally, Indiana can market itself as an economic destination to businesses in water limited regions that require a stable water supply.10. The Indiana Chamber has called for a statewide water resource plan. The task force that formed our Indiana Vision 2025 economic blueprint identified it as one of the key objectives in that plan. The time is now to begin what will be a long, but important, process to “ensure adequate fresh water for citizens and businesses.” A recent report evaluated the degree to which the economy of each state was dependent on water resources (Rosaen, 2014). Indiana ranked first in the country in the percentage of the economy that depends on water.