All About the Water

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The governors of the Great Lakes states recently approved a request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan after its existing water supply dried up. But because the city isn’t in the watershed of the Great Lakes, the two Canadian provinces that share Great Lakes water rights say the request should be denied.

Waukesha, Wisconsin will be allowed to tap Lake Michigan for up to 8.2 million gallons per day once it completes a $207 million pipeline project that would draw in lake water and return fully-treated wastewater.

Delegates for the governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York gave their unanimous consent to the first formal request to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin during a meeting of the compact council.

The 2008 compact prohibits water from being sent outside the basin watershed. Communities like Waukesha, located over the line but within a straddling county, can apply under a limited exception.

The eight governors approved the request over the objection of widespread opposition. Mayors, legislators, policy-makers and citizens around the Great Lakes have worried about the precedent Waukesha’s application represented.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to provide safe drinking water by mid-2018. The city draws most of its water from a deep aquifer that is contaminated with unsafe levels of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen. The city has a population of about 70,000 people.

Kiplinger warns that more water conflicts will flare up, citing California, India, South Africa and the Middle East among the likely areas of dispute.

The Drop on Indiana Water Issues in the 2016 Legislative Session

34886804Indiana’s water quantity issue received significant attention in the 2016 Indiana legislative session as Sen. Charbonneau continues to champion calculated steps toward a credible water policy for the state. His mantra has been “data before decisions” and the legislation this year reflects that refrain, which the Indiana Chamber strongly supports.

Senate Bill 347 (Water Resources) is Charbonneau’s 2016 flagship for the water issue. The bill does three things: 1) directs the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) to conduct a “water loss” audit of all water utilities; 2) says the IFA will conduct a quality control assessment of well locations; and 3) instructs the IFA to study, analyze and report to the LSA by November 1, 2016, on the infrastructure needs of Indiana’s water utilities. This bill adds to the growing library of data that will guide the state’s water policy.

Senate Bill 257 (Distressed Water and Wastewater Utilities) promotes the purchase of distressed water utilities before they totally collapse. With over 500 water utilities in the state, this is a critical issue.

A cousin to SB 257 is SB 383 (System Integrity Adjustments).For many years, we have not adequately maintained our aging water and wastewater infrastructure. It is out of sight and out of mind. The cost is estimated at over $14 billion to restore this decaying system.

Senate Bill 383 provides that a water or wastewater utility may petition the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to recover approved charges. The Chamber supports a fair and equitable way to address this issue, for an inadequate water and sewer system will
negatively impact our economy.

House Bill 1300 (Environmental Management Matters) is IDEM’s annual catch-all bill with a variety of issues including: revising the term “land application”; revoking a temporary variance; clarifying when an antidegradation review is required; extending the vehicle mercury switch program; recycling issues and electronic devices reporting, and addressing rates and charges by regional water, sewage and solid waste districts. The Chamber supported HB 1300 as it clarifies and creates efficiencies within the administration.

House Bill 1299 (Voluntary Remediation Plan) was IDEM’s bill to give it more teeth to cull out those that are not adhering to its proposed work plan and timeline. The administration, however, pulled the bill as IDEM believes that it has enough power at this time to enforce the voluntary remediation plan (VRP) program. The Chamber believes that if a project is accepted into the VRP program that it should follow the approved plan within the identified timeline. The VRP program should not be a means to shield a site from litigation or cleanup.

Senate Bill 255 (Underground Storage Tanks) directs IDEM to conduct an actuarial study of the Excess Liability Trust Fund (ELF) that is to provide monies to clean up underground storage tanks.

The ELF realizes one penny for every gallon of pumped gasoline and diesel; the fund is now in excess of $100 million, with many millions in charges pending for cleanups. The actuarial study will identify how much money will be needed for registered tanks and the balance required to clean up “orphan” tanks that have no owners with a responsibility to remediate the site. The Chamber supported SB 255 as it promotes the restoration of sites, which potentially create a viable location for a business that will provide jobs and pay taxes.

The Chamber has long supported the use of waste products as a credible feedstock for another process. Senate Bill 256 (Legitimate Use of Solid Waste) conceptually promotes that model. If administered properly, it is a win/win as the producer of a waste saves the cost of treatment/disposal and the recipient of the material has a free or inexpensive feedstock – and valuable landfill space is not consumed.

Chamber-Supported Water Bills Pass Out of Committee

The Chamber supports two bills that recently unanimously passed out of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.

SB 473 requires the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to establish a program under which volunteers may monitor the water resources, which includes both ground water and surface water. This data will be provided to IDNR. Provides that the department shall: (1) train the volunteers participating in the program in the proper collection and transmission of data; (2) determine the location and ensure the adequacy of the monitoring wells used in the program; and (3) conduct water resource monitoring independent of the program to verify the quality of the data derived from the program.

In testimony, the Chamber supported the development of a comprehensive water resources plan. An essential element of that plan will be adequate and reliable data. Senate Bill 473 creates a mechanism that will allow the voluntary collection of data from diverse sources which is then managed by state and federal agencies. This data will fill a current void in the depleted monitoring network with minimal cost and effort by the state.


SB 474 requires the Indiana Finance Authority to prepare an analysis of the planning and long-range needs of: (1) the water utilities serving the 15 most populous cities in Indiana; and (2) five other water utilities selected by the authority, each of which serves fewer than 10,000 customers.

The Chamber testified that an integral part of a water resources plan is the ability of the state’s water utilities to create and execute long-range plans. Senate Bill 474 uses the ongoing efforts of the Indiana Finance Authority to analyze a sampling of the state’s water utilities to assess their ability to construct and implement long-range plans.

Chamber Releases New Study on Indiana Water Supply

A new study from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation warns that without planning and proper management, the state’s water supply – a longtime natural resource strength – could become a challenge for both businesses and citizens.

While Indiana is not facing the dramatic shortages of California or other states in the West and Southwest, its current economic advantage – plentiful water supplies – will dry up, according to Water and Economic Development in Indiana: Modernizing the State’s Approach to a Critical Resource.

“This is definitely a jobs and economic development issue,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin 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.

“We experienced a seasonal drought just two years ago and at previous times in our state’s history. The goal is to ensure those droughts and more prolonged shortages do not negatively impact our state in the future,” he explains.

The importance of this issue is underscored in the Indiana Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan, which lists the development and implementation of a state water strategy as one of its 33 goals. What’s more, a recent report out of Michigan found that Indiana is the most water-dependent state in the entire country as it pertains to its impact on the economy.

The Indiana Chamber study was commissioned in late 2013 and conducted over the first half of this year. It was led by Bloomington-based Jack Wittman, Ph.D., principal geoscientist with INTERA Incorporated; Wittman has frequently consulted with water providers throughout the state. A water advisory council, comprised of key water users and producers, provided insight and guidance through a series of regular meetings.

Among the findings:

• In Southern Indiana, local water resources are not always able to meet anticipated future needs. For example, there are few aquifers or perennial streams immediately south of Bloomington – a prime area for business development with the expansion of Interstate 69 and the continued work at the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
• While water supplies in Central Indiana are diverse and utilities are making plans, continued population growth leads to projections of an additional 50 million gallons per day to meet the needs of the region by 2050.
• North of the Wabash River, water is relatively abundant. The area, however, is seeing significant increases in water usage for irrigation. These seasonal fluctuations require additional monitoring, in part to determine impact on other water users.

“Not only does water matter today,” according to Wittman, “but management of water will be even more essential in the future.”

Wittman says a separate study conducted earlier this year found that Indiana ranks first in the nation in the percentage of its economy that depends on water. He also notes various agencies (state, federal and local) and universities already do work in the areas of water management and analysis, but that one entity must be designated to lead the way. Among the specific recommendations:

• Creating widespread awareness about the need for water supply planning
• Coordinating current efforts, including the funding of additional water research
• More robust monitoring of water resources
• Standardized systems for data analysis and water resource management

“What this study does is set the stage for creation of a long-needed, long-range water plan for the state,” offers Vince Griffin, Indiana Chamber vice president of energy and environmental policy. “While a credible plan may take three to five years, legislators – from the Senate and House, as well as both parties – understand the importance of this issue and are prepared to lead on the next steps.”

Brinegar adds, “Additional financial investments will be needed to ensure a reliable water future. That’s why we commissioned this study now and why we encourage all involved to take these results and use them as a playbook for development of a long-range water plan.

“Indiana should be taking advantage of its current water supplies to help attract and retain businesses – and jobs. If we plan properly for the future, those resources will continue to be an economic advantage.”

Additional comments from four members of the water advisory council:

“The release of this study is a good first step in starting the important dialogue about water use in our state. Even though agriculture is a small user compared to other sectors, a stable and abundant water supply is crucial to growing the crops and livestock that feed Hoosier families. Indiana Farm Bureau looks forward to continuing our participation in this important project that will ensure an adequate water supply for all of Indiana.”
– Don Villwock, president of Indiana Farm Bureau

“This report, and the efforts of the (Indiana) Chamber’s Water Advisory Council, are a call to action for Indiana to prepare for meeting the broad range of water needs that form the foundation of the economic future and quality of life for all Hoosiers. By improving the understanding of our current water resources, we can be better prepared to assure their continued availability for the state’s businesses and residents.”
– Thomas M. Bruns, president, Aqua Indiana, Inc. and representing the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Water Companies

“Indiana corn and soybean growers realize that water is a critical resource needed to produce our crops and for our industry to flourish. This report gives us all a starting point to ensure that our state thrives while our farmers continue to provide food for their families, neighbors and the world.”
– Mike Dunn, director of production research, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council

“The Indiana Section of the American Water Works Association believes this study is an important step toward ensuring an uninterrupted supply of water for Indiana. The availability of water is vital to the continued growth of business and industry and to the quality of life for all Hoosiers. Congratulations to the Indiana Chamber Foundation on its foresight in taking a long-term approach to addressing the importance of water to Indiana’s future.”
– John A. Hardwick, chair, Water Utility Council, Indiana Section American Water Works Association

Throwback Thursday: Water on the Brain

Many involved in the Indiana environmental community are likely aware of our ongoing work on a survey of Indiana water resources in an effort to gauge future supply and demand.The Chamber actually hired Bloomington-based hydrogeologist Jack Wittman for the effort. In fact, read his recent Q & A with Indy-based NUVO magazine on the issue.

Along these lines, we recently discovered a similar report from June 1953, titled “Water Resources Report to Southern Indiana Inc.” The entire document is nearly 70 pages, but here are a few notes from the general summary:

These points are held to be fundamental guides for conducting future work:

1. Present water conditions – supplies; flood damages
2. Potential long-term supply needs
3. Potential long-term supply opportunities
4. Possible reductions of flood losses
5. General benefits to entire area which may result from improvement projects

The valley-wide approach to the water problem of Southern Indiana is all-important because surface water must be the main source of supply.

It is recognized that there now is a tremendous waste of water resources in Southern Indiana. Much water is lost in flood periods during the heavy rainfall seasons of the spring and early summer while many stream beds are almost dry in late summer and fall months. Equalization of the stream flows, therefore, is taken as the key approach to the problem…

It is impossible to propose a “blanket remedy”  for water problems in Southern Indiana. IN any year, losses from drought may be just as severe as losses from flood, or greater. Any storage of water in small watersheds is of much value to farm operations. The value of farming is on equal status with that of manufacturing and commercial activities in the support of the business system.

Indiana Can Win the Water Battle

(The following column from Vince Griffin, our VP of environment and energy, appeared in the Inside INdiana Business newsletter.)

Wouldn't it be nice if every time you got in your car, you had a full tank of gas? You wouldn't have to worry about where you were going to fill up next or how much it was going to cost. Unfortunately, this is how most Hoosiers view the state's water supply.

Right now Hoosiers are using water with little to no regard for where it will come from in the future. Most people take for granted everyday things such as how they are able to have water available every time they turn on the faucet. As the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, Indiana uses vast amounts of water each day to keep its economic engine operating. The aquifers and rivers also support agricultural production in Indiana that contributes almost $38 billion to the state's economy.

This abundant resource may become unreliable if we do not take the proper steps now. Indiana, along with other states east of the Mississippi River, currently doesn't have a plan that secures its long-term water supply.

A clear and concise strategy is required for getting water to Hoosiers who will need it most. In order to do this, three questions must be answered:

1. Where is the water?
2. Who needs the water?
3. How do we get the water to where it is needed at the right time?

Central and southern Indiana have fewer aquifers than the northern half of the state. Without some policy that promotes regional distribution systems, development could be geographically constrained. Regional supplies would alleviate those concerns.

The Ohio River could serve as one resource. Twelve billion gallons of water flow through several Indiana cities and towns that sit on the river. At several points along the Ohio, there are ranney wells built during World War II to collect water from the river. But they have not been used in recent years. By adding pumps to these wells and building a system to distribute the water farther north, future shortages could be addressed.

Other options also would be available. All would be focused on moving the water to where it is needed. Doing so will help stabilize the economic performance of southern Indiana.

Lessons can be learned from Texas. Despite experiencing a tremendous population growth, it has no usable water source. In order to combat this problem, the state is divided into water regions. The supplies being used by each are closely tracked and, depending on consumption, water moved to the regions that need it most. This system allows for continued economic growth as potential shortages are addressed.

While there are future challenges, now is a time of opportunity. Unlike many areas of the country, Indiana has water resources. We can invent our energy and water future by taking charge and planning for the future.

Senate Enrolled Act 132 in 2012, which enables the state to gather information from water utilities, will help policymakers make informed decisions. The data also will help the utilities make smart choices when it comes to distributing their resources. Utilities submitted their surveys earlier this year, and the combined findings will be reported in September.

By being proactive, Indiana can become an example for others to follow. Early commitment is also critical as projects to distribute water supplies, while tremendously beneficial, will be costly.

In a recent speech, Dr. Jack Wittman, a national water expert based in Bloomington, summed up the importance of creating a water plan: "The first state, east of the Mississippi, to come up with a plan is the winner."

Indiana has the opportunity to be that winner. The state will soon have the data; it then needs to use it. The goal is to have a plan in the next two years, then execute it to secure the water future for all Hoosiers.

Texas/Oklahoma Saga Latest in U.S. Water Battles

We've discussed battles over water rights previously — and certainly will again. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court basically told Texas it has no right to claim billions of gallons of water on the Oklahoma side of the Red River. The Court reinforced an existing compact between those two states, Arkansas and Louisiana. Stateline reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday unanimously rejected a Texas water district’s attempt to tap river water in Oklahoma, settling a dispute that raised questions about state sovereignty and natural resources at a time when water is increasingly scarce and fought over.

The ruling found that the Texas authority had no right to the water in question, despite a four-state pact designed to ensure equal access to the water that flows in the Red River. The Tarrant Regional Water District had filed a lawsuit in 2007 saying Texas was entitled to some 130 billion gallons of water on Oklahoma’s side of the river basin.

As Stateline previously reported, the questions at the heart of the case have taken on increasing importance as drought and water shortages have strained water supplies and relations among many western states.

The dispute was seen as a potential test case for states’ rights over natural resources, but it’s likely the effect will be narrow, Marguerite Chapman, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, said.

“I think it affirms the integrity of an interstate compact as essentially a contract,” she said. “I don’t think it will disturb other compacts…the far-reaching effect would essentially be affirming the language that’s in the contract.”

The case centered on the Red River Compact that was signed by Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and approved by Congress in 1980.

The compact grants the states “equal rights to the use and runoff” of undesignated, or unallocated, water that flows in the sub-basin where the Tarrant district is staking its claim — but only if flows to Louisiana and Arkansas reach a certain threshold.

“No state is entitled to more than 25 percent of the water,” the pact says.

The compact has been in place for decades, but Oklahoma lawmakers enacted a moratorium on cross-state transfers in 2002. When the original moratorium expired in 2009, the Oklahoma legislature overhauled the state’s permitting process to effectively exclude out-of-state applicants for water.

Nevada’s Luck Not Good Thus Far on Water Deal

Like many states, Indiana wrestles with water supply issues and a viable statewide plan is desperately needed. However, our situation is not nearly as dire as it is for Nevada. Stateline documents how a water pact between Nevada and Utah, which was mandated in 2004 and tentatively agreed to in 2009, has now washed down the drain as Utah's governor poured cold water on the deal (so many water puns).

Now Nevada — and the nation — must combat the challenges of having a major city and global tourist destination in the middle of the desert. As a poker enthusiast, Las Vegas has a special place in my heart and I truly hope an agreement can be reached to keep Southern Nevada from having to swim upstream on this issue (sorry). Stateline writes:

The states produced a plan by 2009, splitting the rights down the middle. Utah had already appropriated about 18 billion gallons, more than four times what Nevada had. Under the agreement, Nevada would have received another 12 billion gallons per year, with Utah getting 2 billion more.

Nevada quickly signed. But Herbert, a Republican, long put off his decision amid legal challenges and further study.

The pact would allow Nevada to send Snake Valley water to Las Vegas through a proposed pipeline that could also include straws to nearby communities.

Some 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water comes from Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam reservoir fed by the Colorado River. Studies have shown, however, the supply is shrinking by as much as 7 percent each year, exacerbated by recent severe drought.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has called the pipeline a safety net, only to be built if Lake Mead becomes dangerously low, which some water experts say could happen within a decade. But questions have arisen about whether the authority could finance the multi-billion project.

In Utah and parts of Nevada, the pipeline prospect has proved unpopular, spurring loud protests from a variety of groups, including environmentalists, Native American tribes, farmers and ranchers who worry the project would damage the communities and threaten their way of life.

“The project would create a massive dustbowl,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, which has opposed the pipeline and the pact.

The ultimate fear is that Snake Valley would face the same fate as California’s Owens Lake, which catastrophically dried up nearly a century ago when officials diverted its water source — the Owens River— to feed booming Los Angeles. Today, though some flow has returned, the vast salty area northeast of Los Angeles remains the largest single source of dust pollution in the U.S.

Last October, a trio of water attorneys advised Herbert that the agreement was the preferred option to a lengthy legal battle.

“The agreements, while not perfect, provide a framework to protect the interests of water users and citizens as a whole in each state and provide a process to address adverse impacts early on if detected to avoid significant harm to anyone,” the report said.

But on Wednesday, after visiting locals who would be impacted by a water transfer, Herbert announced he would not sign.

“There is no more complex and emotional issue with which I have grappled as governor of this great state,” he said. “I won't impose a solution on those most impacted that they themselves cannot support.”

Now, it’s Nevada’s move, but it’s unclear what it will do.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority said it was disappointed in Herbert’s decision. “In the coming days and weeks, we will evaluate our options to address this unprecedented action,” it said in a statement.

Nevada governor Brian Sandoval’s office referred questions to the state’s Division of Environmental Protection, which did not answer messages.

McCool, the water expert, said Las Vegas’ water crisis, along with the political and financial challenges of proposed projects to meet its needs, could spur Utah to sell some of its unallocated rights along the Colorado to Nevada. Or, further in the future, perhaps all seven states will rework the 91-year-old Colorado River Compact to give Nevada a bigger share.

Under the compact, Nevada only receives 4 percent of the allocations. That’s because no one in 1922 anticipated some 2 million people would eventually make their lives in the desert.

“The straw that breaks the camel’s back is going to be Las Vegas,” said McCool, who dubs this period in western water history “the big shakeout.”

“This is where we’ll figure out who has the political will and connections to get this thing done.”

Griffin: Indiana Air Cleaner Than Decades Ago

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Indiana Chamber VP of Environment & Energy Vince Griffin discusses the state of Indiana’s water and air. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear how it compares to previous generations. For more, visit www.indianachamber.com/environment.

Indiana House Votes to Protect Great Lakes

The Elkhart Truth reports on the latest bill to protect the Great Lakes system. Indiana and surrounding states — and even two Canadian provinces — have worked over the past few years, namely via the Great Lakes Compact, to protect the lakes and keep the resources primarily in the region.

Indiana’s House of Representatives voted 90-0 this week to support a bill authored by State Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, to better protect and improve the Great Lakes and its watershed.

Senate Bill 157 requires the Environmental Quality Service Council — a bipartisan legislative panel that studies state energy and environmental policies — with reviewing and discussing issues related to the supply and quality of water in the Great Lakes. The EQSC will also review what federal funds are available for water protection, infrastructure conditions and regulatory matters affecting shipping and other relevant matters.

Indiana has 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

The bill was supported by both the Northwest Indiana Forum, a regional organization that works to promote economic development, and the Great Lakes, an interstate compact agency that promotes the orderly, integrated and comprehensive development, use and conservation of the water and related natural resources of the Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence River.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Indiana Wildlife Federation and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce backed Zakas’ proposal, he said.

In 2008, Zakas was successful in getting Indiana to join the Great Lakes Compact to help monitor, manage and protect water resources of the lakes. He said this new initiative could help state officials remain engaged and informed about Great Lakes issues.

S.B.157 will now move to the governor for his approval.