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Protecting our Water Resources By State Sen. Sue Glick

Few of Indiana’s natural features are as vital as our bodies of water. Our area is especially blessed with numerous lakes as well as the streams and tributaries that make up the St. Joe and Maumee river basins.

As everyone knows, water is essential to a community’s health, economic development and life as a whole. But oftentimes, it’s not until we lack this resource that people truly understand its worth.

At a recent meeting of the General Assembly’s Water Resources Study Committee, I joined other committee members to discuss this issue and hear expert testimony on the state of Indiana’s water. What we have found is that Indiana lacks a cohesive plan to ensure that our water resources are both protected and used appropriately. This was made apparent last summer when the Midwest was stunned by an unexpected drought.

The 2012 drought has been reported as the worst since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Communities across the state took action to regulate lawn irrigation and wasteful water usage, trying to preserve every last drop until the rain returned. Unfortunately, some areas failed to manage their water as well as others did, forcing neighborhoods to implement strict water regulations. Many of Indiana’s fields and crops were devastated.

Experts at our committee meeting proposed the idea of creating a drought response team to minimize the impact future droughts may have on our state. This would allow resources and emergency workers to more effectively reach the hardest hit parts of Indiana, giving Hoosiers more peace of mind. In situations as serious as the drought we experienced last year, this team could make a major difference in how our families and businesses cope.

We also reviewed accessibility to water that’s safe for household use. While our lakes and rivers provide great water for irrigation, cooling and other various uses, most of it is not drinkable. Indiana relies heavily on underground aquifers for that supply.

Northeastern Indiana benefits from a high water table with numerous aquifers. However, other areas of our state contain bedrock and limestone, which make it more difficult to access water. When it is harvested, treatment is often required to extract minerals before it is safe to consume.

As we all know, human life cannot be sustained without water, but there are many parts of our state’s economy that require water to operate. Industries depend on this resource for many of their tasks, but there can be a cost to that use.

Since water is a limited resource, we must consider how much of it is potentially untreatable or unrecoverable. Water that’s used for certain agricultural and industrial processes often contains chemicals, hormones and other types of contaminates. When discussing policies and regulations, it will be necessary to create a system that balances the requirements of these economic sectors, as well as residential needs.

It’s clear that Indiana must plan for the future now. The development of a comprehensive water management system will allow us to plan for growth and needs, more easily address emergency situations down the road, allow for recreational use of our aquatic resources, and help Hoosiers maintain their quality of life. It’s our goal to be the first state east of the Mississippi River to implement a plan like this.

As committee discussions continue, I look forward to hearing more input on what we can do to protect our vital resources. If you have any thoughts on this issue or others, please contact me at Senator.Glick@iga.in.gov or 1-800-382-9467.