David Rosenberg: Water should be distributed to benefit all

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What should Indiana do to ensure it has enough water to meet the needs of its people, communities and economic development?

Few things are more important to a state than building an economy that will drive economic success for decades into the future. Critical to executing that strategy is ensuring there is enough water to meet the needs of the state’s communities.

Indiana is no different, and thankfully, our state is a leader in that economy of the future and is blessed with abundant water resources. Our challenge and opportunity is finding the best way to manage these water resources since access to water is not universal across Indiana. This requires visionary leadership, collaboration among communities and data-driven analysis to benefit all Indiana regions.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. was founded in 2005 by former Gov. Mitch Daniels to better enable government to move at the speed of business. And thanks to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s leadership, Indiana has been moving at a historic pace over the past two years, with more than $33 billion in new committed capital expenditures in future-focused economies and unprecedented investments into rural communities. With all this incredible investment, it is more important than ever to first find the art of the possible regarding our natural resources.

The LEAP Research and Innovation District being developed in Boone County has certainly brought the water discussion to the forefront. LEAP has already attracted a $3.7 billion investment from Eli Lilly and Co. and has access to utilities and water needed for that investment and other projects in the current business development pipeline. While there has been much discussion surrounding the potential for a water pipeline, that would be considered only if Indiana is selected by a company with a significant water need.

With our state’s abundance of water, this resource can be the differentiator for Indiana as we compete against other states to create our future economy. As other states suffer droughts or lack of resources, Indiana won’t. However, since Indiana is one of a few states without a centralized water management process, it is understandable that Hoosiers want to protect the resources in their communities.

But we should base our ultimate decisions on data and science. Water is the lifeblood of all communities, so Indiana must ensure we distribute this valuable resource in a way that supports all Hoosier communities.

To do this, we must first determine how extensive our water resources are. Studies are underway to determine exactly how much water Indiana has available. The results so far have been encouraging, but there is still more testing to do. While other states struggle with resource scarcity, Indiana’s challenge is one of distribution. Doing so in the most efficient and fair way takes bold leadership, adherence to the data and the ability to see the long-term potential for growth statewide.

Going forward, Indiana must collaboratively balance its pro-growth mindset with the protection of our communities, gaining a full understanding of the potential impact of our continued, historic growth. The IEDC looks forward to its continued partnership across the state as we seek to attract and retain businesses that want to grow and expand here, while the best ways to protect our abundant water resources are determined.•

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Rosenberg is Indiana Secretary of Commerce and leads the Indiana Economic Development Corp.Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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