Rep. Sharon Negele: Rising water demands require thoughtful balance

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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?

Indiana is growing, both in population and economic development. In fact, Forbes ranked Indiana as the No. 1 state in which to start a business in 2023.

With that growth comes increased demands for water.

As we work to balance our need for water now and in the future, we must take a thoughtful, data-driven approach and remain transparent.

Indiana is classified as an absolute-dominion water law state.

This allows a landowner to intercept groundwater that would otherwise have been available to a neighboring water user and even monopolize the yield of an aquifer.

The exception is emergency regulation of groundwater/surface water rights, where owners of small-capacity wells are protected against significant withdrawal facilities if the pumping substantially lowers water levels, resulting in well failures.

Recent studies show Indiana has abundant water resources, but sources of that water are different throughout the state.

Water companies match resources with service demand and move the water through pipelines to accommodate the needs of industry and population.

Indiana is also an agricultural state, with two-thirds of the state in productive farm operations.

We know that the availability of water resources is driven by precipitation and temperature patterns, which have shifted and are influenced by natural and human systems.

Irrigation in farming has become more commonplace to accommodate these shifts. Managing the water-resource demands will become more difficult, and making sure enough water is available in the right places at the right times will require planning both regionally and statewide.

The water we use has been here for millions of years.

We are not producing more water, so its storage, transport and reuse will need to be part of our overall policy. Indiana is also becoming part of the manufacturing hub for electronic devices, which requires extremely clean water and large amounts. Effectively balancing the needs of our communities, agriculture industry and economic development requires a thoughtful, managed approach.

We need to look at water differently in Indiana, and to plan for and prevent any future water problems.

As policymakers, we are tasked with the growing challenge of keeping water safe and accessible.

Our policy decisions must be data-driven, using experts from multiple sources to eliminate bias, and should be completely transparent to the public. Indiana needs a statewide water-resource plan, along with continued monitoring for data collection to accommodate shifts in hydrological cycles and demands derived from people and growth.•

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Negele, a Republican, represents District 13, which includes a portion of Tippecanoe County, in the Indiana House. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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