Discovery Park

Indiana needs to assess future demand for water

August 13, 2014

Ron Turco 4:54 p.m. EDT August 13, 2014 IndyStar

Over the next 50 years, Indiana’s ability to meet demands for clean, reliable water supplies could be hampered if a thorough assessment of our state’s water resources is not an urgent priority.

We need a coordinated plan for determining the value of our existing water resources and protecting these supplies for the future, as a newly released study by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation indicates.

The situation is far from academic — water is essential to human life and plays a key role in the development and functioning of our society. Water is also a fundamental contributor to the economic health of our state.

A recent study found that more than 560,000 Hoosier jobs — about 23 percent of our total employment — are in industries that rely on water, giving Indiana the greatest percentage of water-related jobs in the nation. Food processing and manufacturing plants, the pharmaceutical industry and agriculture are among our state’s industries that depend on water.

The decisions we make today on how to manage and protect our water will impact Indiana’s future employment and economic viability.

We need to conduct a better assessment of our statewide groundwater resources if we are to effectively manage their use. Locating, mapping and modeling our resources are critical steps to planning the location of new businesses and residential areas and ensuring that the demands of our growing population do not deplete our groundwater supply faster than it can be replenished. Failing to fully understand our resources can lead to empty wells and a dry tap in the kitchen sink.

Without water resource planning at the local and national levels, we will be unable to develop new sources of water and cannot capture the true value of our existing supplies. Furthermore, we become vulnerable to the potential impacts of a changing climate, uncertainty in water supply locations and uncertainty related to wastewater management.

While parallels between water and energy production are often made, it is critical to remember that energy can be generated in a variety of ways, but the amount of water on Earth is fixed: What we do now will significantly impact the availability and distribution of our water supply, both in our state and around the globe.

Indiana is empowered by water, but that power is not without limits. We must take stock of our valuable resources to better plan for the future of our state.

Turco is a Purdue University professor of agronomy, the director of the Purdue Water Community and the director of the Indiana Water Resources Research Center.

 

(Photo: Star File)

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