An Energy/Environmental Issue Primer for the Start of Session

The 2015 legislative session began Tuesday and will adjourn no later than April 29. This “long session” will include the state’s $30 billion biennial budget and likely see more than 1,000 bills filed. Bill filing deadlines are January 13 and 14 for the House and Senate, respectively. You can count on the environmental and energy area to add its fair share of legislative ideas to the mix. In the environmental arena, we expect to see the following:

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s perennial laundry list of technical “clean-up” items
  • Rep. David Wolkins’ “No More Stringent Than” annual initiative
  • Something related to “brownfields” and clean-up efforts
  • Anti-harvesting of Indiana’s hardwoods
  • Above-ground storage tanks controls

In the “water resources” area, we expect to see the following:

  • Legislation to direct the Indiana Finance Authority to survey/examine the larger – and a few smaller – water supply utilities in the state
  • Establish an Indiana Water Resources Institute
  • Create incentives to promote water utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements

And it is likely that the electric power/energy area will really heat up (sorry) as multiple issues rise:

  • Legislation related to the Governor’s energy plan
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Allowance to purchase electric power outside the current provider
  • Install a requirement that any new electric power generation be allowed competitive bids/procurement
  • Establish a rate case schedule for electric power utilities of XX (to be determined number of) years
  • Address the rural vs. municipal territorial/compensation dispute

Not all of these issues are ones that the Indiana Chamber will necessarily oppose or support – they will be part of the discussion but some may never get a hearing. This is like your friendly weather forecaster trying to tell you if it will rain, snow or be sunny in one month.

Water, Water Not Everywhere Any More

TWhen I started writing about water earlier this year as part of the Indiana Chamber’s report on our state’s water resources, I never imagined the topic would be this deep. I’m not drowning, but do feel a little over my head at times on this ever-flowing topic.

The paragraph above makes the point that water puns are almost endless (see, I didn’t say pool, ocean or other aquatic term). But seriously, work is taking place on evolving this year’s study into concrete action steps over the next several years to help ensure Indiana’s resources for the long term.

In Kansas, long term means 50 years. Check out a few of the details (including the last paragraph on why this is so important) from this Topeka Capital-Journal article:

Gov. Sam Brownback opened a water policy conference by unfurling a nearly completed 50-year plan containing dozens of proposals for confronting the state’s obstacles in meeting agricultural irrigation and drinking supply demands.

Salient issues requiring attention involve topsoil pouring into man-made reservoirs in eastern Kansas and depletion of the underground Ogallala Aquifer in western regions of the state. Reservoir dredging and aquifer conservation figure prominently in the blueprint, which also raised the possibility of drawing excess water from the Missouri River to supply Kansas consumers.

Brownback said the water study process initiated one year ago would culminate in strategies specific to regional geography and consumption patterns. Pieces of the solution will be expensive, the governor said, and state laws and regulations must be modified to speed reform.

The document recommends crafting tougher state regulations and enhanced enforcement to hold water-right violators accountable.

“As I look out on the future of Kansas, one of the big things we have to resolve is the issue of water,” he told more than 600 people at the conference. “It’s just one of those key things that we’ve got to address. We’ve got to do it working together.”

A blue-ribbon task force is to be formed to map a “balanced, affordable and sustainable” strategy for paying for water projects financed with local, state and federal funding, the governor said.

An estimated 85 percent of water consumption in Kansas is due to irrigation, officials said.

Jackie McClaskey, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, said the report would direct state agencies involved in recruiting businesses to focus economic development on entities that value water conservation and reliance on technology that improves water efficiency.

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.

We Want Your (Our) Water

It’s water war time once again — maybe. We’ve reported in the past 18 months on a number of state battles over water resources, while all the time emphasizing the need for a comprehensive Indiana plan to ensure long-term supplies for our citizens and businesses. It’s part of our Indiana Vision 2025 blueprint.

The West and South are the locale of many such skirmishes, but the latest comes from the middle of the country. Namely, it’s the Missouri River and Kansas wanting to “divert” some of the water to irrigate crops in the western part of its state.

Some details, courtesy of the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has asked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to back off of a feasibility study of Kansas taking water from the Missouri River to divert to western Kansas.

“The Missouri River is a resource that is vital to Missouri’s way of life and our economy,” Nixon said in a letter to Brownback.

Describing the Missouri River as the “lifeblood” of numerous communities, Nixon said the river provides drinking water and is used to ship goods to markets.

“We have worked for many years, and fought many legal battles, to ensure the River is managed properly,” Nixon wrote. “Thoughtful and reasoned discussion and cooperation, rather than unilateral plans for massive diversions, must be the guiding forces in planning for the River’s use,” he urged.

Nixon’s letter to Brownback was in response to the Kansas Water Office’s plan to commission a study on a proposal to divert water from the Missouri River and transport that water through canals some 360 miles to irrigate crops in western Kansas.

The so-called Kansas Aqueduct Project has been on the shelf for decades, but has recently been re-emphasized by water officials in Kansas.

Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, said the idea is to divert water at high flow or flood times on the Missouri River. That would help Kansas farmers and alleviate downstream flooding on the Missouri, he said. The water office is the state’s water agency, which conducts water planning and helps make state water policy.

But Nixon said while Missourians have suffered through flooding on the Missouri River, they have also depended on the river during droughts.