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Proposed legislation would help set water use benchmark for Indiana

Proposed legislation would help set water use benchmark for Indiana
Voluntary water use reporting system clears Indiana Senate unanimously.

Indiana currently has limited data at best, and little data in all reality, about how much total water supply exists in the state. A bill moving in the Indiana legislature would set up a voluntary reporting network so that the state could begin to establish a baseline of water quantity that exists in Indiana aquifers.

Related: Indiana Ag Director McKinney Emphasizes Water Quality

Quantify Indiana water: A bill that passed the Senate so far would set up a voluntary network for recording aquifer levels to start the process of quantifying Indiana's water resources. John Dooms, St. Joseph County, uses irrigation like the rig in the background on sandy soils.

"We believe that would be good for agriculture," says Justin Schneider, a legislative specialist with Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. "Right now many people assume that agriculture is the biggest user of water in the state due to irrigation and livestock operations. What data we do have suggests that's not the case. Instead, agriculture only uses a small percentage of the water.

"If a data reporting network is set up and other industries also report, then the public should get a clearer picture of how much water we have in the state," Schneider says.

State Senator Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, authored the bill. He chairs the Environmental Affairs Committee in the Senate. The bill received a hearing, passed out of committee, and was recently approved by a vote of 50 to zero in the Senate. The Indiana House will take up the bill in March when bills that pass one house go to the other house.

Some farmers are already measuring water levels on their own, Schneider says. One way to do it is with a measuring tape with a sensor on the end. It is simply lowered into the well to measure depth to water. There are other methods, but it's a reasonably simple process however it is done, he says.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey already have limited data. They currently monitor 37 wells across the state. At one time this number was about 100, but budget cuts knocked the number back, Schneider says. He believes the voluntary network, if the legislation passes, could help fill the gap in gathering data need to set a baseline for water quantity in the state.

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