Some observers are coming to understand that the driving impetus for the existing “water-industrial complex” (the collection of political and financial interests including elected officials, land developers, and engineering companies) is a single goal: unlimited water supply. Unfortunately, most seem to be uninterested in conservation, sustainability, or long-term demand-side management strategies and alternatives to more and more supply.
Here’s a recent example of that mindset. On September 25th, the Lebanon mayor, Huck Lewis, who chairs the recently-formed Regional Water Planning Committee of the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials, publicly voiced his endorsement of the planned reservoir in his introductory remarks at a presentation in Indianapolis about regional water sustainability planning. (Ironically, the process for such regional sustainability planning needs to be “comprehensive and inclusive” according to the visiting expert from the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center). We later inquired as to Mayor Lewis’s rationale for the premature endorsement, but he denied that he had actually endorsed the preliminary plan– even though he in fact raised the issue and told the audience “I hope it (the reservoir) gets done”. After we sent him current information on water conservation and efficiency, he responded in an email on October 14th that “my only interest is water resources”. He did not respond to our request for a copy of the consultant study on water supply/demand in the Boone County area which was recently commissioned by Boone County governmental units.
Unfortunately, the water-industrial complex owns most of the marbles, e.g. political power, financial resources, motive of financial gain, public relations capacity, relationships with the media and the Indiana Utility regulatory Commission, to name a few. By and large, they are not accustomed to active participation or oversight by citizens and rate-payers who might, among other things, prefer simple, non-capital intensive approaches to the long-term sustainability issue. However, this is arguably what they need most. We hope that Mayor Lewis reviews our information, and approves the release of the requested consultant’s study on water supply and demand. And we hope the agency water planners will involve the public from the outset and not belatedly as after-the-fact, perfunctory “consultation”.