The Future of U.S. Water Supplies

This was the topic for an interesting 4-person panel in Washington, D.C. on October 2nd sponsored by Resources for the Future (RFF). Here’s the link to the seminar. It’s well worth a close look. Ironically, RFF’s current president is Phil Sharp, the former 20-year Indiana Congressman.

Notably, Dr. Tom Brown of the U.S. Forest Service concluded his remarks (at 33:46 minutes into the video) by the statement that “Adaptation will be essential, but large increases in reservoir storage capacity are typically not the answer.”

At 29:50, he discusses future water demand, i.e. desired consumptive use, as the climate changes. (Note that per the map for scenario A2-CSIRO (w/ the climate change model included), there could be an onerous increase in water demand in the Midwest area including Indiana, i.e. greater than 100%, due mainly to increased demand for agricultural and landscape irrigation.

It will be interesting to observe how, or whether, Citizens Water, with its apparent natural aversion to serious water conservation, will evaluate potential responses to such sobering future scenarios related to water demand increases caused by climate change. Previous public comments at its Technical Advisory Group meetings have urged CW to begin to instill a broad-based water conservation ethic to reduce demand. But that would constitute “Reducing baseline water use” which, as RFF researcher Len Shabman noted (starting at 64:23 into the video), urban water utilities are highly averse to consider.

However, it’s clear that Citizens Water is certainly not averse to “Water system consolidation” (another utility taboo noted by Shabman’s interesting table “Hierarchy of Practicability”). Citizens Water has been on an acquisition binge across central Indiana. (The purchase of the Westfield, IN system is currently pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission). Citizens Water will soon control most of the water utilities in central Indiana and will be instrumental in setting water policy for the region.

We hope that CW’s management is as circumspect and forward-thinking as it professes to be and will develop aggressive conservation plans for the future in the region. We’re skeptical— Citizens’ recent 20 -page Sustainability Report 2013 barely even mentions conservation.

Canoe Thanksgiving and Prayer

Here’s a prayer for canoeists’ gatherings tomorrow–


“Today we give thanks for the gift of canoes and water, the essence of life.

And for our beautiful streams and their forested greenbelts which host our treasured paddling expeditions.

And for our early antecedents, the First Peoples of North America for the legacy of their splendid canoe— “an incarnation of grace, a tool supremely suited to its purpose and place, a design of indigenous genius’. (Paul Gruchow).

We’re grateful for being able to quietly connect with our natural heritage which is so closely linked, through the millennia, to our sense of well-being. It’s especially welcome in this trying age of mass consumerism, the anti-democratic corporate state, and the “increasingly platitudinous present” (Thomas McGuane, 1993). “The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfaction.” (Sigurd Olsen, The Singing Wilderness)

We’re grateful for the spiritual values provided by our river sojourns. “Rivers have what man most respects and longs for in his own life and thought– a capacity for renewal and replenishment, continual energy, creativity, cleansing.” (John M. Kauffman, American Rivers, July, 1977)

And for the friendly camaraderie afforded by our paddling friends— like-minded folks who appreciate natural heritage and good cheer.

And for today’s grassroots advocacy groups who battle against the “Perpetual Power and Growth Machine” to defend our streams which would be voiceless without them.

For the future, we pray for more public vigilance, and for honest and enlightened public officials who refuse to cater to the pervasive commercial interests which degrade our streams and their riparian greenbelts just to maximize their short-term profits and corporate brand. We pray also for the individual courage to ‘step forward’ (Lakota) when needed to vigorously defend our waters and watersheds against the greed of callous developers and relentless commercial enterprise. Lastly, we pray for those not yet educated in the values and responsibilities of conservation– as their enlightenment will be key to preserving Nature and our treasured paddling experiences.”

Tenet No. 19 (of 40) of A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders

“Our present economy is driven by the pursuit of private advantage. The global market sums up billions of decisions made by individuals and businesses in their own self-interest, with little regard for the common good or for ecological consequences.  Therefore, we cannot expect the market place to protect the quality of air and water, the welfare of communities, or the survival of species, including our own.”

Reservoir dredging notes from Citizens Waters’ Technical Advisory Group, mtg of 10-16-13

“Planned dredging of portions of Morse and Geist to maintain capacity is delayed while permits are being obtained. It is anticipated that reservoirs silt up because of its design as a settling basin. Because of hydraulic settling and the purpose of the reservoir, neither Geist nor Morse dams were designed to be flushed. There fore regular dredging is necessary to achieve sustainable capacity for water storage.
Bob Barr that likely the largest contributor to the sediment build up was stream bank erosion of tributaries to the reservoirs. He had observed the White River itself just south of Mario County to have eroded 300 feet in a 5-year period. In his studies of the agricultural lands in the area, he is thinking that erosion from ag lands is likely to be smaller than from the gullies and stream banks. John Pankhurst noted the enormous sloughing of banks of Eagle Creek Reservoir during his time of observation.”

It’s noted that Citizens Water is also currently also dredging the Central Canal which directs river water to the White River treatment plant near 16th Street. Siltation has also significantly reduced the hydraulic capacity of the canal conveyance channel.

Rickers Petroleum– bad for the drinking water and bad for the river

Rickers Oil, a central Indiana retailer, with corporate headquarters in Anderson, is certainly managing to make its mark on the White River. Unfortunately, that mark is not one of beauty or beneficence— but rather of willfulness and potential pollution of our waterway and our public water supply.

On November 20th, at a meeting of the Citizens Water Technical Advisory Group. It was announced that the Carmel Plan Commission has recently approved the site and operations plan for a new retail gasoline dispensing operation at 146th and River Road. This is within the wellfield of Citizens Water’s groundwater wells. Carmel also has nearby wells– but these would not be affected in event of a spill and pollution of the groundwater (the groundwater flows away from the Carmel wells). Citizens Water’s wells would be potentially adversely affected in event of an uncontained spill.

The site itself was (ill-advisedly) zoned by Carmel for gasoline sales several years ago, and as a result, and despite much community opposition, the Rickers company decided to lawyer-up to aggressively press its legal case to locate gasoline sales at that location in a public water supply wellfield.  Private property rights, you know. Rickers and Carmel had much resistance from technical experts, including Citizens Water, which tried to make the case to Carmel officials that a petroleum operation didn’t belong in a public water supply wellfield.  Despite these concerns, the Carmel Plan Commission gave its stamp of approval.

Anderson’s Quinn Ricker is the person to whom is attributed the idea of creating a reservoir on White River in Anderson. He said it would boost economic development. However, he obviously didn’t think much about the ecological destruction which would occur by damming the river.

Will the CED’s Phase 2 feasibility study thoroughly evaluate all of the negative impacts?  Time will tell.

Tenet No. 18 (of 40) of A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders

“Recognizing that the land is a unified whole, and that human communities are inseparable from this unity, conservationists must work across the full spectrum of habitats, from inner city to wilderness. And we must engage every segment of the population in caring for our shared home, especially those people who, by reason of poverty or the circumstances of their upbringing, have not viewed conservation as a pressing concern. In other words, conservation must be thoroughly democratic.”