A recent IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) report urged regional water supply planning in central Indiana, as follows:
“In the growing metropolitan area of central Indiana, … there is no ‘water management plan’ for the regional water resources. … This area should receive highest priority for evaluation.” (2013 Water Utility Resource Report: A Look at Indiana’s Water Supply and Resource Needs)
In response to a recent inquiry about the status of regional planning, Citizens Water’s communications manager indicated that he would consult with its personnel and report back with a description of who is doing what. He also offered that Citizens wants to be a leader in regional water planning.
Considering that exercising leadership in a complex and ongoing process usually requires substantial organizational capacity, the question arose about which other entities might also seek to have a seat at the leadership table. Several come to mind: The Upper White River Watershed Alliance (a 16-county consortium of local governments, utilities, universities, and private producers), the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials (and its organizing entity the Urban land Institute/Indiana), and the Service Advisory Board (an advisory group of municipalities). These groups have water interests to advance or protect.
Will these groups, if operating in positions of leadership and hence control, deign to open the door to community groups and interests not affiliated with the water industrial complex or the prevailing political machinery? We shall see. For Citizens Water’s part, as a public charitable trust, it should promote diversity and inclusiveness. The others have less of a public foundation and perhaps more individual motivations.
Will the IURC encourage or require the regional planning process to be open and inclusive to permit all points of view to be heard? Its 2013 report does delineate community participation as a key element of Integrated Water Resources Management, but not specifically for regional water planning. Perhaps it can be presumed. But it’s not necessarily assured.
Broad participation in water management planning should be more than just the creation of a list of acceptable “stakeholders” to the exclusion of all others. If not, the planning may end up with the same ol’ solution of more-supply without meaningful evaluation of the other alternatives.