For immediate release:
March 31, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS — The column below from Rep. Christina Hale was distributed recently by the Media Relations Office of the Indiana House of Representatives:
While state lawmakers spent a good deal of time this past session on leveraging resources to improve the sorry state of our roads and bridges, nothing was done to address the way we deliver our most precious resource: water. If the people of Indiana could see the aging water infrastructure that rests under the ground across much of this state, they’d storm the State House with tridents and pitchforks.
In many places around our state, we still rely upon original wooden water pipes that were installed more than 100 years ago! It has been estimated that Indiana needs more than $14 billion in improvements to our water systems, but that number is more than five years old, and nothing of substance has been worked on since that estimate was offered. Things have likely continued to decline, only adding to the price tag we will have to pay one day.
Out of sight is out of mind all too often. The human impact of lead in our water supply will quietly creep into focus when we see our children lose intellectual ability and suffer other ill effects. We will feel it when employers relocate because they do not have access to the clean water supply necessary to conduct business. In so many ways, people will feel the decline of their quality of life, most notably in their health and their pocketbooks.
While Indiana does project a $2 billion budget surplus, I worry that our state is acting too much like that frugal couple that worked hard and saved their pennies all their lives, but failed to notice that their home is falling down around them. They have a healthy bank account, but they choose to wait and see when confronted with moldy drywall or termites in the basement or rewiring. Deferred maintenance is their preference, but those costs will end up making even more of a dent on their lives and pocketbooks when they cannot afford to wait any longer. These costs, and the pain of the situation this deferred maintenance causes, will be borne by them, and likely by their children for generations to come.
This past session I crossed the aisle to partner with my Republican colleague Senator Ed Charbonneau to raise awareness of the problems we have, and to get a better idea of the costs we are facing. Our work resulted in two pieces of legislation (Senate Enrolled Acts 257 and 347) that will give us a significant start in addressing these problems by helping us understand the current quality of our water infrastructure, what will be needed to improve that infrastructure, and how we can help shore up our distressed water and wastewater utilities.
On more than one occasion, it has been said that water may be the economic development driver of the next 100 years. Every day, we are reminded that water is the foundation for all living things, human and otherwise. We must have a plan for the future.
The time to act is now. I am resolved to work with smart, concerned, empowered people like Senator Charbonneau, local officials, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. I sincerely hope that my colleagues around the state join me in addressing this most important issue. It’s a big deal.