Principle I: Active Stewardship of Our Water Resources is Essential for This and Future Generations

D. The Indiana Water Authority

Water is unquestionably one of the Indiana’s most important assets. It is vital natural capital, and we are not managing that capital as if we recognize its true value. We need a public recognition of and a consistent commitment to water as natural capital. 


Infrastructure Includes Watersheds and Aquifers

Long-term sustainable development depends upon investment in social and human capital and the accumulation and careful management of a portfolio of manufactured and natural capital. Freshwater streams, high quality aquifers, and reservoirs are among the natural resources that sustain our manufacturing and agricultural economy. They are part of the infrastructure of our water supply system. Funding for the maintenance and restoration of this natural infrastructure is as critical as funding for built infrastructure.  

In 2006 the Aspen Institute brought together distinguished leaders in the water utility industry, state and federal regulators, and non-profit groups to develop policy recommendations that address water infrastructure planning and management challenges over the coming decades.  The report published from this effort, entitled, “Sustainable Water Systems: Step One – Redefining the Nation’s Infrastructure Challenge,” describes the fiscal and social challenges posed by the unmet water utility infrastructure needs. The panel of experts assembled by the Institute identified three key principles:

What is needed is a sustainable approach to funding long-term built and natural water infrastructure.

  1. The traditional definition of water infrastructure must evolve to embrace a broader, more holistic definition of sustainable water infrastructure that includes both traditional man-made water and wastewater infrastructure and natural watershed systems. This new definition of infrastructure includes both the natural watersheds and aquifers that affect the yield of the landscape as well as the value of these assets to achieving clean water for the utility.

  2. The definition of sustainable water infrastructure should be embraced by all public and private entities involved in water management, and these same entities have a shared role in ensuring their decisions consider and integrate a set of criteria that include environmental, economic and social considerations. Water utilities should take the primary responsibility for setting the full cost for water service to not only include a sufficient level of expenditure to replace pipes and other capital assets for reliable service, but to fund remediation and/or avoidance of any associated adverse hydrological or environmental impacts on the natural watershed system of fulfilling domestic and industrial demand for water.  

  3. Watershed-based management is required for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services to ensure integrated, sustainable management of water resources. Water utilities can lead the way by fostering more regional approaches to managing the resource that include partnerships to integrate planning and management and reconsider the questions of supply, demand and alternative methods of meeting unmet future demand and social and economic and environmental challenges.

What is needed is a sustainable approach to funding long-term built and natural water infrastructure.


The Indiana public body we now depend on to analyze and make other long term investments in the state’s capital infrastructure is the Indiana Finance Authority.  One small unit within the IFA deals with water-related issues. A much more robust commitment is needed: the Indiana Water Authority.

The Indiana Finance Authority is a quasi-public organization specifically charged by the legislature with facilitating improvement of the state’s economy and infrastructure, including work associated with “preventing and remediating…water pollution” and “promoting the provision of safe and adequate drinking water.” The IFA is also required by Ind. Code §14-25-7-18 to do quality assurance reviews of the data provided by significant water withdrawal facilities. It has of course already made investments toward those purposes. We think more work needs to be done. We think water is such a critical resource that an IFA-type organization ought to focus on it. Indiana’s legislature should empower a new, dedicated entity to address Indiana’s freshwater resource as a critical part of the state’s infrastructure. 

We recommend that Indiana assign the existing IFA water responsibilities and add additional capacity to create a new Indiana Water Authority. We envision the IWA as a relatively small, focused entity. Its duties would include collecting water related information from all of the current sources, analyzing that data, and sharing the results with the legislature, the governor, relevant agencies, and the RWMGs. It would also identify gaps in information and make provisions for filling those gaps. Existing data collection efforts managed by other state agencies can and must continue but the IWA has to know what is being produced, review early drafts, and receive final drafts as they are completed. 

The IWA would also provide a technical staff person and other assistance to the regional management groups described below, and IWA would receive, analyze, harmonize, and ultimately adopt each regional plan toward the creation of a state-wide water strategy. Its vital role in this ongoing planning process will also prepare it for one more duty: identifying and investing in key water infrastructure projects.