Valparaiso lawmakers leading Statehouse effort to fix Indiana’s aging water infrastructure
The Indiana House last week voted 97-0 for legislation establishing an assistance fund that would leverage $20 million in state revenue to support loans and grants to utilities, which, with timely repayments, ultimately could produce more than $2 billion in water system fixes over 20 years.
That nearly matches the $2.3 billion in water infrastructure repairs the Indiana Finance Authority in 2016 estimated are needed throughout the state.
"This is a very important bill," said state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, sponsor of House Bill 1406 and chairman of the Indiana Water Infrastructure Task Force.
Those include compiling an up-to-date asset management plan, completing a water leakage study, showing a willingness to collaborate with nearby water system operators and maintaining sufficient revenue to repay the loan while continuing to serve water customers.
Soliday said the leakage assessment is particularly important because the Indiana Finance Authority found the state’s 554 independent water systems collectively treat and distribute 50 billion gallons of water each year that never make it to a customer.
"We lose a lot of water because the pipes are old, and a lot of it that’s processed winds up leaking out into the system," he said.
The legislation directs the finance authority to create a priority list for determining which water utilities get the first opportunity to access the fund.
The measure also requires at least 40 percent of the water infrastructure assistance fund be available only to utilities serving fewer than 3,200 customers.
His Senate Bill 4, which passed the Senate 48-0 in January, divides the state into water regions to promote local utility cooperation and consolidation; requires utilities to annually measure their water lost due to leaky pipes; mandates the governor appoint a "water czar" to coordinate state water programs; and creates a state task force to tackle stormwater management issues.