NewsPublic Affairs / October 11, 2018

Water Task Force Hears About Funding Options, Water Affordability

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Water Task Force Hears About Funding Options, Water Affordability

Skip Stitt of Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting answers task force member questions about public-private partnerships and Indiana water systems.

Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

Members of Indiana’s Water Infrastructure Task Force heard about ways the state could help pay for water and wastewater needs Wednesday. Experts estimate improvements will cost billions of dollars — and most of that would come from Indiana residents. 

Though there’s no one big pot of money for this project, there are some state and federal grants that could cover some of the costs — especially when it comes to rural areas. Task force members also heard a presentation on how the state could partner with private entities.

Skip Stitt is with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting — a law firm that works with multinational businesses. He says though these partnerships can take many forms, they often increase the value of a water utility.

“And that value is created in most cases, not by driving your rates up long term, but by running that operation more efficiently and lowering your operating costs,” says Stitt.

Task force co-chair and state Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) seemed to favor the idea. But state Sen. Susan Glick (R-LaGrange) says corporations could be looking for ways to profit off the state’s water.

“You can bottle it and sell it. But the fact is — if it goes out of the area, if it doesn’t go back into the aquifer — then its not reusable,” she says. 

Glick says the state needs to have a clear picture of how much water is in its aquifers before deciding what should be done with it.

More Hoosiers Can't Afford Water Bills

Water utilities will likely end up raising rates to pay for water infrastructure improvements around the state. That could have a big effect on lower income Hoosiers who are already struggling to pay water bills.

READ MORE: Taxpayers Likely To Pay Billion-Dollar Water Infrastructure Costs

Citizens Action Coalition executive director Kerwin Olson says his organization is receiving more calls from Hoosiers saying they can’t afford water. He says there are federal assistance programs to help people pay for heating and electric bills.

“Yet water and sewer — low-income customers are largely faced with dealing with those increases on their own,” says Olson.

According to a study by Michigan State University, water rates in the U.S. have gone up 41 percent since 2010.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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