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Thriving Hamilton County lakeside town looking for water

CICERO, Ind. (WISH) — The lakeside town of Cicero has enough potable water to meet its current demands, but, as growth continues north in Hamilton County, the town is looking for a new source.

Part of the 1,500-acre Morse Lake sits in Cicero but doesn’t belong to the town.

Town Council President Chad Blueher told I-Team 8, “The reality is that water belongs to Indianapolis, that water feeds Geist, that water feeds Indianapolis. At time of drought, Morse goes down. That has been handled by Citizens Water ever since it was built.”

Citizens Energy Group touts 800,000 customers, primarily in Indianapolis.

Without a new, dependable source of potable water, the town government will have to slow down on new development. The town was built around the reservoir known as Morse Lake, but the town’s water supply comes from another source.

Blueher said that “Cicero’s current water system is not based on any surface water whatsoever, We are 100% driven off our main aquifer underground. We are talking 300 feet into sand and rock bed.”

The Republican council member says the water taken from the ground, as opposed to the lake, is easier to treat. The town’s water treatment facility is designed to treat groundwater, not water from the lake.

To keep the water flowing for future expansion will require a new underground source.

Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt talked with I-Team 8 about the water issues in Cicero. “They have struggled to find water and they have drilled several times and they just haven’t had any success yet.”

The town has a couple of developments that, when finished, will push the limits of the water supply.

Any expansion of the town west toward U.S. 31 would require a new source of water.

The town could run water lines from Noblesville or from other county projects, but doing so would require expensive changes to the town’s water treatment plant. Plus, the cost to run water lines and associated infrastructure could be around $1 million a mile.

The access to water for development in Cicero is closely tied to how much water is available.

The county used money from the American Rescue Plan, part of the federal effort to maintain the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, to installed 75 monitors over the known groundwater aquifers. Heirbrandt said, “And we are the only ones I know in the state that are doing that right now, knowing that, with our future growth, we are going to have to have water to grow. We are monitoring the aquifers right now to get a better understanding of what we can do for conservation measures and also make sure our future growth can be attained well.”

The town, meanwhile, continues to drill for water when not deterred by wet weather.