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Who owns the water? Indiana resource battle coming to a boil

Leap project water pipeline questioned

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Two West Lafayette City Council members said on Wednesday the state of Indiana and the city of Lebanon are trying to secretly take a valuable resource from them: Water 

“Taking large amounts of water to support industrial development in a place where there is no water, and to do it so secretly and without any consultation is not acceptable” said West Lafayette City Council member David Sanders when asked about a proposed water pipeline.  

The Indiana economic development corporation has signed a contract for almost $10 million for the design of a water pipeline to feed the LEAP project in Boone County. Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry says the city has the water capacity for the Eli Lilly and company facility under construction, but not for the entire LEAP project.  

“When I talked to the governor in March of last year, we were saying ‘hey water is a concern of ours and we know we have options we can explore,’ and the idea was to use economic development to solve the water problem” said Gentry. According to a study paid for by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, water from an aquifer under the Wabash river could supply the LEAP project with water. Gentry, who once served on the Indiana Water Infrastructure Taskforce says the city of Lafayette and West Lafayette only use a fraction of the water in the area.  

“This is an abundant water resource, and it is all in one community, and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is currently looking at a bigger approach on what makes sense for the rest of the state” said Gentry. 

Engineers determined the aquifer could supply up to 30 million gallons a day to the LEAP development, without draining neighboring wells. For reference, according to the Purdue university website, the university uses 85 million gallons of water a month.  

“Most of the questions that we have as a community are not being answered, why would you make a development and recruit a company that require lots of water to a place without any water? it just doesn’t make any sense. Why was there such secrecy about the project?” said Sanders 

The Republican candidate for Indiana Governor Eric Doden said during News 8’s All INdiana Politics he is concerned about the lack of transparency. “Having water come from a smaller community like Lafayette and West Lafayette and costing billions of dollars to bring it down, those are concerns we have,”  said Doden.

Indiana does not regulate the ownership of water like other states. Water in the Wabash River and the aquifers below are considered a state resource, and the company or person can take what they want without much regulation from the state. Sanders says the city of West Lafayette is not going to let their water go easily.  

“If you don’t say anything, if you don’t participate in the opposition, then it will go forward automatically. I can’t tell you we are going to have the outcome we want, but if you do nothing, we will certainly not get the outcome we want” said Sanders.