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Indiana Finance Authority expands LEAP water study

The entity tasked with analyzing water availability and demand in north central Indiana has expanded the study to include 15 more counties. (Photo from the Indiana Finance Authority)

The Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) — tasked with analyzing water demand supply across a 13-county stretch around Tippecanoe County — will now include every county that touches the headwaters of the Wabash River for a total of 28 counties.

“The study was originally planned to give the state a thorough understanding of demand and supply availability across the 13 counties over the next 50 years,” said Jim McGoff, IFA chief operating officer and director of environmental programs. “Adding in the Wabash headwaters, a considerable span of geography just north of the original study area, will produce a more comprehensive report of the current and future water availability and use.” 

The state agency took over the study previously helmed by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in November in anticipation of a massive high-tech park in Boone County known as the LEAP Lebanon Innovation District. 

One of the entities rumored to be considering the site needs water for its manufacturing needs that Boone County couldn’t supply. This led to a proposal to pump millions of gallons of water daily from Tippecanoe County 35 miles away. Pushback from Tippecanoe officials, including General Assembly members, prompted a water study but concerns about the IEDC’s ability to be independent shifted oversight to the IFA.

The original 13-county study area included Benton, Cass, Carroll, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Montgomery, Parke, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Vermillion, Warren and White counties. Additions include: Allen, Boone, Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Huntington, Jay, Madison, Miami, Noble, Randolph, Vigo, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties. 

Initial results from the IEDC study, by Texas-based environmental consulting firm INTERA, showed “abundant water availability” in September. The IFA has retained Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. 

Traditionally, the state agency manages Indiana’s wastewater and drinking water revolving fund loan programs and often completes regional water supply studies. This study will be its fourth since 2017. Previous studies analyzed water along the I-74 corridor, as well as areas south and east of Indianapolis

Preliminary data from the study are anticipated to be released in late spring or summer of 2024 with final results in the fall.

Indiana Capital Chronicle Reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Indiana Capital Chronicle.

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