Rep. Bacon: Who owns our groundwater?

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Monday, February 13, 2017 8:10 am

In the morning when you turn on the facet to brush your teeth, do you think of where that water is coming from? Probably not, but it is an important issue, especially for communities along state borders. Recently, the House Statutory Committee on Interstate and International Cooperation, which I serve on, heard a proposal for a new law that would create an expert body to study the ownership rights of the groundwater and aquifers around and beneath the Ohio River. 

Currently, there is no law that establishes these aquifers as property of Indiana or Kentucky. House Bill 1211 would create the Indiana-Kentucky Transborder Groundwater Authority in order to study the groundwater resources shared by Indiana and Kentucky, and explore the desirability of entering into an interstate compact with Kentucky concerning the use of the groundwater underlying southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

It’s only responsible we take an inventory of our groundwater resources and try to come to an agreement over the possibility of exclusive and shared ownership.

The importance and value of groundwater is increasing. And, it’s become a point of contention between neighboring states divided by major rivers. This legislation hopes to avoid costly legal battles that could last years. Mississippi and Tennessee, for example, are disputing the ground water from the Sparta-Memphis aquifer in federal court. It’s incumbent upon us to explore the potential of collaboratively negotiating ownership with our neighbors to the south, preventing an expensive lawsuit down the line.

This legislation would also allow the proposed Transborder Groundwater Authority to receive grants and appropriations from governmental and private sources to fund its work. But we first need to create the initiative and get the process started.

This bill was passed out of committee unanimously and is now being considered by the full House. I know this is an important issue to our riverside communities in southern Indiana and I will continue monitoring it closely. 

As always, please contact me with questions or input at 317-232-9833 or by email at h75@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district. Stay up-to-date with the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at www.in.gov/h75.   

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here.