Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

July 20, 2012

Water shortage discussed at press conference

(Continued)

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"We could end up with the kind of wildfires they have out West," Wainscott said. He said fires have already broken out in some state forests, but were brought under control.

Weirdly, just as Wainscott was starting the press conference, held at the State Government Center, there was a cloudburst of rain outside. But it did little more than provide fodder for some dark humor. The ground is so dry, that it would take several weeks of sustained rainfall to catch up to the 6 to 10 inches of rainfall deficit across much of the state, weather officials said.

A week ago, only about one-third of Indiana's 92 counties were under a water-shortage warning. As of Tuesday, every county was under the warning.

Mark Basch, head of DNR's Division of Water, said the state overall will have "plenty of water" if conservation measures are taken and water resources are shared among communities. Some cities, including Indianapolis, have imposed some mandatory conservation measures but many are still relying on residents to voluntarily cut back their water usage.

But Al Shipe, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, doesn't share Basch's optimism. Shipe said Indiana is likely heading toward an "historic drought" with ominous consequences if the drought continues through the summer and if water usage isn't dramatically cut back.

"We may not have water to drink. We may not have water to fight fires with," Shipe said. If his tone sounded alarmist, it was intentional. "I still see people watering their sidewalks when I'm driving to work," he said.

Indiana's farmers are already feeling the pain in lost crops and/or rising costs associated with keeping their livestock watered and fed. Farmers in 80 of Indiana's 92 counties now qualify some kind of disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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