New study calls for $2.3 billion in repairs to Indiana’s aging water infrastructure

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana’s water pipes are old and in desperate need of repair. That’s the conclusion of a new study commissioned by state lawmakers.

The report claims $2.3 billion are needed to upgrade the state’s aging water infrastructure.

Every year, bitter cold winter weather means non-stop work repairing broken water pipes. Still the fact remains, ruptured water mains are not exclusive to cold weather. In central Indiana it’s a daily problem.

“We are well aware our water system is aging. We have water mains put in ground in the 1800’s,” said Citizens Energy Group spokesperson Sarah Holsapple.

Holsapple says Citizens Energy Group has invested more than a billion dollars over the last 15 years to upgrade water lines, and they are seeing fewer breaks as a result.

“We used to have 700 breaks a year. This year we have closer to 500. So the investments that we’re making are working, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said Holsapple.

“We take water for granted and the delivery system for granted,” said state senator Ed Charbonneau, (R) District 5. “We need to do something.”

Charbonneau commissioned the report which detailed how $2.3 billion is needed for immediate repairs of water mains statewide with another $800 million in annual maintenance.

He says upgrades are also important to protect the public’s safety when turning on the faucet, because in many places, lead pipes are still in place that can release harmful chemicals into drinking water.

“We need to start paying attention to this issue,” said Charbonneau.

“We have a system to fix mains and replace them when we can but it’s expensive,” said Holsapple.

Long term, Charbonneau says it’ll be up to state leaders to look for funding solutions to fix the problem that won’t involve massive rate hikes on water bills.

Citizens Energy is the largest water utility in the state, but it’s certainly not alone. There are more than 500 independent providers statewide. The study says many of those systems are also struggling to maintain quality water service.

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