In Brief

IEDC releases full report of early Wabash aquifer testing results

By: - September 28, 2023 4:40 pm

One of two test wells pumped for three days to measure any changes in water level. (From IEDC slide deck)

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) on Thursday released the full early results of tests conducted at the Wabash Alluvial Aquifer — which officials hope to tap for a massive high-tech campus 35 miles away.

The quasi-public agency made an executive summary, touting “abundant” water, available last week. Texas-based environmental consulting firm INTERA is conducting the ongoing analysis under a $2.9 million contract.

The full results — in a slide deck presented to the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce last week — also include a video of a presentation.

The slides show a preliminary airborne electromagnetic profile along the Wabash River. The technology is used to survey geological features like groundwater, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

They also show a three-dimensional geologic model and geologic cross-sections of the region and site itself, showing uniform aquifer and evidence of groundwater flow. The analysis focused on a 70-acre parcel of land on the Wabash River’s south bank, about six miles downstream from West Lafayette.

A site-specific geologic cross section parallel to the river. (From IEDC slide deck)The slide deck also shows a three-dimensional geologic model and geologic cross sections of the region and test site. The section of the aquifer studied — a 70-acre parcel of land on the Wabash River’s south bank, about six miles downstream from West Lafayette — was mostly sand.

The surveying and models go with testing INTERA conducted.

Investigators drilled 17 exploratory boreholes — all finished as monitoring wells — along with two test wells to conduct two aquifer tests.

They found that the aquifer had hydraulic conductivity of 450-550 feet daily at the site. That measures how well water passes through soil or rock.

And they concluded that the two wells combined could support — at maximum — a pumping rate of 45 million gallons daily, according to the slides. The executive summary said they could “sustainably” support 30 million gallons daily.

IEDC officials hope to pump 100 millions of water daily to the LEAP Innovation District in Lebanon.

Some have indicated even the full results wouldn’t tame their skepticism of those plans.

“It was commissioned by the IEDC, and the study was performed by INTERA – the consulting firm they chose. They released an executive summary, not the official data, tests or results,” Rep. Chris Campbell, a Democrat representing West Lafayette, said in a statement last week.

She called for an independent study and further regulations, and said the Indiana Department of Natural Resources didn’t have “adequate funding” to oversee the water transfer.

Sen. Spencer Deery, a Republican representing West Lafayette, similarly questioned the IEDC’s transparency and suggested a peer review conducted by “neutral experts.”

In a newsletter Friday, he also advocated for regulations to “keep water transfers from occurring in reckless quantities or for unworthwhile projects” — which he said Indiana lacks.

He additionally wanted to ensure no adverse impacts on rural communities downstream, the area’s microelectronics industry, environmental health, property tax dollars and rights.

“These initial studies can’t predict the consequences of such a large transfer of water to another part of the state,” Campbell said. “Will Tippecanoe County have to compete with Central Indiana for water usage in our infrastructure, farms and wells in the future?

INTERA study

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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie covers state government for the Indiana Capital Chronicle with emphases on elections, infrastructure and transportation. She previously covered city-county government for the Indianapolis Business Journal. She has also reported on local, national and international news for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and more. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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