More than 300,000 water wells have been drilled in Indiana. Many municipalities, as well as individual residences, obtain their water from such wells. Even though Indiana receives about 40 inches of rainfall each year, ground water is increasingly important for agricultural irrigation. Ground water is also vital to many industries.

Water-Well Information

Information about an existing well can be obtained from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Division of Water (DOW), Ground Water Section. Descriptions of existing water wells can be viewed and downloaded from the Water Well Record Database of the DOW. A modified version of the water-well database, known as the "iLITH" database, can be obtained as part of the Glacial Terrain Explorer of the Indiana Geological Survey. For installation of new wells, all water-well drillers must be certified by IDNR. Information about water-well drillers can be obtained from IDNR or the Indiana Ground Water Association.

Water-Well Contamination

Persons suspecting bacteriological contamination of a water well should contact their county health department. Persons suspecting chemical contamination should contact the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Office of Water Quality . For many wells, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water, Ground Water/ Wells can provide information on changes in water levels or productivity.

Public Drinking Water

Ground-water problems related to landfills, salt-storage piles, underground storage tanks, chemical spills, and a variety of other sources of contamination are being addressed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Office of Water, under the provisions of the federal Clean Water Act. Research on watershed problems and watershed protection across Indiana is being funded by IDEM by federal pass-through grants as part of the 104(b) NPDES Related State Program Grants , 205(j) Water Quality Planning Program , and 319 Nonpoint Source Program. The federal Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 require that states identify the areas that are sources of public drinking water, assess the susceptibility of water-supply systems to contamination, and inform the public of the results. This program is referred to as the "Source Water Assessment Program" (SWAP) and is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Office of Water Quality of IDEM.

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey (IGWS) was selected by IDEM to conduct SWAP assessments for noncommunity, nontransient Public Water Systems (PWSs), which include schools, churches, and businesses that serve at least 25 of the same individuals over 6 months per year. The IGWS has developed fact sheets for each individual PWS; a discussion of the project is available, titled Source Water Assessments at the Indiana Geological Survey.The United States Geological Survey and various consultants are assessing source water for surface-water supplies and municipal ground-water supplies, respectively.

Fertilizers and Pesticides

Fertilizers are known to contaminate ground water in many parts of Indiana. A report is available from the Indiana Farm Bureau (Wallrabenstein, L. K., Richards, R. P., Baker, D. B., and Barnett, J. D., 1994, Nitrate and Pesticides in Private Wells of Indiana, Part 1 [State Summary, 38 p.] and Part 2 [County Summaries, 442 p.]). For more information on the occurrences and effects of pesticides in ground water, contact the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, Indiana Pesticide State Management Plan .

It may be possible to ameliorate problems caused by fertilizers and pesticides through implementation of "best management practices" (BMPs). The timing, application methods, and application rates of various agricultural chemicals can be altered and refined to lessen their environmental impacts without adversely affecting productivity. More information about BMPs can be obtained from Purdue University, Agronomy Extension , and the National Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Programs .

Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

In recent years, the growth of corporate agriculture has resulted in an increase in the number and size of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These are used for poultry, cattle, and swine production. Leaching of manures in geologically sensitive areas may pose a threat to ground water by bacterial and chemical nitrate) contamination. A number of research projects are proposed or underway to study the environmental effects of CAFOs in Indiana. For more information, contact the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Office of Water Quality . The Indiana Geological Survey conducted a project titled Analysis of Nitrate in Ground Water in Jackson County, Indiana to measure and differentiate the effects of fertilizers and CAFOs.

Bacterial (E. coli) Contamination of Beaches

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacterium that normally inhabits the intestines of humans and many other animals. When released to the environment, some strains of E. coli can cause illness or death through contamination in food and water. Each summer, public beaches along Indiana's southern Lake Michigan shoreline are closed periodically because of the presence of potentially harmful concentrations of E. coli. These closures have a significant economic impact and negatively affect tourism ( Lake Michigan Federation). Human sewage is considered to be the primary source of the problem, and the role of combined sewage overflows (CSOs) and seepage and runoff from unsewered residential areas needs to be evaluated. Nonhuman sources also exist.

The Interagency Technical Task Force was formed in the mid-1990s to sample beaches and drainage networks and suggest possible avenues for mitigating the beach-closure problem. A project by the Indiana Geological Survey to develop an early warning system for forecasting beach closures along Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline resulted in a report titled Monitoring and Forecasting Outfalls of Streamflow Contaminated by E. coli at the Portage-Burns Waterway ("Burns Ditch"), Lake Michigan, Indiana.

Vulnerability of Karst Areas

Certain parts of south-central Indiana that are extensively underlain by limestone and that possess special hydrologic conditions are referred to as "karst areas." Wells and springs in karst areas may provide large quantities of water, but it is highly susceptible to contamination and is often unsafe for human consumption because surface runoff is generally not filtered by soil or bedrock in these areas. The Indiana Natural Resources Commission provides information on rules and policies governing certain activities in karst areas. For an overview of karst geology and hydrology, visit Karst in Indiana by the Indiana Geological Survey.

An investigation by the IGWS of contamination in Spring Mill State Park, located in the karst area, is titled Potential Nonpoint-Source Contamination of the Spring Mill Lake Drainage Basin .