Great Lakes Indiana Water Supply and Population

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Climate Change in Indiana
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Climate Change Impacts:
Water Supply and Pollution

Indiana depends heavily on groundwater, fresh water from Lake Michigan, and rainfall for agriculture, drinking, and industrial uses. As the state's population of about 6 million continues to grow, pressure upon water resources will increase. Competing demands on limited water resources due to growth alone will increase freshwater management challenges with or without a changing climate. However, climate change could complicate this situation, since any change in rainfall, evaporation, groundwater recharge rates, and runoff patterns would affect ecosystems and all users of fresh water. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for water supply and pollution levels in Indiana are:

  • A Decrease in Lake Levels
    Changes in the precipitation cycle and seasonal temperatures will affect lake levels. Increasing temperatures will lead to a decline in ice cover and a greater rate of evaporation causing drops in lake levels in both Lake Michigan and inland lakes. As lake levels drop, costs to shipping on the Great Lakes are likely to increase, along with costs of dredging harbors and channels and of adjusting docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure.

  • A Reduction in Groundwater Recharge
    Riparian HabitatReduced summer water levels are likely to diminish the recharge of groundwater, cause small streams to dry up, as well as reduce the area of wetlands, resulting in poorer water quality and less habitat for wildlife.

  • A Degradation of Wetlands' Flood-Absorbing Capacity
    Development and climate change will degrade the natural flood-absorbing capacities of wetlands and floodplains. More run-off in winter and spring from rain-on-snow events and in summer from intense downpours, cause increased flooding and erosion. These events in turn could increase pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams from municipal and farm run-off, which often enters surface waters untreated. Periodic droughts also concentrate sulfates and acids, and, when flushed into lakes during intense rains, increase acid stress in aquatic systems.

  • An Increase in Extraction Pressure
    With growing populations and projected drops in lake and ground water levels, climate change is expected to exacerbate an already contentious debate on extracting water from the Great Lakes.

Photo Credits:
Piping Plover -- National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Riparian Habitat -- David Riecks Courtesy of Illinois- Indiana Sea Grant
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