Water Quality: An Ongoing Concern Locally

5099477424_7c2cbd3d4e_b“Too many pipes in Indiana are at or near the end of their useful life”. That was a conclusion by the Indiana Finance Authority in their November 2016 report.
Water quality is on the minds of Hoosiers in Monroe County. The water that streams into every one of our residential or public buildings has a direct correlation to our health, and the water in our county is valuable for recreation. When I go out, a question I now ask is “What local environmental issues concerns you the most?” Time and time again I hear that water quality is a top concern.
Local water quality issues gives credence to this anecdotal evidence. Beginning in January 2016, increased testing began for Disinfectant Biproducts (DBPs). I’ll let you investigate the level of depth you want to learn about DPBs, but for those that want to track this issue the Herald Times’ GovTracker blog reports on water quality trends, and the City of Bloomington regularly publishes DPB and other water quality data at data.bloomington.in.gov/group/utilities. The bottom line is that water quality was enough of a concern that local leaders took action.
Additionally, the Indiana Finance Authority published a report detailing the problem of aging water pipes. The report was based on a survey conducted with every water utility across the state. Cost and infrastructure problems were reported regionally (see p. 21 of the report) and statewide as the report concluded that, “Too many pipes in Indiana are nearing or at the end of their useful life.”
It is important to protect our water quality, and Monroe County Government plays a large role in this protection. Monroe County Stormwater Quality staff work to control stormwater which can otherwise threaten public health and aquatic life, negatively affect recreational activities, increase costs of water treatment, contribute to flooding events and cause erosion of valuable land. The Monroe County Soil and Water staff work to provide leadership and education in the conservation of Monroe County’s natural resources: soil, water, air, wildlife, forests and lakes. The Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission advises the County Commissioners and educates the public on local environmental issues.
The above report and recent water quality issues highlights the necessary work of local and state government and its leaders to invest in infrastructure. It also suggests the need for greater regional collaboration to preserve shared resources for all residents.

Ahead of the Food Curve

local-farms-local-foodIn an ongoing look at sustainability assets in Monroe County, there is one business that has helped shape the way we grow, eat, and learn about food: Bloomingfoods.

Food policy so often focuses on access. In fact, you need only to look at the recent focus on food deserts. There is even a map dedicated to showing how far away a certain residence is to a source of food, and this is important.

But in Monroe County residents have been spoiled by access to good food provided by  Bloomingfoods. Started in 1979, they were incubated by residents who sought food they couldn’t obtain elsewhere. Over the years they have grown throughout Monroe County and have offered local food producers access to a growing market, and in return residents found an increasingly local array of produce. Bloomingfoods also promotes local sustainability through print and online publications and support of local non-profits.

Bloomingfood’s most recent contribution has been to help our region prepare for a seachange in the way we think about groceries in Monroe County. As Bloominfoods expanded throughout the county, new businesses have come to Bloomington to reach households increasingly interested in sustainable agriculture and knowing more about the food they are feeding their families. This has in turn put positive pressure on growers and the evidence can be seen in the produce section of Bloomingfoods, Lucky’s, Kroger, and soon others. The crowds at the Bloomington Farmer’s Market also show this positive pressure. The end result is that interest and consequently knowledge of sustainability is growing in Monroe County.

Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission composed this post. Their charge includes “educating the community and engaging residents and businesses in supporting initiatives which will help ensure a healthier and more economically viable future for the County.” The public is welcome to attend these meetings the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30pm.