INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Effects of this year's drought still linger in more than a third of Indiana, but climate experts say the state has no reason to fear a repeat next year.
Seventeen counties in northern Indiana are still experiencing moderate drought, and it remains abnormally dry in about 30 more counties south of Indianapolis, the National Weather Service said. That adds up to about 40 percent of the state.
Associated state climatologist Ken Scheeringa told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/TicS0R ) it's difficult to predict weather conditions as far ahead as next summer. But he said this past drought was "rather historic" and not likely to occur again this year.
"This kind of a drought only comes around every three or four times in a century," he said.
Water levels dropped as much as 6 feet in Indianapolis' Morse reservoir and about 4 feet in Geist, and weren't fully restored until October. Citizens Energy Group, which supplies water to much of central Indiana, issued a mandatory water ban July 13 that caused water usage to drop from more than 200 million gallons per day to around 140 million. The ban was lifted Sept. 5.
Jim Schneider, president of the Morse Waterways Association, said he wishes the utility had issued the water ban sooner.
"That's not the first time we've had that concern from residents, that we implemented it too late," Citizens spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said. "But the reservoirs are now completely recharged again. It was implemented on time, and it worked. We feel pretty confident that if there were to be another situation like this, that would be the same plan."
But just in case, Lindsay Lindgren, vice president of water operations for Citizens, said the utility is researching the possibility of tapping into other water sources like the Ohio and Wabash rivers.
"We had the worst drought that we've had in 24 years," Lindgren said. "The main thing that I've focused on in the short term is how we can minimize the releases from the reservoirs via our other water resources."
Schneider, who is also a Morse-area homeowner, said he hopes next summer returns to normal. Although he was able to use his boat this summer, many of his neighbors' vessels were stuck in the mud along shorelines that had dried up to the lake bottom.
"I really felt for the people who lived on the reservoir and had no water access when you spend money to live on the reservoir," he said. "When you don't have use, except for maybe six weeks out of the summer this year, it can be pretty disheartening."
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com