WFYI documentary explores water problems

Rick McCulley takes a water sample from a treatment plant in the documentary "Drop by Drop." Submitted photo

When it comes to the subject

of water in America, comedian Lewis Black said it best: "I could go anywhere in

my house when I was a child – there were three or four different rooms

– I could go to my basement and I could get clean water and drink it. And

then go out and play. And those were great times."

And now? Not so much. In "Drop

By Drop: Protecting Indiana's Water Supply," WFYI producer Gary Harrison and

crew look around Indiana and show us a host of problems that are occurring now

or will in the future.

We're talking about septic

systems leaking untreated sewage into groundwater; a town (Orland, in far

northeast Indiana) where raw sewage is bubbling up 100 feet from downtown;

water and sewer pipes statewide that are corroding and need to be replaced; a

neighborhood (Garden City trailer community near Richmond) where residents had

been consuming well water containing levels of arsenic measured at six times

the EPA maximum safe limit.

In this fast-moving,

30-minute overview of the issues, Harrison and associates talk to about two

dozen people – government officials as well as average citizens –

to show us the seriousness and breadth of the state's water problems. They also

find pockets of good news in places like Muncie, where liners are being used to

prolong the life of water pipes, and in communities where they're creating

wetlands to filter water naturally.

But while the situation isn't

all bad, it's certainly not good or manageable. Garden City needed $1 million

to deliver clean water to the trailer park residents. Finding the money took

years. So imagine what it's going to be like trying to find the estimated

hundreds of millions of dollars it's going to cost to replace water and sewer

pipes around the state.

Water isn't a problem we talk

about much because, let's face it, we have so many other things to deal with.

But that's why "Drop By Drop" should be essential viewing. It's important to

have the issue in front of us so we can begin to address the problems. And we

need to see how broad the troubles are – which is what this show does so


As U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky

says here, clean water is "an investment in our health, our environment and our


"It's easy to be

overwhelmed," Lenore Tedesco, associate professor in the department of earth

sciences at IUPUI, adds. "But we don't have a choice."

And as almost everyone in

this program notes, without clean water, we're doomed.