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WFYI documentary explores water problems

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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 effectively.

As U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky says here, clean water is "an investment in our health, our environment and our economy."

"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.

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