Communicating the State of Indiana Water Resources

A research project funded by the Indiana Water Resources Research Center through the U.S. Geological Survey’s 104B annual base grants (section 104 of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984, as amended).

Start Date: 2017-03-01   End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,444   Total Non-Federal Funds: $40,958


Water resources are sources of water that are of sufficient quality to meet human needs, when and where they are needed.  Therefore, they reflect both water supply – the useable sources of surface and groundwater, as well as demand, where and when is water being extracted for what purpose.  Sustainable use of water resources therefore requires the balanced allocation of renewable natural resources to people, farms and ecosystems.   Although many Federal (e.g., USGS, NOAA, USCOE) and state agencies (IDNR, IDEM) have their own publicly-available databases of water quantity, individual users need to know where to look to piece together an overall summary of water availability for the entire state of Indiana. This project addressed this gap by developing a website to summarize the condition of Indiana Water Resources over the previous water year in terms of reservoir storage, groundwater storage, observed streamflow, water quality and water withdrawals, based on synthesis of publicly-available data from the USGS, IDNR, and IDEM. The State of Indiana Waters website is available at

Figure 1. Interactive groundwater trends map of Indiana showing the rate of change of the mean water table and the heat map of significant groundwater withdrawals.

Research Objectives

  1. Develop tools to extract water resource data for specific time periods (such as groundwater, river and reservoir water storage values at the end of the water year) from various state and national agencies including the NRCS, IDEM, IDNR, USGS, and the Corps of Engineers, and to integrate those disparate data types into a geodatabase for further analysis.
  2. Review and calculate water availability metrics that provide insight into the state of water resources and allow one to rank them statistically to put the current state of water resources into perspective using historical observations.
  3. Create maps of water storage and availability metrics and how conditions for the previous water year rank relative to the historical record.
  4. Develop informational materials that will be integrated into the web site to help explain the data and metrics being presented.

Researcher Profile

Dr. Keith Cherkauer

Principal Investigator Dr. Keith Cherkauer is a Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University.


Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Laura Bowling is a Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University.

Major Conclusions & Significance

  • Programs were developed that automatically retrieve data from the USGS online water database based on the most recently ended water year.
  • The previous 30 years of data for Indiana groundwater levels and surface water flowrates are used. Several data quality checks are performed in order to ensure validity and uniformity within the dataset.
  • The current state metrics (including maximum, minimum, and mean annual values) are calculated for each of the two (groundwater and surface water) datasets for sites that contain data for at least 24 years of the previous 30 years including the most recent water year.
  • The long-term trends are also calculated for the two datasets for sites that contain at least 24 years of data over the previous 30 year period ending with the most recently completed water year.

What Does This Mean For Indiana?

The State of Indiana Waters website has interactive webmaps with layers displaying each of the metrics used (Groundwater Current State, Surface Water Current State, Groundwater Trends, and Surface Water Trends). These maps also contain site information such as elevation, HUC, and aquifer. The website also contains snapshots of water levels for the most recent water years across the state. There are 7 groundwater, 7 streamflow sites, and 5 reservoir sites selected to show the trend of water levels throughout the most recent water year. These snapshots contain graphs created using the graphing tools on the USGS website. Each graph contains the water level over the course of the recently completed water year overlaid with the long-term average for the period of record for the site. Accompanying each of these snapshot pages is a short summary of the observed trends for the recently completed year. This project resulted in an up-to-date, publicly available web portal for obtaining information, data and insight into the current state of surface and groundwater resources in Indiana that can be used by land managers, agency personnel and legislators to inform short term and long-term water management decisions. The website will be updated each year once the water year data are released.

Training The Next Generation

One of the missions of the Indiana Water Resources Research Center, and all Water Centers, is to train the next generation of water scientists. This project successfully funded research for one Masters student within Dr. Cherkauer’s lab.

Contact Laura Esman, Managing Director, to request a printed copy of this factsheet.




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