Not Taking Water for Granted New Effort Looks to Develop Way to Conserve, Use Natural Resource
Garmoe, Patrick, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Patrick Garmoe Daily Herald Staff Writer
Around the world, water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity.
Experts say that could happen even here in the suburbs. Indeed, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties likely will face serious water shortages in the next 20 years.
This week, nearly a year after Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered a statewide study of water supplies, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning will hold a public forum to launch the first part of that effort.
Initially, the study will focus on water supplies in the Northeast Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, DeKalb, Boone, Grundy, Kankakee, Kendall and Will.
This area was picked because it sits over the northeastern Illinois deep bedrock aquifer, which supplies much of the drinking water to local communities that don't receive Lake Michigan water.
Aquifers are underground layers of rock water travels through.
The Illinois State Water Survey will be doing the research to come up with firm figures on how much water flows beneath and through these counties.
But the study is only half the process.
A group of 32 volunteers who live in the 11-county study area will meet once a month beginning in January to help steer the process.
They likely will hire outside consultants to project water needs through 2050, said Derek Winstanley, chief of the state water survey, and one of the early proponents of this plan.
Based on the data, the volunteer committee, called the Regional Water Supply Planning Group, will by 2009 make recommendations for regional water use that should be useful to everyone from state legislators to local township boards.
"It's very much setting up a process and a framework for regional water supply management," Winstanley said.
This same process will be repeated in east central Illinois with a group organized by the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium.
Unlike other states with limited water supplies, right now nothing like that exists in Illinois.
"There is no planning for water supplies," Winstanley said. "There is no law that prohibits anybody from withdrawing any amount (of water) you want."
This is an effort to come up with some comprehensive research on water for the state, and set policy based on it, said Tom Garritano, director of communications for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, formerly the Chicago Area Transportation Study and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission. So far, the Illinois legislature has set aside $1 million to get the project going.
Currently, conservation efforts by a local community or county can be rendered useless if its neighbor isn't doing likewise, Winstanley said. …