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Press Contact: Tom Garritano (312-386-8609 or tgarritano@cmap.illinois.gov)
Program Contact: Tim Loftus (312-386-8666 or tloftus@cmap.illinois.gov)
 

Metropolitan Chicago's new regional water plan calls for increased conservation, coordinated management

To avoid future shortages, 11-county Regional Water Supply Planning Group sets the course for providers and consumers

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, January 26, 2010 -- Today the Regional Water Supply Planning Group for 11 counties of northeastern Illinois voted unanimously to approve a landmark plan meant to ensure the availability of clean water for household and commercial use in decades to come.  The plan was commissioned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to address rapid population growth that, without improved conservation and resource management, could lead to shortages in coming years.

Looking to the year 2050, the plan is based on the latest research of water demand and supply in the counties of Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will.  It has guidance for businesses and residents to reduce consumption and waste, along with hundreds of recommendations to improve how public and private water suppliers manage one of the region's most important natural resources.  See www.cmap.illinois.gov/livability/water.  

"This is a highly specific plan directed at state, regional, county, municipal, and other public agencies responsible for ensuring adequate supplies of clean water," said Regional Water Supply Planning Group (RWSPG) chair Bonnie Thomson Carter, who is also a Lake County Board member and president of the Lake County Forest Preserves.  "Based on the data, it is clear that continued rapid population growth and economic activity will put a strain on the region's current supply, and significant shortages could result without coordinated action to implement this new water plan."  

The RWSPG began meeting monthly in January 2007, with 35 representatives from counties, municipalities, and other stakeholder categories such as water suppliers, agriculture, industry, power, wastewater treatment, conservation, environment, academia, and real estate.  Coordinated by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the plan was developed with funding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).  

A report on projected demand through 2050, commissioned in 2008 by CMAP with IDNR funding, indicated that -- without effective planning -- water demand could increase as much as 64 percent by mid-century, creating potentially serious shortages.  Illinois access to Lake Michigan water is constrained by a U.S. Supreme Court Consent Decree. 

"As business leaders consider the importance of our region's natural resources, water supply must be at or very near the top of that list," said Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.  "Not only is it a strategic asset that helps us compete with other global economic centers, but ensuring a reliable supply of clean water through mid-century will significantly enhance quality of life for the people who live and work here.  And that, in turn, is very good for business."

The plan's primary strategy is to improve how water demand is managed, by emphasizing conservation, pricing, and the reuse of graywater and wastewater.  (Graywater results from residential activities such as dish washing, laundry, and bathing.)  It advocates a number of local conservation measures for municipalities, businesses, and households, including:   

  • Replacing old toilets and clothes washers with new, high-efficiency ones
  • Prohibiting practices that waste water
  • Metering water use
  • Auditing water systems to detect leaks and other inefficiencies
  • Retrofitting residential plumbing

Also, wintertime road salts and other contaminants are harming the region's shallow-aquifer system, according to the water plan, which recommends the use of alternate methods to de-ice roads.  Among other key recommendations is for the region to conduct a public campaign to inform adults and school children of the need for water conservation.  "Full-cost pricing" is also an option that the water plan presents for consideration.  This method of managing demand would remove public subsidies to reflect the real expense of water, so business and residential consumers would pay for its delivery (not just for the water itself, as is current practice), which is an incentive to use water efficiently.

As part of a regional framework for water planning and management, the plan also recommends new "Conservation Coordinators" be designated at the municipal and regional levels, to be responsible for managing, implementing, and maintaining a comprehensive water-conservation program.  These coordinators would work with public-water suppliers' staff to analyze the benefits, costs, and water savings potential of numerous conservation measures.  

Also as recommended in the plan, CMAP intends to coordinate data from various water suppliers, making the information available to stakeholder groups and the general public.  By complementing the Illinois State Water Survey's "water inventory" program, this would help communities and water suppliers make informed choices about how to manage water demand.

Groundwater modeling suggests that portions of the regional deep-bedrock aquifer are being dewatered.  If that does not change, according the water plan, this important water source will be compromised by 2050.  The plan also cites climate change as a factor that could lead to increased water demand and reduced supplies. 

"I would like to thank the RWSPG members for their considerable efforts in helping to craft this plan," said CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn.  "And I want to challenge the region's many stakeholders to begin taking immediate steps as called for in the regional water plan.  CMAP is prepared to lead by coordinating these activities and providing technical assistance to water suppliers and consumers."

The agency today announced that the first Metropolitan Chicago Water-supply Summit will be convened by CMAP and its partners in March 2010.  The event will bring stakeholders together to start implementation activities and discuss how the water plan fits into a broader context CMAP's other water-resource activities and the comprehensive regional plan that is nearing completion.

CMAP is in the final months of developing the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan, whose implementation will begin in October 2010.  Water supply will be an important consideration among CMAP's recommendations to guide growth and infrastructure investments through mid-century and beyond. 

"The IDNR is proud to have commissioned and funded this project as one of two key water supply planning projects in Illinois. This partnership has successfully produced important tools for communities to use in planning for future population and economic growth in Northeast Illinois," said IDNR director Marc Miller. 
 

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About CMAP. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region's official, integrated plan for land use and transportation. The agency's innovative GO TO 2040 planning campaign will develop and implement strategies to shape the region's transportation system and development patterns, while also addressing the natural environment, economic development, housing, education, human services, and other factors shaping quality of life. See www.cmap.illinois.gov  for more information.

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