Posted on October 14, 2010 4:39 PM
Water 2050 Update, 10-14-10
Progress from CMAP
GO TO 2040. The Chicago region's comprehensive plan, GO TO 2040, was launched on October 13, 2010. The plan will guide development in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties for the rest of this century. In addition to land use and transportation, GO TO 2040 also addresses the full range of quality-of-life issues, including the natural environment, economic development, housing, and human services such as education, health care, and other social services. Among the many recommendations of the plan is a specific focus on managing and conserving water resources. This section echoes and expands on the recommendations of the Water 2050 plan, all of which were based on findings of studies on future demand and assessments of water supplies. Over the next few months, CMAP will be engaging with partners and communities across the region to implement both plans and to ensure that the public understands the role each individual and stakeholder plays in helping our region continue to prosper.
Water forum. On October 22, CMAP and Wildman Harrold will co-host a forum titled "New Challenges Facing Municipal Water Suppliers." This is the first in a series of discussion forums that seek to follow up on key issues highlighted in Water 2050, the northeastern Illinois regional water supply/demand plan. The forum will consider a new Illinois law (P.A. 096-1366) that addresses carcinogenic volatile organic compounds in community water supplies and potential consequences as an outcome of its implementation (see the agenda). While potentially relevant to all public water suppliers, this topic will be of particular interest to groundwater-dependent communities. Representatives of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) are scheduled to participate. The event will be held at Wildman Harrold from 8:45 am to 12:30 p.m. RSVP to Maureen McNair at firstname.lastname@example.org as space will be limited.
Global water conference hosted. On September 30, CMAP's Tim Loftus hosted 22 water and other natural resource managers from 19 countries who are traveling in the U.S. through the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. The program theme for this group is "Water Resources Protection in the U.S." Dr. Loftus presented the findings of Water 2050 and his perspective on the future of water supply and demand in our region. Thanks to WorldChicago for inviting Dr. Loftus to host this event.
Watershed plans. CMAP and local planning partners The Conservation Foundation and Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, held stakeholder meetings to launch four watershed planning efforts within the Fox River Basin during the week of September 20. Plans will be developed for Blackberry Creek, Ferson-Otter Creek, Silver Creekand Sleepy Hollow Creek watersheds. The next meetings will be held in October and will focus on identifying concerns within the watersheds and developing goals for the plans. The Fox River Ecosystem Partnership will be continually updating their website with information about the planning process including meeting dates and materials. If you would like to receive more information regarding the plans please contact Megan Elberts (email@example.com or 312-386-8794). For updates on the watershed planning process and dates/locations of upcoming meetings, visit http://foxriverecosystem.org/planning.htm.
NPS management program. IEPA receives federal funds through Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act to help implement the Illinois' Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Program. The purpose of this program is to work cooperatively with local units of government and other organizations toward the goal of protecting the quality of Illinois waters by controlling NPS pollution. CMAP assisted numerous local municipalities, agencies, and organizations in implementing projects designed to reduce NPS pollution to the region's rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. CMAP serves as technical advisor, project coordinator, and grant administrator to the local project sponsors. The Village of Streamwood received a portion of these funds and completed construction of a streambank stabilization project along the South Branch of Poplar Creek. The design utilized gabion baskets, coir logs, and slope reductions to stabilize the previously eroding streambanks. The project will be highly visible as it is in a residential area and is adjacent to a community park. The Village estimated that the project will reduce the sediment load to the creek by 130 tons/year.
FPA update. Facility Planning Areas (FPAs) are defined as areas considered for wastewater treatment service within a 20-year planning period. For some time now, IEPA has had a policy of denying sewer construction permits for sanitary sewers that cross an FPA boundary. The ability of the IEPA to impose this policy was recently challenged. As a result, the agency will no longer deny State construction permits for domestic wastewater collection based solely on the projects inconsistency with an FPA boundary. CMAP is the delegated authority for the region's areawide water quality management plan. CMAP staff does not anticipate that IEPA's decision will change the circumstances within our region for which an FPA-amendment application and review will be required per usual.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Grant Award - Healthy Landscapes Healthy Lakes. Margaret Schneemann, water resource economist holding a joint position between CMAP, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), and the University of Illinois Extension, is leading the Healthy Landscapes Healthy Lakes project. This is a regional collaborative effort to reduce pesticide and fertilizer inputs to the Great Lakes basin. This effort is funded by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative competitive grants, which are targeting the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes region. The Healthy Landscapes Healthy Lakes project leverages the successful strategies and resources of partners, including Safer Pest Control Project, Purdue University, Sea Grant, and University of Illinois Extension, to ensure that best practices are used for lawn and landscape care. Awards made under the GLRI initiative can be viewed at http://greatlakesrestoration.us/.
Progress in the Region
Wetlands of international importance. More than 300,000 acres in four Midwestern states were designated the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands of International Importance, read more in this article. The designation recognizes the land as important to the environment and economy in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The designation proposal was endorsed by the Departments of Natural Resources of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and seven members of Congress from the respective states.
Water utility conservation rates workshop. Two interactive workshops on water utility conservation rates in the Great Lakes will be hosted in the Midwest in the next two months. Funded by the Great Lakes Protection fund and led by the Great Lakes Commission, these workshops are targeted for water utility managers/finance officers, public works directors, city managers, and elected/appointed Officials. Attendees will learn why water conservation rates should be part of a sound utility management strategy, identify barriers to changing rates, and understand the benefits of conservation pricing and how to keep water revenues stable. Attendees will also receive a handbook about revising rates. The first took place on October 12 in Ann Arbor, MI, and the second will occur on November 8 in Racine, WI. The cost of $35 per person includes lunch.
NGRREC field station dedication. On October 26, the public is invited to the dedication of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) Confluence Field Station in Alton, IL. NGRREC was formed in 2002 to explore important questions about river systems, the environment, and their impact on the communities. The new Confluence Field Station, a LEED-certified facility, will offer a comprehensive river system research and education program. The dedication ceremony will be hosted from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Green Infrastructure Conference. From December 6 to 7, the Clean Water America Alliance's Urban Water Sustainability Council will be hosting a Green Infrastructure Conference to engage major American cities to identify and breakdown the barriers to implementation of green infrastructure in Philadelphia, PA.
Stormwater management grants. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are now being accepted for the Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant Program for Stormwater Management (IGIG). Grants are available to local units of government and other organizations "to implement green infrastructure best management practices to control stormwater runoff for water quality protection," according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Approximately $5 million in funding is available. Additional information can be found online. Applications are due December 15, 2010. CMAP, along with several partners, served on an advisory committee for IEPA that helped shape this grant program.
NAWQA Report Released. On September 23, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program released its national assessment on nutrients in streams and groundwater. The assessment details the nutrient concentrations in the country's waters from the early 1990s to today. The environmental findings relate to "developing nutrient criteria for surface water bodies, reducing nutrients to receiving waters, setting realistic expectations for water-quality improvements following nutrient reduction strategies, and managing elevated nutrients in drinking water from surface-water intakes and wells."
More and more communities are embracing green infrastructure as a means to manage stormwater. Increased tree canopies and strategically placed greenspace contribute to the cleanliness of water supplies by reducing the amount of stormwater runoff and erosion, as well as the frequency of sewer overflows. Along with reducing the need for many costly erosion control structures, greening projects stimulate economic activity; not only does greenspace increase the esthetic value of a community, recent studies have proven that trees, parks, and gardens dramatically increase residential and commercial property values and provide many short and long-term employment opportunities. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources convened a hearing on the effects of green infrastructure and low-impact development on September 30.
New coalition for water conservation and regulation. An alliance of businesses (Mars, Kohler, Rio Tinto and Siemens), conservation groups (World Wildlife Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Rivers and Pacific Institute) and farmers (Family Farm Alliance and Soybean Growers) has formed a coalition to call for changes in the use, consumption and regulation of water. The coalition's report, "Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges," is the culmination of an intensive two-year collaboration exploring solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges. On September 15, it was presented to the Obama Administration at a meeting of federal agencies convened by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and released to the public during a forum later that day.
Water in the News
National Flood Insurance Program. A USA Today article reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has heavily subsidized people to live and businesses to develop in the nation's most flood-prone areas, and that federal and local officials failed to take steps urged by government reports. The NFIP insures 5.6 million properties nationwide. And while the program's aim is to be self-sustaining by paying claims from premiums it collects, Congress' Government Accountability Office reported in April that the program is "by design, not actuarially sound" because it has no cash reserves to pay for catastrophes such as Katrina and sets rates that "do not reflect actual flood risk."
Protecting waterways from mercury. U.S. EPA is expected to propose and finalize a new rule this year to protect waterways by reducing mercury from dental offices. Approximately 50 percent of mercury entering local waste treatment plants come from dental amalgam waste. Dental amalgams, or fillings containing mercury, are flushed into chair-side drains which enter wastewater systems, making their way into the environment through discharges into lakes and rivers, land application, or through sewage sludge. The rule will propose usage of existing technology called Amalgam. This technology can separate out 95 percent of the mercury normally discharged into a local waste treatment plant. Read more at All Voices.
Construction stormwater rule reconsidered. U.S. EPA is reconsidering key aspects of its construction stormwater rule. The rule, for the first time, established a numeric limit on the turbidity of stormwater discharges from large construction sites and required monitoring to ensure compliance with the numeric limit. The rule was challenged by a number of industry petitioners, including the National Association of Homebuilders and the Utility Water Act Group. The agency has since determined that its numeric turbidity limit in the rule is flawed and noted that it improperly interpreted data used to support the numeric limit. Read more online.
Great Lakes: Sink or Source. While the Great Lakes may be considered as 'small oceans' and can likely count towards carbon reductions in the Climate Change calculations, they may also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As testing from University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee researchers demonstrates, Lake Michigan becomes a source of carbon emissions during the fall, winter, and early spring. However, early results, reported in this Chicago Tribune article, suggest that there may be a balance between carbon emissions and absorption and the final outcome might be neutral.
Chicago's water billing. The Chicago Sun Times has been running a three-part series investigating the City of Chicago's water metering practices. The series addressed the water billing differentials between homes with and without meters, and also reported on management of the City's water billing system, including the provision of free water to certain properties and developers. You can view a map of water meters by ward and look up which houses on your block are metered for water online. Mayor Daley has responded by introducing an ordinance that would stop developers from receiving free water from the city's water mains during construction.
About the Water 2050 Newsletter
Regional water-resource stewardship took a giant leap forward on January 26, 2010, when the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply Planning Group (RWSPG) unanimously approved a plan that aims to avoid imbalances between water demand and regional supplies. Read more in this press release. Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply/Demand Plan was developed over the past three years by CMAP staff with input and guidance from the RWSPG, the Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The next steps we must take as a region to implement water plan recommendations are equally important. A new commitment to water-use conservation and demand management is the cornerstone of the water plan. Among the attributes of any successful conservation program are political leadership, stable funding, education, and outreach. This Water 2050 newsletter is designed to be one such outreach mechanism. This newsletter will be issued on the second Thursday of every other month. This will be a means to communicate newsworthy items, share valuable resources, and promote ongoing and diverse efforts around water resources planning and management, both at CMAP and throughout the region. We are interested in your water news! This newsletter will feature local examples of water planning and conservation, so please contact Justine Reisinger (firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-386-8802) with your news and examples.