Manage and Conserve Water and Energy

Manage and Conserve Water and Energy Resources

Our future prosperity depends on the availability of water and energy. If we manage and conserve these finite natural resources, the region and its communities will thrive in a new, greener economy.

Conserve Water and Energy

Jul 22, 2013

Over the next 30 years, water and energy resources will likely become more limited, affecting residents, businesses, and local governments alike. Improving our water and energy efficiency will save money and head off shortages that could profoundly affect our quality of life.

Water Supply and Conservation

Though we live in an area where fresh water seems abundant, our water is not a limitless resource. Legal constraints limit our use of Lake Michigan, and the parts of our region that depend on groundwater face increasing expenses and environmental side effects.

Water 2050, the region's long-range plan for managing water, calls for a number of conservation measures, such as shifting toward full-cost pricing for drinking water to encourage conservation and pay for water treatment and delivery. By improving how we manage demand, the water plan will help ensure that clean water is available for household and commercial use in decades to come. Flooding, a significant problem in many parts of the region, can be reduced by following best practices for stormwater management.

Energy Efficiency is Cost Effective

Improving energy efficiency saves money long after the upfront investment is recouped. It also reduces our region's output of greenhouse gases tied to climate change.

Consumption of electricity and natural gas for heating, cooling, and appliances at home and at work contributes nearly two-thirds of our region's greenhouse gas emissions. Despite availability of state and federal funds, less than one percent of eligible buildings in the region have undergone a "retrofit" to save energy (for example, installation of more-efficient heating and cooling systems, insulation and lighting, weather sealing, and windows or doors). CMAP, the City of Chicago, and other stakeholders have begun the Chicago Region Retrofit Ramp-up (CR3) project to create regional efficiencies that will nurture the market for retrofits, which improve buildings' energy efficiency by an average of 30 percent.

As part of its emphasis on livable communities, GO TO 2040 recommends the use of green techniques for new development and redevelopment to improve energy efficiency, while also helping to reduce water consumption and improve stormwater management. Residents in livable communities tend to make fewer automobile trips, which will reduce fuel consumption and pollution from transportation, our region's second greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions—mostly from cars and trucks.

Adopt Water Conservation
Water 2050 identifies 13 conservation measures that promote efficiency and can reduce or defer the need for a utility to increase its capacity. Local governments can do this by adopting sensible water conservation ordinances, which can result in an average of 20 percent savings in water use. Current water prices often do not reflect the entire cost of supplying water. Full-cost pricing for drinking water is recommended to encourage residents to conserve and to provide adequate revenues.

Manage Stormwater
Flooding is a problem due to the region's broad flood plains, clay-based soils, and increased runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs, parking lots, and streets. Throughout the region, a commitment to using green infrastructure should be made. Among many benefits, using green infrastructure such as rain gardens and permeable pavement to manage stormwater can be more cost-effective compared to gray infrastructure.

Create Livable Communities
Emphasis on compact, mixed use, walkable development served by transit will improve the region's energy efficiency. Energy savings in new buildings can be significant when local and state codes, ordinances, plans, and programs supportgreen development and practices. Zoning codes and permitting policies should also allow and promote renewable energy generation from businesses, institutions, and residences. Livable communities also promote lower-energy modes of travel, such as transit, walking, and bicycling.

Promote Retrofit Programs
Retrofit programs that provide assistance to property owners to install energy conservation measures in existing buildings exist at the local, state, and federal levels but are under-utilized. The CMAP-led Chicago Region Retrofit Ramp-up (CR3) program will be an important first step in streamlining access to information, financing mechanisms, and skilled labor to transform the retrofit market.

Foster Sustainable Practices
Communities should take the opportunity to pilot their own projects to promote small-scale renewable energy generation, which could include wind and solar power as well as strategies like waste-to-energy generation. Local governments should also make a commitment to lead, for example, by reviewing procurement processes to ensure the inclusion of green materials for governmental equipment and a higher commitment to waste reduction and recycling.

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