Municipal Conservation and Efficiency

Municipal Conservation and Efficiency

As the region's population increases, withdrawals from Lake Michigan, groundwater sources, and inland rivers must be balanced with demand projections to attain long term sustainability. As a party of the Great Lakes — St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, Illinois is obligated to comply with the Compact's water conservation and efficiency programs which includes any measures that promote the efficient use of water, application of sound planning principles, and demand-side and supply-side measures or incentives.

Water conservation and efficiency planning is one of the central means to ensure that the region has adequate water resources in the future, and is the main focus of Water 2050, the region's plan for avoiding an imbalance between water supply and demand. Water conservation refers to a set of strategies that are designed to reduce water loss, waste, and use, and include both technological and behavioral changes, e.g., advancements in leak detection in pipes or residents turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth. Water efficiency addresses technological or process advancements that accomplish a given task with the minimal amount of water feasible, such as a high-efficiency toilet.

At the municipal scale, water conservation and efficiency planning works to incorporate both types of strategies into operations, guidelines for new development, and residential and commercial practices. A water conservation and efficiency plan is a guiding document for a community's water conservation efforts and actions. The American Water Works Association's Water Conservation Programs - A Planning Manual (M52) and U.S. EPA's Water Conservation Plan Guidelines have outlined the key components of a plan, which can be as detailed or basic as available resources and data allow. Most plans cover the following elements:

  • Planning Goals - desired outcome of plan implementation; usually includes a water savings goal.
  • Water Utility Profile - basic statistics about water use, water loss, population served, and maintenance practices.
  • Demand Forecast - estimate for future water demand for the service area.
  • Identification and Evaluation of Water Conservation and Efficiency Measures - selection of specific actions that will help achieve established goals.
  • Implementation Strategy - the creation of a timeline to implement selected measures.

Choosing what programs to incorporate should reflect the current conditions of the service area, have sufficient water savings potential to accommodate a community's goals, and have a locally appropriate cost/benefit balance.  Chapter 4 of Water 2050 has a comprehensive guide of potential programs including general descriptions, funding options, and other helpful information.

CMAP has worked with several municipalities to develop tailored water conservation and efficiency plans and ordinances through the Local Technical Assistance (LTA) Program. Learn more at the individual LTA project websites and see the Resources section for guides for developing a water conservation and efficiency plan for your community.

In addition, CMAP and partners have developed communication materials to help promote water conservation and efficiency. Municipalities and community water suppliers are encouraged to use these materials in their efforts, see Resources.