As Joliet proceeds with procuring Lake Michigan water, nearby communities will need to evaluate their own systems over the next 12 months and decide whether to work with Joliet and others on a regional solution, or forge their own path to secure an alternative supply. Each municipality’s decision will affect the size and corresponding costs of a shared water system, making continued conversations with nearby communities a necessity.
As partners with ISWS, each community in the Southwest Water Planning Group has additional information to power their decisions in the year ahead. However, questions remain, and the SWPG will explore those as well. Together, communities will be learning about potential governance structures for shared water systems, management requirements associated with access to Lake Michigan water, and water conservation practices to reduce costs — all of which will help them make a decision on their future water supply.
Communities also can expand water conservation efforts and encourage residents to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices at home while switching to a new water source. A transition to a new source has cost implications, making an emphasis on water conservation all the more important. Using less water can reduce the infrastructure size needed to support a new water source. Many communities in the area are anticipated to grow in the future and will need to design their new water systems to meet projected demand. The diagram below illustrates how an effective water conservation program can reduce the size of capital facility construction and subsequently lower cost increases for the water utility and its customers.
Communities also can encourage water conservation by promoting the use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances, update water rate structures to incentivize conservation, and reduce outdoor water use. Through its Rethink Joliet Water campaign, the City of Joliet is conducting outreach on water conservation and offering rebate programs for water-efficient fixtures. Reducing water lost through leaky pipes, which results in lost revenue to communities, is a required conservation measure for communities that use Lake Michigan water. In addition, careful land use planning can play a role in promoting conservation, as the design and location of new development can reduce water use.
Understanding both the available supply of water and current and future demand is critical to making informed land use, transportation, and infrastructure investment decisions. To help implement water resource goals, land use planners and water utility managers will need to work together and align local efforts with current and future water supply constraints.
The work of the SWPG exemplifies the regional coordination that is needed to tackle this complex issue. Together, communities must explore and implement strategies to ensure a long-term water supply for residents and businesses.