waters' report addresses Lake Michigan supply, restrictions
By Patrick Ferrell
Published January 12, 2006
The differing watering restrictions in south suburban
communities this summer could be a thing of the past if
state and regional officials heed recommendations in a
water supply report issued Monday in Chicago.
"Troubled Waters: Meeting Future Water Needs in
Illinois" highlights eight recommendations that should
be undertaken to ensure Illinois continues to have a viable
supply of fresh water.
One recommendation encourages uniform water conservation
measures, which would essentially eliminate the problem
experienced this summer when neighboring communities had
wildly different rules on who could use outdoor water
The major recommendations call for taking a statewide
inventory of available surface and groundwater and creating
a framework for regional water supply planning. Just before
the study was released by three environmental groups,
Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced plans to heed the first
"Last summer's drought demonstrated to us that careful
management of our water must be a priority so we always
have enough supply for people to drink and use,"
the governor said in a statement announcing his order.
Even though the Chicago region sits next to Lake Michigan,
part of the world's largest source of freshwater, "we
don't have an unlimited supply of water. That's the reality,"
according to Scott Goldstein, a member of the Metropolitan
Planning Council and the study's co-author.
The Chicago area's water rations stem from a decades-old
Supreme Court decree that limits how much water Illinois
can take out of the Great Lakes. Illinois is already close
to its maximum allocation, and the area's population is
expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 15 years.
Water usage is expected to grow by 28 percent, said Joyce
O'Keefe, the deputy director of the Openlands Project
and the other co-author of the study.
Water usage in fast growing Will County is expected to
rise even faster.
"The growing parts of our region cannot rely on
Lake Michigan," O'Keefe said. "We always assumed
that with enough money, we can run the pipes out farther
and farther. We now realize it is not going to be the
Unless a water inventory is taken, and regional use plans
are adopted, the region could experience water shortages
in as few as two decades, the report says.
The Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands, in addition
to the Campaign for Sensible Growth, used a model from
Texas to demonstrate how regional plans can help guarantee
a viable water supply.
Bill Mullican, of Texas' Water Development Board, said
Texas' water use plan calls for communities to demonstrate
conservation measures before they are allowed to access
That's one of the tenets of the Troubled Waters report.
Ed Paesel, the executive director of South Suburban Mayors
and Managers, said such a plan will help balance the differing
restrictions on outdoor water usage in the area.
Paesel also said the governor's plan to study water availability
will particularly help the South Suburbs.
"This is very important to our area," Paesel
said. "Our area is unique because some areas depend
on lake water, while others have to look to other options."
Patrick Ferrell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (708) 802-8832.