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Great Lakes Article:


We're rapidly getting thirstier
By Gary Wisby
Chicago Sun Times
Published May 30, 2005

The Chicago area's thirst for water will escalate a whopping 30 percent over the next 20 years, exerting pressure for big increases in withdrawals from Lake Michigan.

So says Ben Dziegielewski of Southern Illinois University, lead author of a new report on future water needs in Illinois and five other Midwestern states.

Demand for electricity driven by a growing population and economy means power plants will suck up 85 percent of Illinois' supply -- 17 billion gallons a day -- for cooling water, according to the report.

Dziegielewski (jen-ga-LEF-ski), an SIU geography professor and executive director of the International Water Resources Association, projects a 7.3 percent increase in publicly supplied water use in the Midwest.

Illinois and Ohio will account for most of the increase, ahead of Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

"We have to act on this information and ensure that future water needs are met without undue pressures on the environment," Dziegielewski said.

He expects Cook County and four collar counties -- DuPage, Will, Lake and Kane -- to consume upward of 25 million gallons a day more than in 2000.

Trend could cut per capita use

But before inserting a bigger drinking straw into Lake Michigan, governments must go through the International Joint Commission, the U.S.-Canada body that watches over the Great Lakes. "They should maybe start preparing the paperwork for the IJC," Dziegielewski said.

The fifth collar county, McHenry, may have it easier because it sits atop abundant groundwater, he said.

Dziegielewski researched the report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Board of Higher Education and SIU.

It doesn't take into account steps -- such as mandating low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads -- that have cut consumption a bit in the last 15 to 20 years, he said. If the trend continues, Illinois' current daily per capita use of 161 gallons could, by 2025, drop to 150 instead of increasing to 181.

"But I could not build that into the forecast because it's not necessarily going to happen," Dziegielewski said. "We have to do something."

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