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."