Among Top U.S.Water Wasters- 2.4 billion gallons/day
GARY WISBY ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
Chicago Sun Times
Chicago area is 10th in the nation when it comes to wasting
groundwater, a report by the Natural Resources Defense
Council said Wednesday.
region loses as much as 23.7 billion gallons a year, according
to the report.
is considered lost when it washes downstream instead of
infiltrating the ground.
ground acts like a sponge, soaking up and storing water.
But hardened surfaces such as roads, roofs and parking
lots deflect water. Instead of being filtered clean by
the ground, it splashes polluted into rivers and lakes.
of gallons are sent down storm drains due to development,"
said Betsy Otto of American Rivers, which helped prepare
average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every
day. At 100 gallons, a billion gallons would satisfy the
needs of about 27,500 people for a year.
illustrate, the U.S. Geological Survey suggests seeing
one billion gallons as a column of water. It would have
a base the size of a football field and be higher than
four 555-foot-tall Washington Monuments stacked end to
Chicago area developed land twice as fast as its population
increased between 1982 and 1997, the report found. While
it consumed 25 percent more land than in 1982, its population
was growing by 12 percent.
area gobbled up 250,000 acres in that period, ranking
it No. 7 in the nation.
over land because of sprawl reduces the replenishment
of underground aquifers and leads to water shortages.
Sprawl results in lower water levels in streams, rivers
doesn't cause drought, but it intensifies the pain of
water shortages," Otto said.
"all is not gloom and doom," John Bailey of
Smart Growth America said water can be saved by:
and protecting open space and aquatic areas.
laws that include tax incentives to buy land and conservation
road-building and other construction with water resource
measures can protect 45,891 acres in the Chicago area
by 2025, the report estimates
Chicago Drains 2.4 Billion Gallons of Great Lakes Water
By Cassandra Marie Profita
The Chicago River, which once flowed
east and emptied into Lake Michigan, now flows west into
the Des Plaines River via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship
Canal and empties into the Mississippi River.
The city of Chicago has gone a
long way to preserve the sanctity of its freshwater reservoir.
More than a century of urban ingenuity has gone into transport
and treatment of the citys wastewater, and the job
still isnt done.
Chicagos eight million people
draw 2.4 billion gallons (9.1 billion liters) of
fresh water from Lake Michigan every day, none of which
will ever return to the Great Lakes. Instead, the water
will wind its way through a descending network of tunnels,
canals and riverbeds that draw the water away from Lake
Michigan and eventually into the Mississippi River, in
keeping with a treatment system that began in the nineteenth
However, there's a flaw in this system
that might explain why Chicago had to close down its public
beaches on several occasions this summer. A
heavy rainstorm can cause the city's undersized sewer
system to overflow and contaminate the water on the lakefront.
The logic behind a system that allows this to happen
is wrapped up in the city's long history of water management.
The seeds of the city's water
treatment system were sown shortly after the Chicago
Fire of 1871. Much of the rebuilding took place along
the Chicago River. All the new industries, including the
stockyards, dumped their waste into the river, which at
that time flowed directly into Lake Michigan.
Major sanitation problems developed
in 1885 when heavy rainfall washed the contaminated river
water into the parts of the lake where the city got its
drinking water. Outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, and other
waterborne diseases killed more than 90,000 people. The
Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago was
created in 1889 to stop polluted water from contaminating
the citys drinking water. A plan was made to construct
channels and canals to reverse the flow of the rivers
away from the lake.
Work on the canal system began in
1892. Thirty years later, 56 miles (90 kilometers) of
canals were sending Chicago River water into the Des Plaines
and Calumet Rivers instead of into Lake Michigan. To prevent
Chicagos diversion of water from lowering the level
of Lake Michigan, locks were installed on the waterfront
to control the outflow.
After World War II, Chicagos
population grew. More people used more water and produced
more waste. More pastures were converted to concrete,
which increased the amount of storm-water runoff. Chicagos
sewer system was designed to hold two billion gallons
(eight billion liters) of wastewater per day, but a single
rainstorm in the 1950s could produce five billion gallons
(19 billion liters) of runoff. To prevent flooding, the
river locks were opened into Lake Michigan, allowing contaminated
water onto the beaches. By the early 1970s, Chicagos
beaches had to be closed to the public about 25 percent
of the time.
With the aid of federal money provided
by the 1972 Clean Water Act, Chicago developed the Tunnel
and Reservoir Plan (TARP) which would build large underground
tunnels and reservoirs to catch storm water runoff so
it could be treated and returned to the waterways. Thirty-two
miles (52 kilometers) of the tunnel system, known as the
Deep Tunnel, were completed by 1985. TARP
is still 15 years from completion.When the project is
through, there will be four tunnels and three large reservoirs
aimed at keeping the shores of Lake Michiganas well
as the banks of the Illinois, Des Plaines and Mississippi
Riversfree from contamination.
As the last line of defense against
water contamination, the project should plug the
leak in the citys wastewater treatment system and
extend Chicagos age-old pursuit of clean fresh water
into the future.