McHenry County developing preservation
By John Roszkowski
Published August 17, 2006
Faced with the prospect of long-range water shortages,
McHenry County officials are moving ahead with plans to
better protect the county's groundwater supply.
County Board members this week were expected to recommend
staff begin preparing a Request for Proposals for the
development of a comprehensive countywide plan to deal
with groundwater protection issues.
The plan is part of an ongoing effort started six years
ago to address growing concerns over the county's water
supply, said County Board Member Marc Munaretto, R-1st,
"This is something we need to move forward with
to ensure there are sufficient groundwater resources for
the county in the future," said Sue Ehardt, director
of planning and development for McHenry County. "We
need to keep working on the whole groundwater issue."
Last year, Baxter and Woodman Consulting Engineers of
Crystal Lake completed a McHenry County Groundwater Management
Plan, which identified areas of the county facing potential
water shortages and offered recommendations to protect
groundwater. The county commissioned the $580,000 study
by Baxter and Woodman. The study identified potential
significant water shortages in Algonguin and Grafton townships
between 2020 and 2030, based on population trends, groundwater
extraction rates and aquifer levels.
Will get worse
"We're experiencing some shortages already in the
southeastern section of the county. While it's not drastic
yet, it's only going to get worse if we do nothing,"
said Patrick McNulty, public health administrator for
The new plan seeks to identify more specific recommendations
for protecting the county's groundwater quantity and quality
and to encourage the formation of partnerships between
the county, municipalities and other local units of government
on groundwater protection issues. It also will look at
the possible establishment of a water advisory board or
other avenues to regulate groundwater withdrawals and
determine potential new water sources.
County Administrator Peter Austin said the county also
may look at the possibility of creating a new staff position
at the county level to better coordinate groundwater planning
efforts between the county and local municipalities.
Munaretto said with continued population growth and development
in the region, the county needs to take proactive steps
now to protect its groundwater supply.
"It's a finite resource and we have to be careful
to preserve and protect it, but we also have to understand
how we can recycle and reuse (water)," he said. Munaretto
said, for example, that the city of Richmond has been
using treated wastewater for some of its landscape irrigation.
Lynn Rotunno, program and development coordinator for
McHenry County Defenders, a nonprofit environmental organization,
said she is glad the county is taking the issue of groundwater
"The issue is critical and it's becoming more of
an issue as development increases," she said. "We
don't have the option of Lake Michigan water that they
do in many communities closer to the city (of Chicago)."