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Great Lakes Article:

McHenry County developing preservation plan
By John Roszkowski
Algonquin Countryside
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, of Algonquin.

"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 McHenry County.

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 protection seriously.

"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)."



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