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Great Lakes Article:

Towns prepare for water crunch
By Dave Wischnowsky
Chicago Tribune
Published August 18, 2006

With Lake County's booming growth expected to eventually strain its limited water supply--even with Lake Michigan nearby--a handful of communities are banding together to ensure that they won't one day be left high and dry.

Antioch, Fox Lake, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst and Old Mill Creek have agreed in principle to help fund a study that would look into sources of water for the future, said Lake County Public Works Director Peter Kolb.

The study, which is spearheaded by the county and would cost $48,000, would include a projection of the participating towns' populations for 2025, what their water demands would be at that time, what supply options could be available and the costs involved.

All of the municipalities, which now draw water from shallow wells and surface sources, are in north Lake County west of Interstate Highway 94, where rapid growth is anticipated in coming years.

"It's no secret that as villages and population continue to grow in the region, we're certainly going to need more and more water," said Wes Walsh, Lindenhurst's director of public works.

"For the long term for our villages and residents, we need to do something."

On Monday, Lindenhurst's Village Board voted to contribute $8,000 to the study.

When the County Board's Public Works and Transportation Committee meets Aug. 29, Kolb said he expects to announce that Antioch, Fox Lake, Lake Villa and Old Mill Creek also have made financial commitments.

If the committee then gives the green light to proceed with the study, it would take five or six months to complete, he said.

A report released in December by the Metropolitan Planning Council and other conservation groups warned that in 20 years the county's population growth could outpace its water supply.

In response to that report, Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order for state agencies to develop a comprehensive water management plan for the Chicago area and a swath of central Illinois.

Worries about the county's future water supplies arose during last summer's drought. Many towns draw their water from shallow aquifers and surface sources, which Kolb said already are spread thin.

Deep welling is not the best option because of radium in the water, which is expensive to treat.

And while about a dozen communities in the county, including Libertyville, Gurnee and Mundelein, pump in water from Lake Michigan through the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, that membership is limited.

The amount of water that can be drawn from the lake is tightly controlled by the U.S. government, and Kolb said the county's supply is spoken for.

In its study the county would look into whether additional communities could eventually tap into Lake Michigan water. The study also would examine potential water conservation measures and continue the mapping of the county's underground aquifers.

"With continued development, there are two big issues" related to water, Kolb said. "One, where will the water come from? And two, what will we do with wastewater? ... We want to get the full picture of what options we have."


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