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New report tackles projected water shortages, quality issues in Illinois

Chicago, IL—Today, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Openlands, both longtime advocates for sustainable water supply management, released Before the Wells Run Dry: Ensuring Sustainable Water Supplies in Illinois, a joint report with recommendations for improving local and regional water supply planning and conservation strategies across the state.

“Illinois’ population continues to grow, but its water supply does not. Meanwhile, we waste millions of gallons of water each day through leaky pipes, inefficient stormwater management, and uncoordinated planning and development practices,” explained Openlands Executive Director Jerry Adelmann. “Fortunately, we can reduce water waste through local conservation strategies, which actually increase supply, as well as regional consensus-building and planning and state financial and technical assistance.” 

Before the Wells Run Dry, the third report from the ongoing partnership between MPC and Openlands, builds upon their 2005 report Troubled Waters and a 2006 gubernatorial executive order that established two pilot regional water supply groups—one in 11-county northeastern Illinois and the other in the Mahomet Aquifer region of east-central Illinois. The executive order also promised the creation of a statewide framework for regional water supply planning to ensure future supplies will be sufficient to support a growing population, economic development, and the ecosystems upon which we rely.

Before the Wells Run Dry presents a series of recommendations for how Illinois can support and continue the existing regional water supply planning groups, reform state policies and programs to support regional water supply planning throughout Illinois, increase the efficiency of investment in water-related infrastructure, and ultimately reward local management that conserves shared water resources.

"By coordinating at the local, regional, and state levels, Illinois can stave off projected water supply shortages,” according to MPC President MarySue Barrett. “However, we must start now to explore, implement, and fund investments and policies that account for the regional nature of water supplies and local nature of water management.”

Before the Wells Run Dry outlines a water supply planning framework built on these two essential truths:

Water supply management is primarily local. The needs and insights of water supply managers, often municipal governments, must inform regional priorities and must be supported by more flexible and responsive state policies and investments.

Water supplies are inherently regional. Rivers, aquifers, and pipes cross political borders, and rain falls where it will. At the regional level, local communities can share data,  set common goals, and come to consensus on sustainability strategies that match the scale of their shared water supplies.

Download the entire report, including the executive summary of recommendations here. For more information about Before the Wells Run Dry, please contact Mandy Burrell Booth at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org or Lenore Beyer-Clow at 312-863-6264 or lbeyer-clow@openlands.org.

Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. For more information about Openlands, please visit www.openlands.org.

Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth. For more information about MPC, please visit www.metroplanning.org.

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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