The issue: Mismanaging water jeopardizes a critical asset
Metropolitan Chicago is fortunate to have access to abundant freshwater—from Lake Michigan to the Fox and Kankakee rivers to water stores that lie below the surface, called aquifers. Yet, without thoughtful policies and planning, we risk mismanaging these assets and jeopardizing community and regional growth. To make the most productive and cost-effective use of their shared water resources—which our region relies on not only for drinking water, but also industrial, recreational and transportation uses—communities must work together and with regional and state decision makers and the private sector.
The solution: Sensible regional water supply management
Working closely with partners, including the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and Openlands, MPC brings nearly a decade of experience assisting local communities to solve their water supply management concerns and to collaborate with neighboring communities that share the same water supply. MPC pursues policy reforms to ensure local, regional and state decision makers have quality data about our water supplies, as well as incentives to promote prudent and innovative management techniques.
Water supplies cross many jurisdictions, requiring coordinated planning on the part of many levels of government. MPC is supporting the Northwest Water Planning Alliance—some 80 communities, five counties, and five councils of government working together on shared water supply management—to create a strategic vision and plan, enact uniform municipal lawn watering guidelines, and create a common method to report and analyze critical water resources management data. Together with CMAP, MPC is co-facilitating regional Water 2050 Forums, which convene stakeholders across the eleven-county region to plan and advocate for best practices and useful policy changes that will advance northeastern Illinois’ regional water supply plan, Water 2050, and recommendations from MPC and Openlands’ 2009 report, Before the Wells Run Dry.
Maximizing existing infrastructure
Communities need sound data and adequate funding to manage their water infrastructure. With the release of the report, Immeasurable Loss, MPC has been working with the Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources to promote new and sensible approaches to more thoroughly account for and prevent local water loss. MPC also is exploring how to make better use of existing public funding, such as the State Revolving Loan Fund, more creative types of funding, such as public-private partnerships, and more cooperative management structures, such as utility partnerships or consolidation, to more efficiently manage our water supplies and fund water infrastructure improvements.
Using water efficiently
About 30 percent of water use in households is flushed straight down the toilet—but only after it has been treated to drinking water standards. That just isn’t necessary. MPC is assisting the Ill. Dept. of Public Health to revise the state’s plumbing code, to allow for, among other things, re-use of non-potable water such as rain and graywater. Modernizing the plumbing code will balance sustainability, public health standards and infrastructure costs, while creating new options for property owners and communities to use water more efficiently.
MPC has also been supporter of local communities adopting sound outdoor irrigation practices that reduce unnecessary waste of largest natural asset—water.
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