Illinois Launches New Program to Head Off Projected Water Shortages and Water Quality Concerns in the Chicago Region - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Illinois Launches New Program to Head Off Projected Water Shortages and Water Quality Concerns in the Chicago Region

Droughts, dry wells, and potability threats led to the creation of the Illinois Water Supply Initiative, a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive state program to manage precious water resources

(Chicago) …Advocates for a clean, abundant, reasonably priced water supply available throughout Illinois gathered at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on Monday, June 5, to celebrate the launch of a new state program, the Illinois Water Supply Initiative, which marks Illinois’ first step toward developing a comprehensive statewide framework to manage water resources.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed and the Illinois General Assembly approved more than $1 million in state funding for the Illinois Water Supply Initiative as part of the FY06 budget. At the news conference – which fittingly took place on June 5, World Environment Day – the governor’s Senior Policy Development Advisor for Environment and Energy Steven Frenkel, and State Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), who championed the creation of the program, joined nonprofit planning advocates from Openlands, Metropolitan Planning Council, and the Campaign for Sensible Growth, to outline the new program’s purpose and scope.

“Water is critically important to our lives and our livelihoods, with billions of gallons required each day for drinking, bathing, farming, manufacturing, mining, power generation, recreation – the list goes on,” said Frenkel. “To ensure all Illinois residents and businesses have access to a clean, plentiful supply of water at a fair cost, Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed the Illinois Water Supply Initiative to proactively address projected water shortages and quality issues statewide.”

Prior to the Illinois Water Supply Initiative, which will be administered by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, no comprehensive statewide or regional plans existed for managing Illinois’ water resources. A year-long drought, which started in March 2005 and stretched through this winter, called attention to the fact that – drought or no drought – withdrawals from underground water stores, or aquifers, may be exceeding sustainable yields in some parts of Illinois.

“Many fast-growing areas in northeastern Illinois draw water not from Lake Michigan, but from a deep aquifer system that is being tapped to its sustainable limits,” said Sen. Garrett. “While some counties have conducted extensive studies of their water supplies and are ahead of the curve, the Illinois Water Supply Initiative will help head off potential water shortages and quality issues in all counties and regions in Illinois by providing data, coordinating between municipalities and counties, and developing a statewide framework for regional plans and actions.”

The creation of a statewide framework for water supply planning and management was the major recommendation of the report Troubled Waters: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois , co-released Jan. 9, 2006, by Openlands and Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), in conjunction with the Campaign for Sensible Growth. The day of the report’s release, Gov. Blagojevich issued an executive order calling for scientific studies of Illinois’ water system, and the development of comprehensive state and regional plans to manage this finite resource. The executive order recognized that increasing demands on Illinois' water resources will create conflicts between multiple water supply users, adversely affect our health and the environment, and hurt the economy.

“The timing of this initiative is ideal,” said Joyce O’Keefe, deputy director of Openlands, and project principal for Troubled Waters . “Counties like Kane, Lake and McHenry have already invested in developing local water supply plans but now recognize that their efforts to manage water will be futile without a more regional approach.”

Indeed, both O’Keefe and Scott Goldstein, MPC vice president of policy and planning, and project principal for Troubled Waters , credited Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Garrett for supporting forward-thinking policy that will help all Illinois communities plan now to meet water demand expected to grow by 30 percent over the next 20 years, according to Southern Illinois University researchers.

“Planning is extremely important to make sure we work together as a region to protect our scarce water supplies,” said Goldstein. “We are grateful to the governor and Sen. Garrett for recognizing the need to direct state resources toward a program that will ensure a clean, abundant water supply at a reasonable cost for all Illinois residents and businesses, today and in the future.”

For a copy of Troubled Waters: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois, visit www.metroplanning.org/uploads/cms/documents/TroubledWaters.pdf.

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For more information, please contact Mandy Burrell , MPC communications associate, at (o) 312-863-6018, (c) 773-640-1206, or mburrell@metroplanning.org; or Holly Goldin, Openlands communications manager, at 312-427-4256 or hgoldin@openlands.org; or State Sen. Susan Garrett at 847-433-2002 or ilsenate29@sbcglobal.net. World Environment Day is an annual event sponsored by the United Nations to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment. Learn more at www.unep.org/wed .

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