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Every drop counts

“Before the Wells Run Dry,” a half-day forum hosted by MPC and Openlands on Oct. 13, drove home one key message: ‘Water waste and inefficiency we can solve; water scarcity is something our region must avert.’ 

Hitchhock Design

In advance of the forthcoming report Before the Wells Run Dry: Ensuring Sustainable Water Supplies for Illinois (to be released October 29), more than 125 people from throughout Illinois and the Midwest attended MPC and Openlands’ half-day forum of the same name to build consensus on the need for regional water supply planning and strategies to make better use of our finite water resources.  “Water waste and inefficiency we can solve; water scarcity is something our region must avert,” said Jerry Adelmann, executive director of Openlands, setting the tone for the day.  “We can solve water waste with reforms to our current system - state financial and technical assistance, along with regional consensus building, can give public and private water supply managers the right tools to implement conservation and efficiency strategies,” he added.

The forum and forthcoming report come at a pivotal time in Illinois’ water history.  Since MPC and Openlands released their 2005 report Troubled Waters, two pilot regional water planning groups (in northeastern Illinois and in the Mahomet Aquifer area) have been examining data on supply and demand scenarios, and most importantly, building consensus between local units of government and other stakeholders on strategies for sustainable water supply management.  The initial planning cycle is coming to a close, and no state funding has been forthcoming for FY2010 and beyond.  At the same time, the Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources will release its strategy for continuing and expanding the regional water supply planning process at the November meeting of the Illinois Groundwater Association.

“Moving forward all water policies and investment, at every level, must account for and respect two truths: Water supply management is primarily local, but water supplies themselves are typically regional.  Rivers, aquifers and pipes cross political borders, while rain falls where it will,” said MPC president MarySue Barrett. “The regional level is right for sharing data, setting common goals, and establishing consensus on sustainability strategies that match the scale of the supply in question.  However, those strategies must address the needs of local water supply managers and other stakeholders.” 

From the first speaker, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, to the last, Chicago Dept. of Water Management Commissioner John Spatz, the forum’s 12 speakers conveyed very similar messages: Population and business growth will strain all of our water resources and aging infrastructure, so proactive and coordinated planning is essential (Click here for the agenda.) 

Speakers also urged a rethinking of conventional wisdom. "We often see stormwater as a liability, but it doesn't have to be," said Weisner. 

“Stormwater is the only water that truly gets delivered to every home free of charge,” said Steve Wise, director of the Natural Resources Program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “It’s time federal and state policy recognized that stormwater is part of our water supply solution,” added Wise, citing the benefits of harvesting rainwater for use in flushing toilets and other non-potable purposes.  

All of the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations are available below (Henry Henderson, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program, did not use a slideshow), and audio files will soon be available for download on Chicago Amplified.  The forum was generously sponsored by Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., and Illinois American Water.  The forthcoming report is made possible by the Joyce Foundation and Lumpkin Family Foundation.

Conservation, efficiency, education, innovation and coordination will be the keys to sustainability.  In 2010 MPC and Openlands will advocate for increased state support for regional water supply planning, a rethinking of federal and state infrastructure investment policies, and more flexible tools for local conservation and efficiency upgrades.  For more information, contact Josh Ellis at (312) 863-6045 or jellis@metroplanning.org


Jerry Adelmann, Executive Director, Openlands and MarySue Barrett, President, Metropolitan Planning Council

Reinventing infrastructure investment

Hon. Tom Weisner, Mayor, City of Aurora, Ill.
Steve Wise, Director, Natural Resources Program, Center for Neighborhood Technology

Linking land use planning and water supply analysis

Tim Loftus, Project Director, NE IL Regional Water Supply Planning, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Paul Schuch, Director of Water Resources, Kane County
Rob Montgomery, Principal and Founder, Montgomery Associates: Resource Solutions

Spurring demand management solutions to water supply

Karla Olson Teasley, President, Illinois American Water
Scott Edwards, Vice President for Communications, Veolia Water
Don L. Coursey, Ameritech Professor of Public Policy Studies, Harris School, University of Chicago

Optimizing Illinois’ Lake Michigan diversion

Dan Injerd, Chief, Lake Michigan Management, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Karen Sands, Manager of Sustainability, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
John Spatz, Commissioner, City of Chicago Dept. of Water Management


  1. 1. Jhastin from EKYDiyuwHxioPzQzAKo on May 14, 2012

    Very nice shot Larry. The Art Institute is such nice place to visit and a great place for doing some photography. One of my fraivote areas in Chicago.

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