New MPC and Openlands report tackles Illinois water supply concerns - Metropolitan Planning Council

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New MPC and Openlands report tackles Illinois water supply concerns

MPC and Openlands, both longtime advocates for sustainable water supply management, have 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.  Download the executive summary of recommendations, or the full report, here.

“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 through 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.

“By coordinating at the local, regional, and state levels, Illinois can stave off projected water supply shortages,” according to MPC President MarySue Barrett. “The regional water supply planning groups have started us down the right path, and now it is time for state investment to spur implementation of those plans and provide flexible incentives for conservation and efficiency measures by local water supply managers and individual consumers.” 

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.  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.

Both local and regional action, however, need financial and technical assistance from the state.  Before the Wells Run Dry lays out the appropriate roles and responsibilities for the state and state agencies in regional water supply planning, and identifies revenue opportunities to encourage conservation while supporting necessary research, planning and investment.  Additionally, the report recommends four areas of investment and policy reform that would immediately provide conservation and efficiency gains, and benefit from regional coordination:

  • Manage demand and rethink supply
  • Invest in goal-oriented infrastructure
  • Link land use and water availability
  • Optimize the Lake Michigan diversion

"Adopt conservation practices, increase the efficiency of our water delivery systems, do a better job of capturing and using stormwater, and work together on solutions that match the scale of the water resource in question—those are the ingredients of sustainable water supply management in this region and others," explained Barrett.  "Whether northeastern Illinois faces water shortages in the future is a matter of choice, not fate.  Northeastern Illinois has immense waste and inefficiency problems, but those can be solved if we choose to do so." 

For more information about Before the Wells Run Dry, please contact Josh Ellis at 312-863-6045 or or Lenore Beyer-Clow at 312-863-6264 or

Download the Executive Summary of Before the Wells Run Dry

Download the Full Report (including Executive Summary) of Before the Wells Run Dry


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