What Our Water's Worth: McHenry adopts NWPA lawn watering ordinance - Metropolitan Planning Council

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What Our Water's Worth: McHenry adopts NWPA lawn watering ordinance

Justin Chiaratti

The NWPA ordinance, developed in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), establishes a year-round watering regimen to conserve groundwater and river water supplies in the region.

The City of McHenry, located 50 miles northwest of Chicago, became the latest adopter of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA)’s regional conservation lawn watering ordinance when the City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance on March 17, 2014. McHenry joins a handful of communities—such as Aurora, Batavia, Elburn and Montgomery—moving to implement uniform watering hours and drought watering provisions across the five-county NWPA region to ensure a sustainable water supply. The ordinance, developed in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), establishes a year-round watering regimen based on even and odd days and best times to water, with two levels of narrower watering restrictions that allow municipalities to respond appropriately to emergency water shortage situations like drought.

McHenry derives its water supply from shallow aquifers, which are more susceptible to drought conditions than deep aquifers because their recharge rates are largely dependent upon precipitation. According to Jon Schmitt, Public Works director for the City of McHenry, a report released recently by the Ill. State Water Survey about McHenry County’s aquifers spurred action by the City. The report details two studies conducted to support water resources planning in the county: one that mapped “heads” (the height of underground water levels, which affects water pressure, pumping efficiency and discharge to streams) in the shallow aquifers of McHenry County and one that developed and used a computer model to simulate groundwater flow in the aquifers supplying the county. The report concludes that groundwater resources in McHenry County could be strained to the point of water shortages and adverse effects on rivers, streams and wetlands by 2050 if action is not taken immediately to address the current volume of groundwater pumping.

According to Nancy Lorch, Public Works administrative assistant, McHenry is in the process of informing residents about the specifics of the ordinance. Information about the ordinance will be posted on the city’s website and delivered via newsletter. In addition, brochures providing details about the ordinance will be available at the McHenry Municipal Center and the Public Works Facility. Signs that will advise residents about current watering conditions will be installed at the main entrances to the city.

NWPA and MPC are committed to working with members to get the ordinance or resolution passed in each municipality to achieve consistency among NWPA communities and work together on preserving water supplies. To help with this process, NWPA is working on a conservation outreach toolkit that can be used to educate elected officials and the public about regional water supplies and the importance of conservation to maintain a sustainable water supply. The adoption of this ordinance is a great step forward for McHenry and the region, and NWPA encourages other communities to adopt this ordinance and begin to proactively and collaboratively manage regional groundwater and river water supplies.

WOWW Factors

30 percent

Portion of household water volume commonly used outdoors in Illinois during the summer

50 percent

Portion of that volume that actually ends up in the soil, with the rest lost due to inefficient watering practices

60.3 million gallons per day

Potential water savings associated with water waste prohibition measures like the NWPA-recommended lawn watering ordinance

Number of communities that have adopted the NWPA lawn watering ordinance


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