Water Supply Management - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Water Supply Management

Ensuring safe, sustainable and equitable drinking water systems

A statewide solution to lead in drinking water

Lead in drinking water is an outsized challenge in Illinois that disproportionately hurts children. No amount of lead exposure is safe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Any level of exposure can lower IQs, increase attention-related behavior problems, and reduce growth and hearing in children. The negative effects of childhood lead exposure linger for a lifetime, with costs that accrue to all of us.

Lead in drinking water primarily comes from lead service lines that bring water into homes from utilities’ water mains. Research has shown that the best way to eliminate lead in drinking water is to completely replace all lead service lines. However, although the health consequences of lead exposure have been understood for decades, at least 686,000 lead service lines remain in counties across the state. People can be affected and not know it, as some 28 percent of service lines in Illinois are of an unknown composition. This outdated infrastructure is a clear and present public health threat.

MPC is working with partners across Illinois to identify a feasible and equitable plan, timeline and funding for Illinois water utilities to identify and replace all lead service lines. Doing so would make Illinois and its communities more resilient and less vulnerable to a drinking water crisis, with modern infrastructure to provide clean, safe water to all homes, schools, and businesses. This initiative would also generate some 144,000 jobs for Illinoisans, according to an economic impact analysis showing that for every $1 million invested in capital improvements to water infrastructure, 15 to 18 jobs are created.   

Explore and share the following resources to help us raise awareness of this costly threat to public health. 

Additional resources:
Lead in Drinking Water: A Community Guide for Immediate Action: This one-page resource highlights 10 actions community leaders and staff can take to help protect their communities, and rebuild public trust on the issue of lead in drinking water.

Drinking Water 1-2-3: A guide for elected officials and community leaders to educate and support a better understanding of water management, including critical questions and actions needed today.

Lead in Drinking Water Blog Series: This blog series explores the complicated issue of, and prudent solutions for addressing lead in our drinking water, including posts from guest authors.

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