Chicago reaching limit on fresh water supply

Posted on July 16, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Planners, manufacturers look for ways to get water to 2.2 million more people from the same — or smaller — supplies

 
The EPA says at least 36 states are anticipating shortages by 2013 even under non-drought conditions.
 

With an estimated 2.2 million more people expected to live in Northeastern Illinois by 2030, the bottom-line question becomes not mortgage availability or zoning densities or commuting expenses but whether there will be enough water to go around and at what cost.
 
Perched on the edge of one of the world’s great fresh water sources, the Chicago metro area, ironically, is reaching the upper limit of the water it can take from the lake by court order while at the same time discovering the deep water aquifers supplying outer suburbs are not replenishing as before.
 
“Most people don’t think they waste water” but at the same time they are not eager for higher utility costs or added taxes, said Al Dietemann, acting resource conservation manager of the Seattle Public Utilities. Businesses and consumers respond when “the public is aware they can keep water bills down with more efficient water use,” he said.
 
By 2007, the Seattle-area Saving Water Partnership, an 18-member utility consortium in Seattle and King County, reported the total billed water consumption had dropped 23 percent since 1990 and 13 percent since 2000.
 
The drop was the result of a public education program and through incentives to use more water-efficient (water-saving) equipment.
 
In addition to regional planning, Illinois eventually may have to come up with a state water plan. It is one of eight states that has approved the Great Lakes Compact, an effort to protect and restrict access to water in the five Great Lakes. Michigan, the last state bordering the Great Lakes to approve the agreement, signed on Wednesday. The Compact must be approved by Congress before it becomes law.
 
If the Compact goes forward, it “requires the state to pass a conservation plan with specific conservation goals and implementation steps,” noted Joyce O’Keefe, deputy director of Openlands.
 
This planning dovetails with growing public awareness and understanding of natural resources limits, O’Keefe said. It’s an awareness that is being heightened by the U.S. EPA’s national WaterSense program, similar to the successful Energy Star label, to identify products that are 20 to 30 percent more water efficient, and local programs such as green roofs to promote water conservation and reduce storm-water runoff.
 
McHenry’s underground aquifers can produce 120 million gallons of water a day, more than enough to supply the 34.6 million gallons a day drawn in 2000 and meet an anticipated need of 67.5 million gallons a day projected for 2030. Future usage, however, could reach 164 million gallons a day if all the towns in McHenry achieve their master plans, more than is now available.
 

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