|What are the Challenges for Illinois Water Supplies?
Numerous challenges exist in making water available in Illinois. These fall into four
general classifications: 1) human-related limitations, 2) reduction of some existing supplies, 3) growth of use
and future demands, and 4) uncertain fluctuations in supplies.
A changing society with increasing laws, rules, and regulations
pertaining to a better understanding of the environment, water, and land use has created a complex maze. Growth of urban areas, increased
water use, and lack of available space for water storage collectively increase water costs and
those of developing new sources. These societal changes, population growth, and growing
demands have led to more conflicts over water supplies. Although much data on water supplies
and use have been collected, they are not complete, particularly about many water uses, thereby
limiting wise decision making. Past water-supply planning too often has been fragmentary, with
few recommendations for improvements adopted.
Some water supplies have dwindled for several reasons. A significant fraction of all
water obtained is wasted and demand could be reduced through conservation.
Human pollution has impaired water resources.
Reservoirs have lost capacity due to sediment accumulation.
Overpumpage of aquifers, resulting in
serious depletion of critical groundwater supplies, has long been a problem in deep bedrock
aquifers in northeastern Illinois where demands are high. Recharge of some aquifers may require decades
to centuries, so those depleted aquifers will remain serious problems for many years.
Illinois’ ever-growing population and commercial base increasingly demand quality water
supplies. Projections of demands for metropolitan Chicago and other major urban areas show
water shortages will appear soon if nothing is done. Another problem is uncertain fluctuations in
supplies due to climatic extremes such as droughts and floods. Droughts quickly can create water
shortages, and floods often damage waste water treatment facilities and send polluted
water into streams and rivers. Although there are major scientific uncertainties about the type of
climate change that will occur in Illinois, the state’s precipitation and temperatures will change,
placing additional stress on water supplies, depending on the types and magnitudes of climate