Illinois Drought: Update – August 24, 2005, Illinois State Water Survey

Illinois Drought




JULY 7, 2005


  • The Illinois Commerce Commission only regulates 44 investor-owned water utilities serving approximately 350,000 water customers. These utilities collectively operate about a hundred systems throughout the State of Illinois. The Commission does not regulate municipal water systems or water systems owned by homeowners associations. The EPA regulates 1,950 public water suppliers throughout the State.


  • Only 3 investor-owned water utilities collectively serve over 10,000 customers. The majority of Commission regulated water utilities are small well systems. I contacted these 3 investor-owned water utilities in the State of Illinois to assess their drought status.


Illinois-American Water Company


Illinois-American Water Company is the largest investor-owned water utility in the State of Illinois serving 267,000 customers throughout the state with water facilities in the Chicago Metro Area, Champaign, Pontiac, Sterling, Streator, Lincoln, Pekin, Peoria, Alton, Cairo, and the Interurban District in East St. Louis and Granite City. Illinois-American reports they have seen higher demands in all of their systems, but no system has reached historical peak demand or the rated capacity at this time.


They have had two drought related occurrences. Due to drought conditions causing increased water demand, on June 26, 2005, the Interurban District East St. Louis Plant had at least 10 main breaks, with one being a 16" main break. This large main break near the plant caused reduced pressure resulting in a 2 1/2 day boil order for Belleville, Swansea, Shiloh, Scott AFB, Columbia, Millstadt, Waterloo, and a wholesale customer, City of O'Fallon, issuing its own advisory. In addition, Illinois American issued voluntary water restrictions for six days for Belleville, Swansea, and Shiloh.


The problem does not appear to have been plant capacity, as the historical peak demand had not been reached, or water shortage, as the Mississippi River had adequate water, but a water distribution problem relating to the high demand. The current drought caused greater demand for water, especially water sprinkling. The increased water flowing though the mains caused the main breaks. As a result, Illinois-American, made flow changes to the distribution systems by opening and closing valves to provide more water to higher demand areas.


From June 20-26, a small portion of Illinois-American's Chicago Metro Division of about 2,000 customers living in the Fernway and Alpine Heights Districts were impacted by mandatory water use restrictions imposed by Illinois-American's water supplier, Oak Lawn. It was reported, however, that these restrictions were the result of a power supply issue, no further details were supplied.


Aqua Illinois


The second largest investor-owned water utility, Aqua Illinois, serves 55,000 customers in their Candlewick, Hawthorn Woods, Ivanhoe, Kankakee, Oak Run, University Park, Vermilion, Willowbrook, and Woodhaven Divisions in the northern half of the State. Aqua Illinois reports that they have seen an increase in demand for all of their systems.


They have had two drought related occurrences. The utility has reached peak demand for only their Woodhaven Division serving 6,200 customers in Lee County. As a result, water sprinkling restrictions were in place over the July 4, 2005 weekend and have since been lifted.


Approximately ten days ago, the Village of Hawthorn Woods issued an alternate day water sprinkling restriction which affected customers of Aqua Illinois, who are located in the Village of Hawthorn Woods. The Village issued the precautionary restriction because of approximately 6,000 private wells located in the Village. Aqua Illinois did not issue a separate water restriction since their water supply was adequate and peak demand had not been reached.


Utilities, Inc.


Utilities, Inc has 22 small water utilities scattered in the Northern half of the State with a combined 15,000 customers statewide. These water utilities all operate small well systems with one being purchased water. Utilities, Inc. reports that all systems have kept up with demand so far, however, they have reached peak demands with some wells running non-stop.


They had one drought related occurrence in their Galena Territory Utilities, Inc. system in Jo Daviess County. For approximately 24-hours around July 4, 2005, the Shenodoah and Eagle Ridge areas were issued a lawn sprinkling ban for about 400 customers. The pressure did not drop below 30 psi, however Utilities, Inc. was trying to be proactive in addressing the drought concerns since the water level in their two concrete ground reservoirs was dropping. Unrelated to the current drought, the utility reports they are awaiting EPA approval to drill two new wells because they are losing production from their existing wells. The current well is only 400 ft deep and the proposed wells are to be around 800 ft deep. While the aquifer for the existing wells is drying up and causing a need for new wells, the drought conditions have only exacerbated this situation.




In summary, a check of the investor-owned water utilities shows there have been some relatively minor situations resulting from the drought. The drought has caused water restrictions to be implemented for various reasons such as increased pumpage pressure resulting in main breaks and well systems that already have reduced water withdrawals from inadequate aquifers. Both the investor-owned water utilities and the Commission are closely monitoring the situation and the effects the drought may have on utility customers. While the water supply has been adequate for investor owned water utilities and there are no anticipated water restrictions at this time, the outlook for investor-owned water utilities appears to be heavily dependent on the temperature, precipitation level, and resulting water usage.

Illinois Drought

Illinois State Water Survey

2204 Griffith Dr
Champaign, IL 61820-7463

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