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Publication Abstract

Northeastern Illinois Water Supply Planning Investigations: Opportunities and Challenges of Meeting Water Demand in Northeastern Illinois--Full Report Meyer, Scott C., H. Allen Wehrmann, H. Vernon Knapp, Yu-Feng Lin, F. Edward Glatfelter, James R. Angel, Jason F. Thomason, Daniel A. Injerd, 2012  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS CR 2012-03    Full Text Available
1.1 Executive Order 2006-01

The availability and sustainability of an adequate and dependable water supply is essential for public, environmental, and economic health. This understanding led to the initiation, under direction of Executive Order 2006-01, of a three-year program for comprehensive regional water supply planning and management in Illinois. Under the framework of the order, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Water Resources (IDNR-OWR), in coordination with the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), selected two priority water quantity planning areas for pilot planning: a 15-county area in east-central Illinois and an 11-county area in northeastern Illinois. This report focuses on the technical studies in support of water supply planning in the northeastern Illinois region, which includes Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties. These studies highlight the opportunities and challenges of meeting water demand in the region.

Stakeholder water supply planning committees were created in each priority planning area, and each planning committee was tasked with developing regional water supply planning and management recommendations in accordance with existing laws, regulations, and property rights. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) guided formation of a 35-member grassroots water supply planning group for northeastern Illinois, the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply Planning Group (RWSPG). The ISWS and the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), both within the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, along with the IDNR-OWR, were responsible for providing technical support to the RWSPG and updating and expanding regional water resource information.

The RWSPG was charged with developing a regional plan that clearly describes water supply and demand issues of the region. IDNR-OWR suggested that the regional plan contain at least the following principal components:

  • Descriptions of the sources of water available to northeastern Illinois;
  • Plausible estimates of how much water may be needed to the year 2050;
  • Estimates of the impacts of withdrawing sufficient water to meet demand; and
  • Descriptions of options for providing additional sources of water and/or decreasing demand.

The RWSPG was assigned the responsibility of developing water demand scenarios to 2050, which was accomplished via contract with investigators at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The purpose of this report is to describe the water resources of northeastern Illinois and summarize the impacts on those resources from increased withdrawals to meet prescribed scenarios of water demand to the year 2050. Time and budget constraints limited the state surveys’ assessment of water supply impacts to three principal sources of water: the deep bedrock aquifer that underlies all of the study area; the sand and gravel shallow bedrock aquifer underlying only the Fox River watershed; and the surface waters of the Fox River watershed. The study also took into account surface water supplied from Lake Michigan based on summary information provided by IDNR-OWR. Figure 1 illustrates the planning region.

1.2 Report Structure

The Southern Illinois University Department of Geography developed three scenarios characterizing water demand to 2050 for the RWSPG (Dziegielewski and Chowdhury, 2008). The demand scenarios are summarized in Section 2. Section 3 discusses Illinois’ use of Lake Michigan.

The methods, data, and analytical tools used to evaluate the impacts of withdrawals on surface waters of the Fox River watershed and on groundwater are reported in Section 4. Section 4 also includes descriptions of the impacts of the water withdrawal scenarios on these water resources in the region as well as a description of the nature of the water sources. The impacts of drought and possible climate change on Fox watershed surface water availability and the impacts on the environment of increased water withdrawals under drought and possible climate change conditions also are described. In addition, Section 4 describes the regional geology, especially regarding the availability of groundwater (aquifers). Summaries of model results are provided at the end of each modeling discussion.

Following a project summary (Section 5), the authors discuss ongoing and future work in Section 6. A glossary of key terms is provided in Section 7, and references are listed in Section 8. As background for those readers unfamiliar with groundwater, a discussion of basic groundwater concepts and terms is provided in Appendix A. A detailed discussion of the regional hydrogeology is found in Appendix B.

1.3 Caveats

The primary focus of the water supply planning initiative is water quantity. Although water quality is not emphasized in this planning effort, water quality issues are reported where existing relevant information is known to the ISWS.

Given the expertise available in the state surveys and the resources and time available to conduct the necessary studies, the following is a list of topics that are important in regional water supply planning and management but are not addressed comprehensively in this report:

  • Economics;
  • Legal matters;
  • Societal and ethical issues and values;
  • Water infrastructure;
  • Water treatment;
  • Water losses;
  • Consumptive water use;
  • Storm water and floods;
  • Utility operations;


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