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Troubled Waters: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois

January 1, 2006

Careful planning and management of our water resources is critical to ensuring supplies of clean water at a reasonable cost in the future. Illinois lies adjacent to one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water, Lake Michigan, and has seemingly endless groundwater and surface water. However, parts of Illinois face the same dilemma as states in the west and southwest -- projected water shortages by the year 2020 because of ever-increasing demands for water, combined with legal and physical constraints. The amount or quantity of water that exists in Illinois depends on four factors: water availability, water demand, the supply from existing delivery systems and actual use. While water availability is generally more than adequate to meet future demand, growth in population, the economy and in energy consumption are leading to projected water shortages in some areas. This policy brief advocates for protection of Illinois' water supply through sustainable development practices combined with improved water planning and increased public awareness. It describes current water demands in Illinois and the sources of water supply. It also outlines the considerable challenges to meeting current and future demands, as well as actions to ensure adequate water availability in both quantity and quality for future generations.

Changing Course: Recommendations for Balancing Regional Growth and Water Resources in Northeastern Illinois

December 1, 2004

In this new era of global environmental concerns and economic competition between the world's metropolitan areas, basic questions about the sustainability of the greater Chicago region must be considered. Foremost among these concerns are the increasing pressures on the supplies of two of our most vital and interrelated resources -- land and water. Factors like the amount of open space, density of new development and intensity of farming practices greatly affect the quantity and quality of the region's water resources. Conversely, the quality and quantity of the region's lakes, streams and underground aquifers have a major influence on local land use decisions. Sustainable land use practices are essential to meet increasing demands for clean water. Although the quality of surface water in northeastern Illinois has improved in the past three decades, the supply remains limited by pollution from stormwater runoff, U.S. Supreme Court decisions capping the amount that can be drawn from Lake Michigan, steadily increasing urbanization of the region, inefficient water supply systems and unregulated groundwater withdrawals. To determine how to address these problems across a 12-county region in northeastern Illinois, the Joyce Foundation provided support to the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands, in partnership with the Campaign for Sensible Growth, to undertake a study to examine the relationship between development practices, land use, and water quality and quantity. This study addresses five areas: the state of the region's water resources; the state and federal policies that impact water; regional watershed planning efforts; local development practices and model ordinances; and techniques for reducing the impacts of urbanization on regional water resources.