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Regional Water Supply Planning in Northeastern Illinois: New Supply Ideas for the 21st Century

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At the behest of Governor Blagojevich's Executive Order 2006-1, an eleven county water supply planning process is underway in northeastern Illinois; one of two priority water planning areas in the state. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has been chosen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to orchestrate this new planning initiative and has organized a new Regional Water Supply Planning Group (RWSPG) to be the representative body for deliberations and plan recommendations. Patterned somewhat after the Texas model, the RWSPG is composed of thirty-five delegates. Delegates represent the following stakeholder-interest groups:



academia and pubic interest in regional planning (2)


agriculture (2)


business, industry, and power (2)


conservation and resource management (2)


county government (11)


environmental advocacy (2)


municipalities and municipal water suppliers (10)


real estate and development (2)


wastewater and non-municipal water suppliers (2)


The eleven-county-planning region is anything but homogenous. Water is “managed” under two very different legal schemes and the region is dependent on three different sources of water: Lake Michigan, groundwater, and two inland rivers. Thus, one of the most formidable challenges to potential shortages in the future, is a response that demonstrates that the region is managing water in a coordinated and equitable fashion.

Now in their third and final year of this first phase of planning, the RWSPG is emphasizing water-use conservation and wastewater reuse as two potential “new supplies”. The most significant new supply, however, might be more creative use of the Illinois Lake Michigan diversion. Governed by a US Supreme Court Consent Decree, this largest of out-of Great Lakes Basin diversions, has the potential to help, but not solve all the water-resource challenges that northeastern Illinois can expect.

Results from a water-demand study will be presented alongside a rapidly evolving understanding of the region's water supplies in the context of the nascent regional plan that is due by July 2009.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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