Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 21, 2006

Millions more people, same amount of water

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Illinois — nemo @ 1:21 pm

The Beacon News (Chicago) reports on the newly formed Regional Water Supply Planning Group — serving an 11-county area in and around Chicago — that will develop a plan that looks at the water supply needed to handle growth through 2050:

The need for the water is simple: the Chicago area is projected to be using about 8.5 billion gallons of water a day by 2025, and officials are unsure where all that is going to come from. The increased water will be needed because the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission currently forecasts an additional 2.1 million people, for a total of 10.6 million, will be living in the Chicago area by 2030.

And that includes just the NIPC forecasts, which are done for the seven-county Chicago region of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. For the water study, the counties of Boone, Grundy, Kankakee and DeKalb counties are included, because they are on the same recharge areas and aquifers as the Chicago region.

Another key problem is the population estimates themselves, which are an inexact science, Schuch said. As an example, he pointed to NIPC’s projections that Kane County would have a population of 470,000 by 2010. Already, in 2005, it was estimated to have a population of about 482,000.

Another difficulty is that Lake Michigan water, once seen as the savior of water supply in the Chicago area, is limited by international treaties and interstate agreements, backed up by Supreme Court directives. Illinois exceeded its limit of Lake Michigan water during the first 14 years it used the water, and has had to take less and less since 1995 to make up for it. Because the water is limited, lake water is not a possibility for counties like Kane, McHenry or Kendall.

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