Metropolitan regions around the Midwest are expanding rapidly into neighboring farmland and natural areas, but few people are asking, “Is there enough water?”
The allocation of water from Lake Michigan is limited by Supreme Court decree. Many areas on the fringe of the Chicago region are predicted to suffer water shortages within the next 20 years, but development is booming in those same locations. At the same time, new development is dramatically increasing demand for water and damaging the needed water supplies. Hundreds of thousands of acres of new parking lots, roads, and other impervious surfaces prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground and replenishing groundwater supplies – and the water that is able to soak in often ends up polluted by gasoline, oils, road salts, or fertilizers and pesticides from suburban lawns. Shallow aquifers are increasingly polluted, and deep aquifers become more contaminated by radon the further they are drawn down.
By 2020, a number of townships and municipalities in the Chicago region will not have access to a sufficient amount of water to meet growing demand. Most of these shortages are projected for the “outer counties” where rapid growth is occurring without consideration of the availability of, or impact on, water supplies and where rapid growth is also threatening water quality.
ELPC is working with key stakeholders in these communities to achieve three goals: (1) Promote smart growth planning policies and practices that will enable suitable development to go forward: (2) Protect vulnerable groundwater resources from contamination; and (3) Protect surface water resources in Northern Illinois rivers, lakes and streams from development pressures that can harm aquatic ecosystems. We believe that our efforts will increase the level of discussion about these critical issues and promote solutions that meet the growth and environmental needs of these communities.
In 2011, ELPC published a series of four reports, Land Use Tools to Protect Goundwater, funded by the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. They are available as PDF downloads, and you can also request a print copy.
|Part 1: Overlay Districts|
|Part 2: Preserving Recharge|
|Part 3: Conservation Design|
|Part 4: Water Efficiency|