Drought on the Horizon
Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its latest Climate Normals – a decennial analysis of U.S. weather over three decades (1991 – 2020). This snapshot provides a more accurate reflection of what is considered ‘normal’ weather amid a rapidly changing climate. According to NOAA, the average annual temperature in Illinois has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of this century, temperatures are expected to rise 7 to 12 degrees.
The Illinois Water Inventory Program (IWIP) develops and maintains a database of high-capacity water wells and intakes from public water supplies, self-supplied industries, irrigation, fish and wildlife, and conservation sectors. But they do much more than collect data. Participation and involvement with IWIP pays dividends for operators, stakeholders, and users alike.
IWIP coordinates reporting and data collection on high-capacity water wells and intakes statewide, which are defined as any well or intake that is rated to pump 70 gallons per minute (gpm) or greater, both individually and as a combined measure when multiple wells/intakes are present at one facility. This collection is done primarily through IWIP’s Online Reporting Tool and covers groundwater and surface water uses.
As more residents are staying at home in response to the coronavirus, some utilities may be seeing an increase in residential water use. As the pandemic drags on, it’s easy to imagine residents spending more time in their gardens and lawns – which could result in an increase in outdoor water use. Under more normal circumstances, approximately one third of household water use is devoted to outdoor watering, and as much as 50 percent of that water is wasted due to unwise and wasteful watering behavior. Given these conditions, it’s a good time to review strategies to promote wise outdoor water use as the summer months approach.
The Metropolitan Planning Council debuted their latest report, Water Affordability in Northeastern Illinois, with a presentation and Q&A session at the February TAC meeting. The report examined the nuances around water affordability and pricing.
Water rates in Northeastern Illinois have gone up 80% over the past 10 years with many contributing factors, notably the need to replace aging water and sewer infrastructure. The report looked at different methods to measure affordability and water burden and tried to ask the question if unaffordable rates were an income inequality issue, a water pricing issue, or both.
WaterSense, a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is both a label for water-efficient products and a resource for helping you save water.
WaterSense partners are ambassadors spreading the water-efficiency message. Becoming a WaterSense partner is free and offers exclusive member-only resources, networking opportunities, and branding.
The NWPA encourages all member communities to become WaterSense partners. 26 NWPA member municipalities, including Aurora, Elgin, St. Charles, and Sugar Grove are already active partners. The partners-only resources page features collateral and outreach materials that are fully customizable for communicating initiatives to the public, the media, and stakeholders.
Pharmaceuticals find their way into the drinking water supply in numerous ways, including but not limited to septic systems, landfills, and fertilization.
Contaminants of emerging concern are chemicals that have been discovered in the environment with no current regulatory standard to control them. Recently identified and discovered due to advances in science, these chemicals are concerning because their impacts on water quality, aquatic life, and human health are still unknown. The most well-known of these chemicals are classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of 3,000 to 4,000 chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries dating back to the 1940’s. The chemicals are persistent and accumulate over time, and there is evidence of negative health impacts from PFAS on humans and animals. PFAS are found in everyday consumer goods – generally speaking, anything that is water resistant, heat-proof, or stain resistant includes PFAS. Historically, the largest source of PFAS exposure is from firefighting foam which was used most frequently at and around airports.
Most people have been exposed to PFAS, but not necessarily at the elevated levels that are concerning. When tested, PFAS has been found in 97% of tested human blood samples. However, there is no large-scale sampling effort currently underway for PFAS in the United States.
How can the price of water in your community be changed to promote water conservation? How can municipalities price water to keep basic needs and services affordable for all residents while promoting reduced use? And what are the long-term benefits for the municipality?
What is conservation pricing?
Conservation pricing is water rate structures that motivate consumers to use water efficiently. These structures come in many forms, such as uniform rates, tiered rates, seasonal rates, and water budget-based rates. For all of these rate structures, wasteful or inefficient water use is more costly for customers than using only what they really need for drinking, cooking, sanitation, and cleaning.
Significant portions of the Chicago region – especially those dependent upon groundwater sources -- are encountering water supply and quality issues. The region’s comprehensive plan, ON TO 2050, anticipates these issues will grow unless additional steps are taken to coordinate and conserve the region’s shared water supply resources. The recently updated regional water demand forecast revealed that while overall water use is stable, projected demand will exceed available groundwater supplies in some areas. Yet with additional conservation and efficiency measures, the region can maintain its long-term drinking water supplies.
The Metropolitan Planning Council, along with partners the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, have created a peer-to-peer learning exchange and local technical assistance program — called the Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy — to further assist communities in implementing best practices featured in MPC’s Drinking Water 1-2-3 guide.
Part one of this program is a series of four half-day events across the region that feature education about key best practices that target important local issues for decision makers and the communities they serve. The audience for these events is elected officials, community leaders and top municipal staff, and speakers will include community leaders and water experts with an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning and example case studies from the region.
The latest updates page features posts about issues affecting NWPA member communities and best practices, drawing on interviews and conversations with experts.