Jan 25, 2011

Illinois Approves Lake Michigan Water Allocation for Ten Communities

Current groundwater supply is inadequate for growing population

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved a request for Lake Michigan water allocations submitted by ten communities in northern and western Lake County. This is the first step in a multi-step process to transition from groundwater to Lake Michigan water in order to meet long-term water demands for the growing area.

The North-West Lake County Lake Michigan Water Planning Group is made up of ten communities that have been working on this project for more than four years by conducting feasibility studies and developing the allocation requests. The communities include Antioch, Fox Lake, Lake Villa, Lake Zurich, Lindenhurst, Long Grove, Volo, Wauconda, and the unincorporated Lake County areas of Fox Lake Hills and Grandwood Park.

"This is good news, but we still have a lot of work to do. The existing water supply is simply not adequate to meet water demands now and into the future,” said Mark Knigge, mayor of Wauconda and president of the Lake County Municipal League. “Lake Michigan water is the most cost-effective option to ensure that residents have a clean, sustainable water supply. All of the communities must work together to educate the public on this critical issue."

Feasibility studies have shown the aquifers in the area have limited capacity and are susceptible to impurities and contaminants. Also, demand for water has resulted in over-pumping of several aquifers, creating low water levels and poor water quality.

The next step is for the elected officials of the group to form a water agency and develop a financing plan. A potential initial funding source for the group is general obligation bonds, which could require a referendum in the communities to obtain voter approval. Once the financing plan is established, the group would proceed with design and construction of the necessary treatment, pumping and pipeline facilities.

The total estimated cost is $250 million for a system that would use the existing intake facility at the Lake County Public Water District in Zion, and require installation of 57 miles of pipeline. Each municipality would have its own local distribution system. About half of the cost would come from general obligation bonds to be funded by property taxes in these specific communities. The remainder would come from revenue bonds funded by monthly service charges on water bills. It is estimated that it will cost the average household about $40 more per month for Lake Michigan water delivered through this project.