Report Offers Solutions to Stem Lake Michigan Water Loss

Report supports Illinois Deptartment of Natural Resources proposals to modernize Lake Michigan water permit conditions & makes further recommendations

Metropolitan Planning Council Lake Michigan water loss

Best estimates suggest northeastern Illinois loses enough Lake Michigan water each week to fill more than one Willis Tower, but that figure—some 26 billion gal each year—may be even higher. To improve the information collected about regional water loss and, ultimately, to reduce wasted Lake Michigan water, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has proposed changing regulations for its 200-plus local permittees using Lake Michigan water. The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released the report, Immeasurable Loss: Modernizing Lake Michigan Water Use, which supports IDNR’s proposals and makes further recommendations.

“We know northeastern Illinois is losing Lake Michigan water—and with it, the money rate payers contributed to pumping, treating and distributing this water,” said MPC Program Director Josh Ellis. “Yet we do not have a clear picture of how much water or how much money we are wasting because the state’s permit conditions do not capture the information needed to accurately assess loss and the reasons driving it. That’s just one reason why the Metropolitan Planning Council supports the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ proposals to modernize the permit conditions.”

At an event hosted by MPC, Ellis explained why and how IDNR’s proposals and MPC’s further recommendations will help communities and the region develop better solutions to prevent Lake Michigan water loss. The audience included local and state elected officials, water resource professionals, utility managers, and other stakeholders. A panel of speakers including representatives from IDNR, Village of Westmont and Illinois American Water—which sponsored the event—added their perspectives on the proposed changes.

IDNR currently requires permittees to submit an annual reporting form, called the LMO-2. IDNR’s proposal would change the form to eliminate the designation “Maximum Unavoidable Leakage (MUL),” which allows permittees to exempt some of their water loss before tallying and reporting their total loss.

MPC strongly supports eliminating this exemption, as well as IDNR’s proposals to modernize its permit conditions on water rate setting, metering, outdoor water use, and plumbing. MPC’s report urges additional changes as well, which fall under five action areas:

  1. 1. Improve the existing accounting system, while exploring a new approach
  2. 2. Encourage communities to adopt full-cost pricing and comprehensive, advanced metering
  3. 3. Require permittees to adopt modern plumbing standards
  4. 4. Strengthen and streamline outdoor water use standards
  5. 5. Increase the capacity of IDNR’s Office of Water Resources to provide greater support to permittees

For complete information on IDNR’s proposed rule changes, please see IDNR is taking comments on the proposed rule changes by email, as well as at three public meetings taking place across the region on May 14, 15 and 22. 

Metropolitan Planning Council

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