Jul 24, 2014

Illinois Governor Signs Clean Water Initiative

Legislation will help make Illinois water infrastructure more resilient

Natural Resources Defense Council Clean Water Initiative Illinois

Gov. Patrick Quinn will sign legislation that will help Illinois cities better prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) worked with the legislature and with Gov. Quinn’s administration to develop the legislation and worked to support the bill’s passage.

The legislation, known as the Clean Water Initiative, provides financial support for communities in Illinois to improve their storm water, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, while also helping make those essential systems better prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change. As the climate warms, Illinois communities can expect more extreme rainfall events interspersed with longer periods of dry conditions that can lower water supplies.

Our water systems were not designed with the increased risks of drought and the extreme precipitation that climate change is making more common. Making more efficient use of water helps make communities better prepared for dry periods like the drought that gripped Illinois in 2012. On the other extreme, more frequent intense storms cause storm water systems to back up, resulting in flooded streets and basements. Already this year, Illinois cities have dealt with local flooding caused by extreme precipitation multiple times, a trend that will continue as climate change impacts become more acute. Gov. Quinn has dealt with these issues more broadly as a member of the president’s Climate Preparedness and Resiliency Task Force.

“As climate continues to warp our weather, Illinois needs to encourage communities to make their water infrastructure more resilient to both extreme precipitation and drought,” said Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. “The bill Gov. Quinn signs today will help communities’ water infrastructure meets the changing demands of the future using new strategies that bring real bang for the buck like green infrastructure and water efficiency.”

Extreme precipitation events cause flooding in urban areas when storm water systems get overwhelmed. Under the legislation green infrastructure—projects that collect, hold and filter rain water where it falls, like rain gardens, permeable pavement and rain collection systems—would be eligible for financial assistance from the state’s water infrastructure fund. Both NRDC and CNT have done research showing that green infrastructure projects can help prevent urban flooding, cut pollution runoff into rivers and lakes, and replenish our supply of fresh water, saving money at the same time.

“Illinois residents, businesses, and farmers have been suffering the devastating effects of unusually severe flooding, drought or both. Climate change is likely to make these events more common,” said Hal Sprague, water policy manager at CNT. “The bill Gov. Quinn signs today will help us manage such water challenges better and more cost effectively, treating rain as a valuable resource and allowing us to implement systems and infrastructure that protect our homes, investments, and the environment.”