SPRINGFIELD – Following last summer’s long and costly drought, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today issued an Executive Order to develop a comprehensive, statewide water supply planning and management strategy. The Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources will oversee the process in conjunction with the State Water Survey (SWS).
"It is critical for Illinois to get ahead of the curve when it comes to water supply planning," said Gov. Blagojevich. "Last summer’s drought demonstrated to us that careful management of our water must be a priority so we always have enough supply for people to drink and use, for our industries like agriculture, and for our fish and wildlife habitats."
While Illinois is on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the largest freshwater sources in the world, and has significant sources of both groundwater and surface water, portions of the state face legal and physical restraints to increasing water supplies. Shortages like last year’s drought, and the restrictions it triggered, have so far been rare, but the growing population of the state and increasing demand for water will strain current sources.
Previously, the SWS, the Illinois Interagency Coordinating Committee on Groundwater, and the Illinois State Water Plan Task Force have identified the Priority Water Quantity Planning Areas that are most at risk for water shortages and conflicts. By December 31, 2006, at least two of those areas will have Regional Water Quantity Plans in process.
The most likely candidates for those Plans are the Mahomet aquifer and the Northeastern Illinois Deep Aquifer. The Mahomet aquifer serves the communities of Decatur and Champaign-Urbana. Due to the growth in the area along with major livestock facilities, agricultural irrigation, and power plants, east central Illinois is likely to experience strain on their water supplies. The growth of the western suburbs beyond the reach of Lake Michigan water makes northeastern Illinois a priority, where shallow aquifers and surface water sources are already strained.
Locally based regional water supply planning committees will also be developed with financial and technical support from the state. The local committees will help collect the data needed to draft these plans, and also outline and approve their regional plans. This data will include figures like the total usable amount of groundwater and surface water in the planning area and projected water supply and demand.
Today’s announcement comes in conjunction with the release of the "Troubled Water: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois" report prepared by the Campaign for Sensible Growth, Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands Project. The report outlines the current challenges facing the water supply in Illinois, as well as their recommendations, which include a regional planning study such as the one announced today.
"We’re pleased that the governor recognizes the concerns reported in the study and has so quickly mobilized his administration to address the challenges facing our water supplies," said Joyce O’Keefe, Deputy Director of the Openlands Project.
The full text of the Governor’s Executive Order follows:
FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF STATE AND REGIONAL WATER-SUPPLY PLANS
WHEREAS, the citizens of Illinois rely on surface water and groundwater for personal consumption, and industries of the State use a significant amount of that water for economic development; and
WHEREAS, the increasing demands on Illinois’ water resources and the impacts of drought may lead to conflicts between the multiple water supply users and may adversely affect the health of the State’s citizens as well as adversely impacting the environment and the economy; and
WHEREAS, the quantity of surface water and groundwater in Illinois must be properly assessed through a sound planning process as an essential part of any responsible, economically viable and secure water supply development for the citizens of the State; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Interagency Coordinating Committee on Groundwater, the Illinois State Water Survey, and the Illinois State Water Plan Task Force have identified the Priority Water Quantity Planning Areas that are most at risk for water shortages and conflicts; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Integrated Water Quantity Planning and Management Committee recommends the development of regional aquifer and watershed plans for managing water supplies;
THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED that the following actions shall be executed:
Consistent with the authority granted to the Department of Natural Resources under the Rivers, Lakes, and Streams Act, 615 ILCS 5/5 et seq. and the Level of Lake Michigan Act, 615 ILCS 50/1 et seq., the authority of the Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Water Resources under 20 ILCS 801/5-5, the Office of Water Resources, in coordination with the State Water Survey, shall:
1. Define a comprehensive program for state and regional water supply planning and management and develop a strategic plan for its implementation consistent with existing laws, regulations and property rights,
2. Provide for public review of the draft strategic plan for a water supply planning and management program;
Establish a scientific basis and an administrative framework for implementing state and regional water supply planning and management;
Develop a package of financial and technical support for, and encouragement of, locally based regional water supply planning committees. These committees, whether existing or new entities, shall be organized for participation in the development and approval of regional plans in the Priority Water Quantity Planning areas;
By December 31, 2006, ensure that Regional Water Quantity Plans are in process for at least two Priority Water Quantity Planning Areas.
This Executive Order is effective upon filing with the Secretary of State.