Heading Off Water Shortages

June 5, 2006

Will the Chicago region have enough water in the future? Illinois hydrologists say it's not clear, so the state is beginning a new program to head off shortages.

Northeastern Illinois is blessed with plenty of rain and Lake Michigan is next door, so it sounds odd to worry about having enough water. But researchers predict at least 11 area townships could face shortfalls by 2020. That's why land-use groups like the Metropolitan Planning Council are praising a new state water survey and plan.

The council's Scott Goldstein says millions of new residents may compete over water.

"That's why it makes sense to get started now rather than wait for water wars, the way they have in places in the southwest where people sue each other over water rights. We can get ahead of the curve now before that happens," he said.

Goldstein says using more water from Lake Michigan isn't an option. U.S. law limits how much Illinois can draw.

Researchers will start the program with a survey of counties' water use projections.