Water availability has become an issue of regional, national, and global importance.In
2002, a New York Times article, referring to northeastern Illinois, reported that "Parts of six
counties in a region that borders one of the world's largest freshwater sources, Lake Michigan,
could be in for serious shortages within 20 years." The U.S. News and World Report ran a cover
story entitled, "The Future of Water: Costly, Dirty, Scarce" in August 2002. A month later, an
article in The Nation began "Water promises to be in the 21st century what oil was to the 20th
century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations." The Northeastern
Illinois Planning Commission has predicted severe water shortages in northeastern Illinois by
Although receiving, on average, almost 40 inches of precipitation, Illinois is vulnerable to
periodic droughts with precipitation amounts 50 percent or more below normal. Existing water
sources and distribution systems may not always be able to meet demands as populations
Additional sources of water do exist and can be tapped. The costs of providing clean
water rise with necessary water treatment, storage, and distribution, as well as minimization and
mitigation of impacts of new withdrawals on existing water supplies, water uses, and the
environment, however. Planning can avert future water shortages, increase efficiencies, minimize
costs, and present a common-sense alternative to disaster management.
Effective management of water resources to achieve water-supply goals is dependent on
effective planning. Like energy management, water management in Illinois is highly
decentralized. Although an Energy Cabinet has been established and a State Energy Plan has
been developed, there are no comprehensive statewide or regional plans for water supply, and no
centralized or regional powers have adequate authority, responsibility, and resources for water
planning and management. Whether status quo water management continues or a new scheme is
introduced, enhanced planning is imperative. Unless water-quantity planning is comprehensive,
regional, and visionary, water management will be ineffective, conflicts can be expected to
escalate, and water shortages can be expected in some parts of the state soon and in many parts of
the state in the future.
Historically, water-quantity planning and management in Illinois have lacked sustained
political leadership, due process, coordination, delineation of clear and strong authorities and
responsibilities, and adequate financial and human resources. Many efforts have been made to try
to strengthen water-quantity management through legislation and regulation without sound plans
and without an effective planning process. An alternative approach is to commit to an open,
continuing, adaptive, and resource-intensive planning process that establishes a sound scientific
basis for water-quantity management.
Although water planning is conducted primarily at local community and county levels,
the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission does some regional planning, and the Mahomet
Aquifer Consortium has been formed in central Illinois. Regional management also occurs in
southern Illinois around Rend Lake. Because aquifers and watersheds transcend political
boundaries and are regional in nature, it is appropriate to conduct water-quantity planning on the
scale of aquifers and watersheds, involving appropriate communities, political entities, and
constituents. Moreover, because aquifers and watersheds overlap geographically, and
groundwater and surface waters are interdependent, regional water-quantity planning and
management must address these resources jointly.
Regional planning and management does not necessarily mean loss of local and county
control. It does require more communication between local communities and counties to address
shared regional problems and opportunities, commensurate with their shared aquifers and
watersheds. Therefore, data and information need to be compiled and accessed to allow adequate
planning and management by the consortia of local communities, counties, and constituents
within these aquifers and watersheds. All projections and analyses need to include the
uncertainties associated with all aspects of water-quantity planning so that managers can
incorporate risk assessment into their decisions.
Illinois' existing water-quantity management regimen has evolved over time to address
diverse societal and governmental interests and has resulted in a fragmented, decentralized
system that "is inadequate to meet present and future needs" (Beck, 1996). Recognizing the
increasing demand on Illinois' water resources, Governor Ryan established the Water Resources
Advisory Committee (WRAC) to examine issues related to water management in Illinois in June
2000. Co-chaired by the Directors of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and
the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the WRAC also included 25 individuals
representing a broad cross section of water users and water suppliers.
The five WRAC meetings between August 2000 and January 2001 included presentations
from various IDNR and IEPA staff on a wide range of water issues, followed by discussions
among WRAC members. A consensus-driven process was used to identify and resolve numerous
water-quantity issues. The primary outcome of the WRAC was 12 "Consensus Principles" (see
http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/docs/wsfaq/docs/ICCGSubcommitteeReport.pdf). An interagency
drafting committee prepared legislative language consistent with these principles that established
a comprehensive water-quantity planning and management program. The draft legislation was
not well received by key constituent groups who reviewed it, however. None of the several
redrafted versions received a critical mass of support. The Governor's Office then turned to the
Groundwater Advisory Council (GAC), a citizen's advisory group to the Intergovernmental
Coordinating Committee on Groundwater (ICCG), for assistance in addressing concerns raised
about details of the legislative proposals.
The GAC reviewed available documentation and discussed the possibility of submitting
legislative proposals for the Spring 2002 legislative session. Rather than introducing a new
statute establishing additional layers of government, the GAC proposed that the Illinois
Groundwater Protection Act or IGPA simply be amended to expand ICCG responsibilities to
include comprehensive water-quantity planning. The IGPA seemed to be a reasonable solution
because of its existing administrative structure, existing authority over surface water/groundwater
interaction issues in its oversight, and clearly delineated interagency responsibilities and assured
public participation in the process through the GAC.
Based on the GAC study of the WRAC's work, it was clear that a sound scientific basis
was essential to achieving a realistic, attainable management plan. The following approach was
adopted by the GAC: "The Chair of the ICCG shall, as part of its agenda, establish the basis for a
water quantity planning program for the State of Illinois that includes:
• A coordinated groundwater and surface water inventory program whose data is accessible
and useable by all governmental agencies and the public to support [a] State Water
Resources Quantity Program;
• A statewide groundwater and surface water resource assessment program on which to
base the formation of Priority Water Quantity Planning Areas; and
• Identification and recommendation of the appropriate organizational structure for Priority
Water Quantity Planning Areas"
Taken stepwise (with parallel processing to coordinate supporting projects), these three activities
would provide the basis for a statewide groundwater and surface water resources program.
The ICCG reviewed and concurred on the GAC’s proposed draft legislation.
Representatives from the IEPA, GAC, and the Governor's Office then began meeting with
various governmental and private interests to discuss this draft legislation. The primary concern
expressed during these discussions was that the proposal would lead directly to introduced
legislation that included a regulatory component without appropriate public participation.
Clearly, introducing water-quantity legislation during the Spring 2002 legislative session would
be unsuccessful without articulating a vision for future water-quantity planning and management,
and developing a strategic plan to implement that vision.
General support for introducing legislation was not available, and Executive Order
Number 5 was drafted using the framework developed by the GAC. Executive Order Number 5,
signed by Governor Ryan on Earth Day 2002, established an ICCG Subcommittee to develop an
integrated surface and groundwater assessment report analyzing the burdens on Illinois' finite
water resources and quantifying those resources, and to formulate a prioritized agenda to plan for
protection of ground and surface water resources. After reviewing those recommendations, the
charge of the ICCG was to establish water-planning procedures for the State of Illinois.
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 5, an ICCG Subcommittee on Integrated Water Planning
and Management, chaired by the IDNR Director, produced a report to the ICCG on December 20,
2002. The Subcommittee
report provides assessments in four areas: 1) the state of Illinois' water resources as they are
currently known and information gaps that need to be filled; 2) critical water-related conflicts
that are emerging; 3) several water management tools and technologies currently and potentially
available; and 4) the existing and needed administrative framework to protect Illinois' water
resources into the future. The ICCG approved the report and transmitted it to Governor Ryan on
January 8, 2003.
Beck, R.E. et al.. 1996. Assessment of Illinois Water Quantity Law. Planning and Management
Consultants, Ltd., Carbondale, 151 pp.
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