Illinois Water Supply Planning



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What are the Challenges for Illinois Water Supplies?
 
Flood levels for 1937, 1973, and 1975 marked on a building in an Illinois town
Numerous challenges exist in making water available in Illinois. These fall into four general classifications: 1) human-related limitations, 2) reduction of some existing supplies, 3) growth of use and future demands, and 4) uncertain fluctuations in supplies.

A changing society with increasing laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to a better understanding of the environment, water, and land use has created a complex maze. Growth of urban areas, increased water use, and lack of available space for water storage collectively increase water costs and those of developing new sources. These societal changes, population growth, and growing demands have led to more conflicts over water supplies. Although much data on water supplies and use have been collected, they are not complete, particularly about many water uses, thereby limiting wise decision making. Past water-supply planning too often has been fragmentary, with few recommendations for improvements adopted.

Drought in a lake bed - Springfield, Illinois
Some water supplies have dwindled for several reasons. A significant fraction of all water obtained is wasted and demand could be reduced through conservation. Human pollution has impaired water resources. Reservoirs have lost capacity due to sediment accumulation. Overpumpage of aquifers, resulting in serious depletion of critical groundwater supplies, has long been a problem in deep bedrock aquifers in northeastern Illinois where demands are high. Recharge of some aquifers may require decades to centuries, so those depleted aquifers will remain serious problems for many years.

Illinois’ ever-growing population and commercial base increasingly demand quality water supplies. Projections of demands for metropolitan Chicago and other major urban areas show water shortages will appear soon if nothing is done. Another problem is uncertain fluctuations in supplies due to climatic extremes such as droughts and floods. Droughts quickly can create water shortages, and floods often damage waste water treatment facilities and send polluted water into streams and rivers. Although there are major scientific uncertainties about the type of climate change that will occur in Illinois, the state’s precipitation and temperatures will change, placing additional stress on water supplies, depending on the types and magnitudes of climate change.

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Aerial photos showing flood/drought over the confluence of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers Illinois has experienced both ends of the climate spectrum within recent history. This areal photo shows a reference photo of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers in two parts. The first (top) part is a photo from July 1988 when the Midwest experienced a severe drought. The second (bottom) part is a photo from July 1993 during the Great Flood of 1993. Floods and droughts present many water challenges to Illinois.
 

 
Illinois streamflow levels for May 1 - 16, 2000 Stream levels are important when meeting the challenges of Illinois’ water supply needs. The graphic in this section shows Illinois streamflow levels for May 1-6, 2000. The levels are shown as a percentage of Normal, Below Normal, and Much Below Normal for the state. By looking at the map, you can see certain areas in Central Illinois were below normal during this time.
 

 
Low flows map This graphic displays the flow of streams in Illinois. It shows the "low flow" rates of streams, which range from less than 1 to greater than 2000 cubic feet per second. The streams are color-coded, so you can see which flow range applies to which stream.
 
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