May 24, 2005

Study projects demand in six Midwestern states Illinois' need for water will increase dramatically

by Paula Davenport

water pro

Ben Dziegielewski

(Pronouncer: Dziegielewski is jen-gah-LEF-ski.)

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Chicagoland's thirst for water will escalate a whopping 30 percent over the next 20 years — and the remainder of Illinois will demand 28 percent more water than it soaked up in 2000, according to a new report by water use experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

By 2025, thermoelectric power plants will suck up nearly 85 percent of the state's water (17 billion gallons per day), says Benedykt "Ben" Dziegielewski, an SIUC geography professor and leading author of a comprehensive report predicting future water needs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. It's the first such study of its kind.

The study projects a 7.3 percent increase in combined publicly supplied water use for the six-state region over the next 20 years, in spite of an overall decline in per capita water use. Illinois and Ohio account for the majority of the projected increase.

Study totals show Illinois in the coming decades will need to pump about 20 billion gallons of water a day — up from 2000's daily total of 15.8 billion gallons.

That should satisfy Illinois' nearly 14 million residents in 2025 — whose numbers are expected to grow by another 1.5 million in the coming two decades. Meanwhile, average per capita water demand is predicted to jump 14 percent to 1,450 gallons a day, a 178 gallon daily increase over 2000 statistics, says Dziegielewski.

In all, 16.9 billion gallons of water a day will be needed in 2025 to cool Illinois' power plants, says Dziegielewski.

Another 3.3 billion gallons will be necessary to satisfy the remaining needs of the public, commercial and industrial entities, irrigation, mining and livestock, the report predicts.

Cook County alone will demand 2.4 billion gallons of water daily, nearly half or 1.3 billion gallons of which will flow through power plants.

And two burgeoning metro areas — one just southwest of Chicago and another east of St. Louis — will be under tremendous pressure to provide water, says Dziegielewski.

"Local water shortages are likely to happen in Illinois, especially in the heavily urbanized parts of the state. In addition to water supply, other critical issues include water quality, as it relates to critical ecosystems and flooding," says Dziegielewski.

Will and Grundy counties, which encompass Joliet, Bolingbrook, Braidwood and Morris; and Madison County, home to Edwardsville, Collinsville, Alton, Granite City and Highland, will experience acute water needs, the report shows.

Thermoelectric demands in 2025 in those three counties are predicted as follows: Will County will require 3.2 billion gallons a day, an increase of 726 million gallons over the 2000 total; Grundy County will call for 1.3 billion gallons a day, up 359 million gallons; and Madison County will require 1.3 billion gallons a day, up 634 million gallons.

Dziegielewski says: "Thermoelectric plants located in those counties use once-through cooling with river water or with a lake. They may be able to increase water withdrawals from the current sources. However the plants in Grundy and Will counties are in the upper reaches of the Illinois River and they may be constrained by the limited river flows.

"In places where water for once-through cooling is limited, cooling towers may be constructed to enable closed loop cooling that requires 95 percent less water than once-through systems," says Dziegielewski

The report is broken into two documents, both of which are lengthy and available online at no cost.

"County-Level Forecasts of Water Use in Illinois: 2005-2025" is available at Illinois' State Water Survey, a division of the state's Natural Resources department, SIUC's geography and environmental resources department and the Illinois Board of Higher Education sponsored this segment of the study.

Meanwhile, water use statistics for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin are available in "Countywide Projections of Community Water Supply Needs in the Midwest" at The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Midwest Technology Assistance Center, housed at the state water survey division, and SIUC sponsored this six-state report.

"We have to act on this information and draw appropriate plans to ensure that future water needs are met without undue pressures on the environment," says Dziegielewski, also executive director of the International Water Resources Association, based at SIUC and within the College of Liberal Arts.

In all, Dziegielewski predicts 70 of Illinois' 102 counties public sectors will clamor for more water in the future.

"There are five counties, all in northeastern Illinois, whose daily water demands are expected to climb by more than 25 additional million gallons above their 2000 totals. These counties are Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake and Kane.

"They may be able to obtain more water from Lake Michigan, but that will require permission from the International Joint Commission, which watches over water withdrawals from all the Great Lakes.

"Among the other 65 thirsty counties, there will be areas where additional water supplies will not be readily available and their development may be costly and controversial. On the up side, new water supplies may be easier to obtain in the McHenry County area and some east central parts of the state where there is abundant groundwater," Dziegielewski says.

Developers and planners would be wise to focus now on predictions to avert future shortages and crises.

"The likely remedies are water conservation and careful management of the existing water supplies, especially in groundwater aquifers and surface sources with high-quality water from streams and lakes.

"Although we live in a water-rich state, with Lake Michigan and the major rivers, we should not take our present and future water supply for granted," says Dziegielewski.

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