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Joliet considers future water shortages

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 10:31 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – Mayor Bob O’Dekirk wants the city to begin preparing for the possibility of future water shortages.

Joliet gets its water through wells from a regional aquifer, which planners see as a declining water source that could dry up in 20 years.

Former Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner will make a presentation to the city council at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on “Water Challenges Facing Joliet.”

O’Dekirk said he invited Weisner, whom he considers to be a leader on the issue and has experience moving Aurora to other water sources. Both Joliet and Aurora draw water from the same aquifer, but Aurora has begun using water from the Fox River.

“It’s a regional problem. We’re sitting on an aquifer that’s running out of water,” O’Dekirk said. “We’re going to need a long-term solution for the city of Joliet.”

This is not the first time that the future of Joliet’s water supply has been brought into question.

In the 1990s, Joliet began making plans to draw water from the Kankakee River someday. The city even acquired property along the Kankakee River that could be used as a future pumping site. Joliet still has land along the Kankakee River, but the plans have been shelved.

The future of the regional aquifer has been spotlighted off and on in the media when planning reports that explore the problem are issued.

The 20-year timeline for the aquifer is based on studies done by the Illinois State Water Survey, said Josh Ellis, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

The Chicago regional planning agency has its own 10-point agenda to address water supply problems in northeastern Illinois.

Ellis said the former Aurora mayor should be a good speaker on the subject because of that city’s experience in shifting away from total reliance on the aquifer.

“Aurora, like Joliet, sits on a river, so Aurora has been getting more water from the Fox River,” he said.

Joliet sits on the Des Plaines River, which generally is not viewed as a source of drinking water – one of the reasons the city looked to connect with the Kankakee River. But water purification technology has improved, Ellis said.

“It’s 2017,” he said. “The technology exists to treat Des Plaines water sufficient for consumption. The question is, how much will it cost?”

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