JOLIET – Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk this week said he will develop a commission to examine a potential water shortage forecast to come in as soon as 15 years.
O’Dekirk made his comments after a presentation at the Tuesday city council meeting, at which city officials were urged to seek an alternative to the underground wells from which Joliet now draws water.
“We’ll probably have to start fast-tracking this and decide what we’re going to do in the next five years,” O’Dekirk said at the end of a presentation titled “Water Challenges to Joliet.”
The mayor said he plans by the next city council meeting Feb. 21 to suggest eight members to fill an inactive Environmental and Refuse Commission. The commission was formerly used to review waste disposal issues but would be assigned to study the city’s water needs.
The Kankakee River was mentioned as the most likely alternative source if Joliet decides to shift away from the deep underground aquifer that provides city water now.
The presentation was led by former Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, who said his own city has been moving off of the same deep water aquifer that serves Joliet and is drawing more water from the Fox River.
Weisner, who was invited by O’Dekirk to make the presentation, is the founding chairman of the Northwest Regional Planning Alliance, an association of five suburban counties that are planning for future water issues.
“Many of Joliet’s wells will get to the ultra-critical level in the next 15 to 20 years,” Weisner told the council.
He said a reasonable timeline for switching to a new source of water is 10 years.
“The sooner the city can move off the deep sandstone aquifer, the more likely it is you can have your deep sandstone aquifer as a secondary supply,” Weisner said.
Weisner said Aurora has shifted to using the Fox River as its primary water source but continues to use the aquifer during droughts when river levels are low.
Weisner was part of a group that included George Roadcap, a hydrogeologist with the Illinois State Water Survey.
Roadcap noted that the depletion of the aquifer also could have an impact on industrial plants that rely on well water.
“There are some industries that are worried about running out of water first,” he said.
Roadcap said Joliet, like Aurora, could make river water a primary source and retain access to the aquifer to be used during droughts.
Although the Des Plaines River runs through Joliet, the Kankakee River is considered a cleaner source of water.
“There’s a lot of good, quality water in the Kankakee,” Roadcap said.
Joliet officials more than 20 years ago explored the use of Kankakee River water to the extent that the city acquired property on the river that could be used for a future pumping station.