Inefficiencies in water service delivery add unnecessary costs to our community members. Given the increasing challenges of supply constraints, water pollution and infrastructure reinvestment needs, our region needs to explore economies of scale and service sharing between utilities.
Northeastern Illinois also lacks a well-adopted system for tracking water usage from each utility. As a result, we don’t have a clear understanding of current demand for drinking water. While communities that use Lake Michigan water must report usage and infrastructure conditions, the rest of the region—particularly those communities who are facing water shortages—are not held to the same standard. Because of these factors, our region is extremely fragmented in our approach to managing a shared, vital resource. The action of one community can impact another, which is why we need more coordinated, regional water supply planning.
Another fundamental challenge is that we, as consumers, are very disconnected from the complex system that provides us with water to drink, bathe and survive. Our region’s collective lack of awareness about our drinking water may stem from historically ample supplies, the buried nature of water infrastructure and the subsidized costs we have enjoyed for water service. We haven’t needed to give a second thought to the infrastructure and operations it takes to deliver water to our homes and businesses. However, as outlined above, conditions related to our drinking water have changed and communities need to be engaged and coordinate across municipal boundaries in order to address the above water resource challenges.