At Tuesday’s meeting of the city of Joliet’s Environmental and Refuse Commission, members of the alternative water source study team presented data on options for members to consider going forward.
The city’s alternative water source study is still in its first phase, in which experts from an engineering consulting firm, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, examined the quality and quantity of the city’s options.
One of the main takeaways was that the deep sandstone aquifer, that Joliet uses as its primary source of water, should be able to meet the city’s maximum day demands through 2030 under current conditions.
That’s a shorter time frame than the original projection of city wells being dried up in 15 to 20 years. The new timeline came as a result of updated groundwater modeling completed by the Illinois State Water Survey.
Yet even the 2030 timeline is dependent on the city implementing a few short-term strategies to extend the usable life of the aquifer. Those strategies include constructing new wells, heightened attention on water conservation throughout the community and possibly providing treated wastewater to local industries to reduce withdrawal from the deep sandstone aquifer.
Theresa O’Grady, the project manager with CMT, also presented the commission with the group’s analysis of possible alternative river water sources. While there are 14 options in all the commission is considering, some of them include getting water from locations on the Kankakee, Illinois, Fox and Des Plaines rivers.
For the first phase of the study, the group was only looking at the quantity and quality of the alternatives, and not the financial cost, which the commission will consider in the second phase.
By these metrics, the experts were already able to tell the commission that options such as the Fox River source wouldn’t be feasible because it wouldn’t satisfy the amount of water the city needs.
The experts also said that it would be possible to use the city’s existing groundwater wells as a backup water supply during times of withdrawal restrictions on the rivers. This might happen during times of drought, O’Grady said.
After a more detailed presentation of each individual alternative and some discussion, commission members decided that at their January meeting, they would make official the options that would advance to the second phase. At that point they would be able to narrow down the best options in terms of cost for the city.
The commission also was updated on progress made toward a campaign called “We must rethink water” to raise awareness of the issue through its recently hired public relations firm.