Resource Conservationist Neil Pellmann of the Will-South Cook Soil & Water Conservation District has no trouble explaining the crisis facing northeastern Illinois: “The most essential element for sustaining life is water. Having high quality water in sufficient supply is necessary for animals, plants, and humans.”
That one essential element for life is in short supply. A water shortage threatens not in the coming centuries or in far off desert lands—but in the next years, in the heartland of Illinois.
Aquifers, the underground reservoirs that supply the region with fresh water, are drawing down at an alarming rate. Walt Kelly, head of the Groundwater Section of the Illinois State Water Survey, identifies the urgency with which the region is faced: “The sandstone aquifers that provide drinking water to many communities and industries in southern and western suburbs of Chicago are declining rapidly.”
A Water Summit is slated for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 14. “The goal is to learn more about the water supply and to explore the steps that residents, government officials, and water scientists can take to improve the long-range forecast,” Mary Baskerville of the Will County Environmental Network said. “All interested person are invited and encouraged to attend and learn about the challenges facing the region now and in the near future.”
Kelly will present the latest information about the water drawdown, including information about the study of the deep wells at the former Joliet
Army Ammunition Plant that are providing a daily record of water drawdown dating back to World War II.
“There are alternative water resources in the region, but it is imperative for at-risk entities to start planning now,” Kelly said.
It is a situation of concern to many, including area farmers. Even though Will County has seen significant growth and development, about 45 percent of its 540,000 acres is farmed, Will County Farm Bureau Manager Mark Schneidewind said.
Jim Robbins farms on a centennial farm in Manhattan Township, where his family has farmed since 1851. Today, that township and many in northeastern Illinois face a crisis. As chair of the Will-South Cook Soil & Water Conservation District, Robbins sees the impact: “Without water, what would we do as farmers?
“Water quality and quantity is an absolute necessity to grow crops;
thus, water is the lifeblood of agriculture,” Robbins said.
Pellmann will present information on the urban and agriculture conservation programs available through the Will South-Cook Soil and Water District.
“The need to understand better how development of one water resource affects the other is universal and will surely increase as development intensifies.” according to the United States Geological Survey publication “Ground Water and Surface Water A Single Resource.”
The Water Summit is jointly sponsored by the Will County Environmental Network and the Will-South Cook Soil & Water District. For additional information, interested persons may phone the Soil & Water District Office at 815/ 462-3106, extension 3. Reservations are encouraged, but not required. The Will-South Cook Soil and Water Conservation District is at 1201 South Gougar Road in New Lenox.