August 10th, 2016 by IISG
July 15th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Lauren Schnoebelen interned in Chicago with IISG Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann. Lauren is a recent graduate from Northern Michigan University with a major in environmental science, a concentration in natural resources, and a minor in sustainability.
This summer I spent my time working as the Water Policy and Pricing intern for IISG at the offices of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was excited to work on policy issues and get familiar with township and village ordinances for water pricing, but I had never worked with large data sets before.
At first I was a little overwhelmed, but once I started getting the hang of it, I really enjoyed it because I got the opportunity to see what so many communities around me were doing to manage their water systems. After working for a month and a half on collecting as much data as I could get on water, sewer, and possible storm water rates, I needed to call village halls and water facilities to get any missing information.
The hope was to have all the rates available for the 2017 fiscal year. This gave me the opportunity to improve my communication skills by talking to dozens of people about what they charge their residents for water and sewer services. With this project done, I’m really excited to see how the final presentation of it will be in the Northeast Illinois Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard.
Another opportunity that I was given was becoming a co-author of a published literature review. I helped to write about the economic value of ecosystem services in the Great Lakes region. This project allowed me to create and organize multiple tables displaying all the studies that were used in the paper and write summaries based on their subcategories of threatened ecosystem services. I also helped in editing and arranging the final layout of the literature review.
Throughout my summer, I was going to monthly meetings for the Northwest Water Planning Alliance and was involved in creating a community outreach brochure on establishing new lawns through seed or sod and their water requirements. This helped me see what communities are currently doing to work on water conservation and also how community outreach can lead to suggestions for policy change.
This internship gave me an opportunity that I haven’t had before. I worked on so many different aspects of water conservation which gave me great experience in creating a database, academic research and writing, and community involvement and outreach. With these skills, I know I will be extremely competitive in finding a full-time position in my field.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
July 1st, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
How does “green infrastructure” go from being just a good idea to actually being implemented in municipalities? At the recent Resilient Chicago workshop, we learned how this happens from a variety of perspectives.
Blue Island, Ill., a Chicago suburb with a growing problem with flooded basements, has become a leader in executing green infrastructure initiatives in recent years.
Jason Berry, deputy director of planning and building, described how at one point, even city engineers needed convincing that green infrastructure is not a “feel-good” project, but an effective and sustainable way to address stormwater issues.
Much of the city’s success is due to grant support from local, state, and even national sources. And, there is public involvement. As part of its Blue Island, Blue Water project, the city engaged many of its residents in installing rain barrels and planting rain gardens. The city is putting in permeable pavement, a bioswale, and numerous rain gardens.
“Green infrastructure is visible infrastructure,” explained Berry. “You can see it work.”
It also takes maintenance, which Berry described as a challenge for the city going forward.
Most communities will need to fund green infrastructure through limited municipal budgets, according to Josh Ellis, program director with the Metropolitan Planning Council. But he thinks green infrastructure has the possibly of becoming the new normal for infrastructure through “optimization.”
Optimization, as done by the City of Chicago, means maximizing investments through partnerships, leveraged funds, and multiple goals. Aaron Koch, deputy commissioner for sustainability, explained that the city has been employing green infrastructure for many years with green roofs and alleys, for instance. Now efforts are being planned more strategically.
For example, through the Space to Grow program, the city is partnering with Chicago Public Schools and nonprofits to “green” Chicago schoolyards. By planting rain gardens, and adding landscaping and playgrounds, students have a dryer, safer, greener, and more fun environment to play.
Argyle Street on Chicago’s north side is in the process of getting a facelift with porous pavement, planters, and trees that will go far to create community gathering spaces as well as enhance stormwater management. The Argyle Streetscape will be Chicago’s first “shared street” where pedestrians, cars, and bicycles will all co-exist in a curb-free world.
According to Kate Evasic, associate planner, CMAP provides a process to collect data related to surface drainage, including historic conditions, topography, impervious cover, land use, and repetitive flood claims. And, the process provides the opportunities for shared solutions. CMAP has 50 projects underway right now.
(Photos from the Blue Island and the site design group, ltd. websites)
February 9th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Municipalities throughout Illinois have been making determined efforts to conserve water though policy changes, education, outreach, and water-loss reduction strategies. The Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) Water Efficiency Committee and IISG assembled seven case studies from the ISAWWA Water Saver award applications to highlight water efficiency achievements. Evanston is our first story.
Evanston, a city of 74,500 that sits along Lake Michigan north of Chicago, developed a Water Conservation and Efficiency Plan through a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Local Technical Assistance Program.
As a result of this plan, Evanston began to educate residents on how to reduce wasted water. It distributed toilet leak detection testing kits, promoted WaterSense
-branded bathroom fixtures, and encouraged drinking tap water. Evanston provided 9,300 gallons of tap water at city-sponsored events in 2014, eliminating the use of over 99,000 plastic 12-ounce bottles.
In addition, Evanston purchased new leak detection equipment and has completed a survey of the distribution system. The entire 157 mile system will be surveyed each year to minimize water loss due to aging water mains.
September 12th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Three years after residents of Wauconda, IL approved a plan to transition to Lake Michigan water, the Lake County village has finally received the okay to build the infrastructure needed for delivery. Along with the nearby village of Volo, Wauconda is expected to begin tapping into the new source in 2018.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The agreement to deliver Lake Michigan water to Wauconda was a long time coming.
In 2012, Wauconda voters approved a $50 million plan to access Lake Michigan water, according to previous Tribune reports. But a deal with the water agency fell through in 2013, following a collapse in negotiations.
Talks started again in 2014, according to Tribune reports, with Wauconda and the agency reaching a deal early this year to deliver water to both Wauconda and Volo.
Now, planners are figuring out where to lay about 11 miles of new water pipe, said Darrell Blenniss, the joint water agency’s executive director. Read more
The move toward Lake Michigan water is important for Wauconda and Volo. Like many northeastern Illinois communities, these villages currently draw water from deep-rock aquifers that are being drained faster than they can recharge. Lake Michigan offers a more dependable supply for these growing communities. And because groundwater supplies can contain low levels of chemicals that drive up treatment costs, the switch may also prove more cost effective.
But transitioning aquifer-dependent communities to lake supplies is just one step towards securing long-term access to quality drinking water. Conservation is needed to ensure communities don’t pull more from the lake than federal law allows and to relieve some of the pressure on inland supplies.
That’s why IISG has teamed up with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to help communities implement some of the key water supply management strategies laid out in the region’s Water 2050 plan. For example, we developed the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook to help officials adopt prices that fully reflect water costs and encourage conservation. Margaret Schneemann, our water resource economist, has also helped planning groups and communities adopt lawn watering ordinances to curb inefficient outdoor water use.
To learn more about these and other efforts, visit our Water Supply page.
February 12th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Catherine Kemp and Jennifer Egert spent their summer working with Margaret Schneemann, IISG’s water resource economist.
Catherine’s work this summer focused on outdoor water conservation and natural lawn care outreach. As part of this, the University of Illinois student teamed up with Kane County and the Northwest Water Planning Alliance to create library displays highlighting a few easy steps homeowners can take to conserve water and reduce landscaping pollution.
“I also organized a composting workshop for gardeners and worked on a white paper exploring the connection between sustainable look food systems and water. My projects covered such a diverse range of topics that my internship was really engaging and enjoyable. It was so great to work on issues that I am passionate about.
There are so many organizations that inform and implement environmental policies in the Chicagoland area. I have learned a lot about the work they do and the importance of the large amounts of collaboration that occur here. My internship really opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me in the future.”
Jennifer, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, dedicated her internship to creating a new, condensed version of the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook using updated data.
“I worked with Margaret to collect water rate data from 284 municipalities in northeastern Illinois and used GIS software to design effective visuals and maps summarizing municipal water rate changes over the past five years. I also included supplemental policy recommendations based on the visuals created along with best management practices for incorporating full-cost water pricing across the region.
What I enjoyed most about this internship was having the chance to use skills gained from my environmental science education and apply them to a project that has real implications for citizens in the area. I got to go home every day feeling like I had accomplished something worth-while that will benefit our environment and precious natural resources.”
Both Jennifer and Catherine say they will continue working on environmental issues after they graduate. Catherine plans to join the Peace Corps’s environmental program, while Jennifer hopes to work in environmental law and policy.
Go To 2040—northeastern Illinois’ compressive development plan—received a 2013 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement earlier this month for its innovative approach to conserving natural resources, protecting public health, and strengthening local economies. Developed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the plan addresses transportation needs, energy efficiency, and other long-term concerns for the ever-growing metropolitan area.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Margaret Schneeman and Martin Jaffe worked closely with CMAP to develop the water supply planning recommendations included in the regional plan. IISG has also taken the lead in implementing key recommendations such as full-cost water pricing and outdoor water conservation. And Molly Woloszyn, IISG’s extension climatologist, assisted in the development of climate adaptation recommendations for municipalities.