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.
Household leaks cost the country more than a trillion gallons of water a year—enough to quench the water needs of roughly 11 million homes. The common culprits are toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaky valves. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take in your home and yard to save water and money. And that’s what Fix a Leak Week, March 16-22, is all about.
Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense program, Fix a Leak Week offers demonstration events and online resources to help homeowners find and fix leaky toilets, shower heads, and more.
Household Water Efficiency is part of a larger effort to help individuals and communities secure a sustainable water supply. The Chicago region has long benefited from an abundance of fresh water. But legal limits on how much can be pulled from Lake Michigan and strained aquifers have left many concerned that demand will outpace supply.
In response to these concerns, CMAP led the development of a comprehensive water supply management plan for the 11 counties in the greater Chicago area. IISG research, including an overview of water rates, provided critical data for key components of the plan. IISG also developed a guide that helps city officials plan and implement water rates that encourage conservation and provide sufficient funding for utilities to detect and fix leaks in their water systems.
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.
A collaboration between Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and several other agencies across Illinois and Indiana, the new Outdoor Water Use Manual is now available from NWPA. Completed as part of a larger goal to help reduce and curb outdoor water use, the manual provides necessary information on discretionary water use, costs to utilities and municipalities, and steps to develop more efficient outdoor water use policies and plans.
The manual comes just as the height of the summer season has led some areas to enact strict watering policies or, in the recent case of Lake Forest, institute a temporary ban on outdoor watering altogether.
Peter Wallers of the NWPA writes on page four of the manual, “The significance of this guide and what separates it from the average lawn care guide is its emphasis on efficient lawn care, using as little water and fertilizer as possible while achieving maximum performance for your lawn.”
By providing information and planning steps for proper water and fertilizer usage, the manual offers not only steps for reducing current use levels, but gives municipalities a way to plan for sustainably meeting their needs well into the future.
For more information about this project and other water usage materials, contact IISG’s Margaret Schneeman.