Case Study: Algonquin, Ill. saves money while it conserves water

March 3rd, 2016 by

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.

Algonquin is the third story in our series.

Rapid population growth is forcing Algonquin, Illinois, a city of about 30,000 located 40 miles northwest of Chicago, to reevaluate its water use strategy.

The village developed its initial water conservation program in 2003 at a time when the system was significantly strained. It included outside watering restrictions, public outreach, operations improvements, and a seasonal water rate structure. The program was a success, resulting in a water use reduction of roughly 30 gallons per person/day.

Because ongoing population growth in the village is expected to put upward pressure on water demand, Algonquin’s next step was to update the Comprehensive Water System Master Plan to evaluate the potential of further water conservation efforts to meet long-term water demands. The goals were to evaluate overall water system performance, evaluate current patterns of water use, predict future patterns of water use, and determine the infrastructure necessary to use less water resources.

While stewardship and sustainability are the main drivers of water conservation in Algonquin, village leaders also wanted to understand how an effective water conservation program can result in a reduction in capital expenditures through the timing of capital investments.

The Village of Algonquin Comprehensive Water System Master Plan was completed in 2012 by Engineering Enterprises, Inc. As the plan moves forward, the savings will be significant.

When comparing current water use trends and potential less resource intensive scenarios, the planners found a nearly $6,360,000 capital cost difference and showed that water conservation policy can have a huge impact.

“The Master Plan has been a great resource to refer back to,” said Andy Warmus, Algonquin utilities superintendent.

“I use the document in some fashion every day.  Can’t imagine not having the information at our fingertips.”

Case Study: Highland Park water conservation heads in the right direction

August 26th, 2015 by

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. 

Highland Park is the second story in our series.

Highland Park Case Study PDF

Highland Park is located on Lake Michigan about 25 miles north of Chicago. The city of about 29,000 provides water to over 10,000 residences and businesses, as well as to several municipalities. It draws 30 million gallons per day from the lake, about half of which is sold contractually.

City leaders recognized the importance of responsible water resource management and took measures to make water distribution more efficient. In spring 2013, Highland Park established its Water Conservation and Efficiency (WCE) Initiative.
“Highland Park is a very progressive community, very conscious of all things green,” Donald Jensen, superintendent of Highland Park Water Plant said. “Sustainability is a big agenda item here for all of our elected officials, and it filters down through all the professional staff as well. That’s just the way business is done in Highland Park.”
The main component of this initiative was the 3-tier conservation water pricing plan, including annual reviews to assess the program’s influence on conservation behavior and on revenue. The city would then make necessary adjustments to the rate structure.
The city implemented the tiered rate plan in 2014. The majority of single-family customers in Highland Park used water at a rate that was unaffected by the new initiative. However, city officials found that residents using high volumes of water saw increases in their water rates.
Highland Park’s schedule of quarterly meter reading was also seen as a drawback since residents receive their bill up to four months after water use. Beginning in the spring of 2016, the city is converting to Automated Meter Reading technology that will permit more frequent meter readings to provide timelier price signals to residents.
“The more frequently the meters are read, and the bills are sent out the more likely it is the tier-grade system is to have an impact,” Jensen said. “And of course our goal isn’t to generate income, it’s to conserve water.”
The second component of the WCE was to create a sprinkler system ordinance that would reduce the amount of water wasted by irrigation during the heaviest months. The ordinance contains sprinkling  restrictions as well as standards for new lawn irrigation systems.
Sprinkling restrictions, which are effective from May 15 until September 15, prohibit sprinkler use between the hours of 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. and limit lawn irrigation to odd-even days that correspond with the property address (odd-numbered properties are permitted to use sprinklers on odd-numbered days and likewise with even-numbered properties).
The installation of smart sensors will prevent sprinklers from running during precipitation. As of May 2013, all newly installed lawn irrigation systems will be equipped with weather-based sensors that meet EPA WaterSense standards.


“I think we’re headed in the right direction, (but) I think there’s a lot of work yet to do,” Jensen said.

Award winning GO TO 2040 development plan features work from several IISGers

February 12th, 2014 by
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.    

New water management guide helps communities plan and conserve

January 17th, 2014 by
The recent release of Water Management Resource Guide is giving a boost to water conservation in DuPage County, Illinois’ second most populated county. Residents throughout the county can now get help from community conservation coordinators to better understand the need to conserve water supplies and advocate for city-wide conservation efforts. It is all a part of the Water Conservation and Protection Program developed by the DuPage Water Commission. Along with conservation coordinators, the program provides easy tips for reducing water use at home—like repairing leaky toilets and watering lawns at specific times—and makes it easier for residents to learn about conservation efforts already underway in their communities. 

To prepare conservation coordinators for their new role, the water commission held a four-part workshop series in summer 2013 led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and MWH Global. Workshop planners invited IISG’s water economist Margaret Schneemann to talk with conservation coordinators about one of the biggest challenges to water management: pricing. Her presentation focused on information from her Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook for Sustainable Community Water Systems. A summary of the presentation, Rates and Revenue, is included in the Water Management Resource Guide. 

Here is what Margaret had to say about the summer’s events: 
“I was excited to be invited by Abby Crisostomo at MPC to present my work on water rates at the DuPage Water Commission’s workshop series. As a resource economist with IISG, one of my roles has been to support regional implementation of the CMAP Water 2050 Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply/Demand Plan.  Designating a community conservation coordinator was a key recommendation made in the Water 2050 Plan, and it is terrific that the DuPage Water Commission not only implemented this recommendation but also provided training workshops and the summary resource guide. One conundrum facing conservation coordinators is that the result of successful water conservation—declines in water use—tends to decrease revenue. Water managers therefore need solutions to balance their water conservation goals with the financial resiliency of the system. In my work on this issue, I’ve sought to help planners better understand the relationships between rates, revenues, and water conservation as they craft water conservation plans for their communities. This workshop series brought together many great presenters and resources for the participants, and it was enjoyable to take part in.”
For further information on water conservation, planning, and management, visit our water supply page.

In the news: Great Lakes under growing pressure as water needs grow

July 15th, 2013 by

The Great Lakes, a source of freshwater for millions in American and Canada, will likely see increased stress as the water is needed for a growing population and a changing climate.

From The Toledo Blade:

“The Lakes’ usage has drawn more attention in recent years from politicians and legal scholars, such as those who attend the University of Toledo College of Law’s renowned Great Lakes water-law conference each fall. They have stated on numerous occasions that Great Lakes water-management laws pale in comparison to those of the American Southwest, where political battles over water rights have been fought for decades.

Scholars believe this region’s legal framework is evolving into a stronger one as water controversies and more political battles heat up, as evidenced by intense negotiations that resulted in the Great Lakes region’s first binding water-management compact.
The Great Lakes region has traditionally been less irrigated than others. But that too is changing.

Michigan and Ohio have had an uptick in irrigation permits the past two years, largely a result of the 2012 drought and concerns over weather becoming more unpredictable because of climate change.”

Read the complete article at the link above, which includes additional information about areas of the U.S. that are already experiencing water shortages or similar issues in the future.

Full-cost water planning guidebook now available

January 30th, 2013 by
One of the most important planning concerns in the coming years will be ensuring the smart, sensible use and long-term availability of water resources for a growing population. This is especially true in large urban areas like Chicago, which has adopted the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan to address and prepare for future growth. 
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Water Resource Economist, Margaret Schneemann, has developed a Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook for Sustainable Community Water Systems. For the past four years, IISG has partnered with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to bring Schneemann to the Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Water Supply/Demand Plan implementation program and launch several collaborative projects throughout northeastern Illinois.  
Since both Water2050 and the long-range GO TO 2040 comprehensive plan recommend full-cost pricing for drinking water to promote water conservation and address aging infrastructure, the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook is designed for local decision makers interested in exploring full-cost pricing as a tool for sustainable community water supply management. The first section provides mayors, village managers, planners, board and council members, and interested residents with the reasons why such planning is important. The second section offers a basic ‘how to do it’ overview for readers interested in learning more, and the third section explores one of the most important decisions in setting water rates, designing the rate structure. Margaret has also developed a downloadable Powerpoint presentation providing an overview of full-cost pricing, available at the guidebook link above.
For further information about water supply issues and planning, visit our water supply page on the website, and you can contact Margaret directly for additional information and print copies of the guidebook.

Summer interns helping to move IISG projects from paper to practice

July 27th, 2012 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant researchers and specialists have been able to extend internship opportunities to four students this summer. Working directly with our staff and researchers, the students will get hands-on experience in their field while helping us pursue ongoing projects. Read more about this year’s group of interns and the issues they’ll be helping us address and investigate below.

Naoki Wada

Naoki Wada is a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student studying at Purdue University, and is interested in how ocean waves can be harnessed as a sustainable energy resource. 

As a native of Japan, Naoki was particularly struck by the results of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami: “My home country, Japan, where the supply of natural resources is very scarce, experienced one of the largest earthquake and tsunami last year, putting most of their nuclear power plants out of operation due to the safety concerns and…forcing the nation to rethink their future energy security. As an island nation surrounded by the ocean, utilizing oceanic energy by means of wave/tidal/current/power generation can be a remedy.” Naoki feels that the United States can also benefit from technology related to ocean-generated power; in addition to providing sustainable energy, it doesn’t require as much land as solar or wind farms and may be more palatable to planners and developers. After his graduation at the end of this year, Naoki intends to pursue graduate work in this field.

During his 2012 summer internship, Naoki is working with IISG-funded researcher Cary Troy of Purdue University and IISG staffers Carolyn Foley and Angela Archer to deploy a real-time monitoring buoy off of Michigan City, IN. The buoy will beam information about wave height, water temperature, wind direction, and other variables to the web every 10 minutes. Naoki is responsible for getting the buoy up and running so that IISG and Purdue University can continue to deploy it every year in the same location. 

Sahana Rao

Sahana will be a senior at the University of Pennsylvania next year, and is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Psychology and Economics. Sahana grew up in the Chicago area and considers Chicago her home, making this internship a terrific opportunity to work on issues close to her heart. 
Sahana is working at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) this summer with IISG/CMAP Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann to create an outdoor water use manual for the 80 member-communities of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA) in Illinois. The NWPA Outdoor Water Use manual is meant to educate homeowners about the consequences of outdoor water use and provide information on various approaches that homeowners or their communities can take to conserve water by reducing their outdoor use. The manual also contains information on a lawn-watering ordinance that the NWPA is recommending its member communities to adopt. 
Meredith Brackett

Meredith is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems Environment and Society. While planning to attend graduate school in the future, her internship with IISG will allow her to gain hands-on experience in the field as well as helping her find areas and issues for future study. 

Meredith explains more: “I am working with Dr. Paris Collingsworth this summer and we are conducting a study to compare zooplankton community data collected by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) with data collected by the Interagency Lower Trophic Level Monitoring Program of the Lake Erie Committee Forage Task Group (LEC-FTG). We are using statistical models to calculate zooplankton community similarity metrics at specific sample sites through time and space. This study will determine whether the LEC-FTG survey is capturing zooplankton community characteristics that are unique to those captured by the GLNPO data set.”

Lainey Pasternak

Lainey will be entering her junior year at the University of Illinois this fall, majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology.

As an intern with IISG, Lainey will be working to help increase recreational water user knowledge of and education about steps to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading in the Southern Lake Michigan area. She will also be designing and conducting a survey to evaluate Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s current outreach efforts, and use those results to formulate a formal research report and academic poster presentation by the end of the summer. Lainey will then be presenting the findings and the entire scope of her internship work at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. 
“Becoming an intern with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach team has allowed me to acquire a stronger knowledge base about the general AIS issues and management in the Great Lakes area, the role of recreational water users in their spread, and the importance of evaluating outreach campaigns,” Lainey says. “By surveying and speaking directly with the public, I will gain further insight into how to communicate current complex environmental issues with and to others. Overall, I am very excited to be a part of the Illinois-Indiana Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Team this summer and expect to make a difference in this area for our future clean waters.”
We look forward to the results of the hard work from our interns, and sharing their efforts in another post later this year. Check back to see how these projects are progressing.

Low rainfall isn’t necessarily a problem for your lawn

July 13th, 2012 by
Large portions of both Illinois and Indiana continue to experience very low rainfall and drought conditions, and many homeowners are wondering what to do about their lawns. With water in high demand, several  communities place watering schedules or restrictions in effect in order to conserve the available water. But what to do about your lawn? 
According to Richard Hentschel, a horticulture educator who works with our Lawn to Lake program, the simple answer is – nothing. 
From the Chicago Tribune
“’If your lawn is brown, it’s not dead,’ says Richard Hentschel, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in St. Charles ( ‘The grass has just hunkered down into survival mode. The plants have stopped growing and given up on their leaves to conserve water and are concentrating all their resources on keeping their roots and crowns alive.’”
Lawns are capable of surviving the conditions, but one area of concern is trees. 
“Lawns are easily replaced, but trees are not. Even large trees need help to survive a drought – and if they die, it can take 20 or 30 years to replace that shade. Stress from the 2005 drought killed trees over the next several years. So put trees at the top of the list for watering.
Let the hose trickle for a good long time in several places under the tree’s canopy. Or spiral a soaker hose loosely around a tree trunk. Or buy a soaker bag at the garden center that will slowly ooze water to the roots. Most of a mature tree’s roots are within 6 to 8 inches of the soil surface.”

Richard Hentschel and Rachel Rosenberg (who is also quoted in the article) are both involved in our Lawn to Lakes program, which provides information to retailers, homeowners, and landscapers about natural lawn care alternatives and their benefits.

For more information about gardens, lawns, and ways to maintain them in these conditions, head to the link above for the complete article, and find lawn care tips and specifics for Northern Illinois, including information about watering, drought conditions, weed issues, and more at the new Lawn Talk website.

Growing water needs and shifting availability require new solutions

June 26th, 2012 by
We’ve likely all heard about water conservation at various times – whether from our parents (don’t leave the water running), our neighborhoods (in the case of lawn watering rules and schedules), or from kids in line at the water fountain (“Save some for the fish!”). 
Conserving water has always been important for a number of reasons, but recent studies are showing that it’s a serious issue. As the need for water grows worldwide, the way that we use water requires some significant consideration, study, and action. 
Innovative new systems that reuse water for various needs and purposes are taking this issue and applying a potential solution. Rather than just turning off the faucet or washing the car less frequently, these systems or processes recycles large amounts of non-potable water for agricultural, landscape, and industrial applications. 
From the website Environmental Protection Online
“Water is reused in two main ways: non-potable reuse, in which treated wastewater is used for agriculture and landscape irrigation, industrial applications (such as cooling processes), toilet flushing and fire protection; and indirect reuse of wastewater to recharge ground water supplies, allowing treated wastewater to percolate down to aquifers and replenish water sources. Overall, non-potable and indirect reuse of water in the U.S. is growing rapidly, with more than 2 billion gallons reused per day, and volume increases at an estimated 15 percent annually.”
Find out more about some of the systems being developed and how reuse can have an impact in helping us meet these growing water needs by reading the full article.
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