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.
This week Governor Pat Quinn signed the Clean Water Initiative, which will provide financial support for communities in Illinois to improve stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water infrastructure, and be better prepared to cope with the impacts of climate change – increased risk of drought and extreme precipitation.
The North Central Region Water Network is a recently formed partnership between extension agencies and professionals in twelve states. The network was created to help foster collaboration between researchers and extension staff throughout these states addressing water issues common to the region.
The Current, a webinar series designed to connect people with the new network and the water issues that are critical to the region, held the first round of presentations earlier this month. IISG’s water resource economist Margaret Schneeman was among the presenters for the inaugural webinar, Managing Water Supply: Resources for Education, Engagement, and Research, and she highlighted the work done so far to address water supply planning in northeastern Illinois. Gary Zoubek of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, and David Lusch from Michigan State University presented for the webinar as well.
Through both the webinars and collaboration between extension programs, the North Central Region Water Network hopes to expand water protection efforts, research, and the spread of information throughout the states. Visit the webpage (linked above) to learn more.
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.
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.
Staff members from six Great Lakes Sea Grant programs met at Purdue University last week to preview a new web-based tool that will help local planners make sustainable land use decisions. The two-day workshop gave Sea Grant specialists a chance to work through the tool’s four-step process and suggest changes before they start using it with planning groups and communities next spring.
The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses watershed data and cutting-edge research to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their region are stressed by various factors to the degree that they are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in their functioning. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps and simulators to specify important regional priorities, pinpoint specific land use practices that threaten ecosystem health, and test how further development, restoration, or conservation projects would help or hurt. Together with suggested policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts, these features help planners develop watershed management plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair.
Future facilitators from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs worked in groups to build mock watershed management plans for rural, suburban, and urban watersheds. Hands-on activities helped participants get familiar with the tool’s features, as well as ways to customize the process to meet the needs of communities they work with. They also learned how to use and set up different technologies that help larger groups collaboratively use computer-based programs, including the weTable, which transforms a regular tabletop into an interactive computer screen.
Perhaps the most important result of the workshop, though, was a list of feature and design changes to further increase the usability of the tool. Many of the suggestions focused on making land use data more accessible for the residents who join non-profits and local agencies in watershed planning groups. These and other refinements, including the addition of new data, will be made in the coming months.
The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Research and outreach partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, NOAA, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network.
Top – Mark Breederland (Michigan Sea Grant) and Brian Miller (IISG)
Middle – Joe Lucente (Ohio Sea Grant) and Julie Noordyk (Wisconsin Sea Grant)
Bottom – Mary Penney (New York Sea Grant) and Jarrod Doucette (Purdue University)
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.