IISG is excited to welcome four student interns this summer to help our specialists with everything from needs assessments, to outreach, to strategy facilitating, to economic valuations—and more. These four will spend 12 weeks working closely with a Sea Grant specialist on the issues affecting the Great Lakes.
Green Infrastructure Workforce Intern
Located at Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Jordan is a senior at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin majoring in geospacial science with a minor in geographic information systems.
He will be conducting a needs assessment and market analysis to ensure that training and workforce development efforts are in line with the Calumet region’s occupational and employment needs, leveraging the relationship gap between stakeholders and the community, and making sure all aspects (skill gaps, design standards, municipal regulations and the regional environment policies) are being looked at when achieving a Green Infrastructure program
Community Sustainability Intern
Located at Purdue University
Abigail graduated in May from the University of Illinois in natural resources and environmental sciences. She will be pursuing a Master’s degree in August 2016 in agriculture education at the University of Illinois.
During her summer internship, Abigail will collaboratively develop new extension education and training materials (case studies, fact sheets, excerpts of guide books) related to public spaces, rain gardens, and watershed management topics. She will also be help campus specialists deliver extension and training programs to communities across Indiana.
Abigail has hit the ground running in the two weeks since her internship began. She has attended the inaugural train the trainer program for the Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program, supported the first meeting and launch of the advisory board and program development effort for the new Natural Resources Leadership Program, attended strategic planning meetings for IISG in Chicago, and helped to host a community meeting to start the Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program in Columbus, Indiana.
Science Writer and Nutrient Strategy Facilitator Intern
Anjanette Riley, Eliana Brown, and Lisa Merrifield
Located at University of Illinois
Ashley comes to us from the agricultural communications program at Illinois State University, where she is about to start her senior year.
This summer, Ashley will wear two hats: a science writer and nutrient strategy facilitator. For her part in the communications team, Ashley oversees the Illinois Water blog, writing news and feature articles on IWRC research projects and important water issues facing the state.
She will also work closely with IWRC and IISG’s Eliana Brown to help facilitate Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy implementation and support Eliana’s other stormwater and water quality outreach efforts.
Water Pricing Intern
Located at Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
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.
She will be working on the Ecosystem Services Project helping with organizing tables of articles and writing the literature reviews on their economic valuations.
Lauren will also be on the water rates database where she will be working with water rates and pricing ordinances.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension.
When municipalities consider how to set water rates, they often look to neighboring communities as reference points. This can involve a lot of digging for data, which takes lots of time, and in the end, may be comparing apples with oranges.
In the Chicago area, communities can now benchmark their water rates much more easily and can set comparisons to other communities that make sense. Northeast Illinois is now one of eleven locations that has a free water rates dashboard providing utilities with the ability to compare their residential water and wastewater rates against multiple characteristics, including utility finances, system size, customer demographics, and geography.
The water rates data that brings this tool to life was compiled by Margaret Schneemann, IISG water resource economist and Jennifer Egert, IISG summer intern, in a survey of 224 municipalities in the greater Chicago region’s seven counties—Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will.
Managing water supplies sustainably starts with getting the price right.
One of the larger goals of the water rate dashboard is for municipal utilities to make informed choices when setting water rates so that critical rate-setting factors get their proper due. “Rate comparisons taken out of context can lead to peer pressure to keep rates low while neglecting other objectives such as cost recovery and conservation,” explained Schneemann.
Complementing the dashboard is the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook
, which offers local decision makers basic “how tos” on implementing rates that encourage efficient water use and support investment in aging infrastructure.
The water rate dashboards include dials showing comparative measures of average monthly bills, affordability, how well rates cover operation and maintenance costs, and the level of conservation that is encouraged.
“The dashboard promotes resource sustainability while also supporting financial security for the utility and economic development for the community,” added David Tucker, EFCN project director.
For utilities that make the decision to raise water rates to more sustainable levels, the dashboard provides data to back up these proposals. In designing this resource, it was made user-friendly for a variety of possible audiences, including city officials, reporters, and customers.
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.
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.