Situated along the shore of Lake Michigan, metropolitan Chicago has benefited for centuries from an abundance of fresh water. The infrastructure necessary for delivering water and removing wastewater and stormwater is primarily underground and, subsequently, is often forgotten until a problem arises. However, recognition is growing that water infrastructure is aging and our community water suppliers face challenges. At the same time, a new regional understanding has emerged on the role of water pricing in the effective provision and management of our water resources and infrastructure.
Local governments are the primary investors in water infrastructure. Revenues generated by water rates are the primary funding source for most community water systems. Setting water rates that recover the full cost of providing water service can contribute to financial resilience and create enough revenue to maintain the system. Sustainable rates enable communities to meet water demand reliably and safely. Recovering full costs is especially important because poor infrastructure poses one of the top three challenges for northeastern Illinois water utilities, and failing infrastructure can impose high costs on communities in terms of damage and inconvenience.
Full-cost pricing is fundamental to addressing both the need for investment in water infrastructure and the challenge of accommodating millions of additional residents expected to move to the region by mid-century. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, in partnership with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, has developed the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook that explores full-cost pricing as a tool for local decision makers interested in sustainably managing community water supply.
The free Northeast Illinois Water Rates Dashboard water rates tool provides utilities in the Chicago area with the ability to compare their residential water and wastewater rates against multiple characteristics, including utility finances, system size, customer demographics, and geography.
Water Affordability in Northeastern Illinois: Addressing Water Equity in a Time of Rising Costs
This report represents an important first step in quantifying the extent of the water affordability problem in northeastern Illinois, and exploring strategies for tackling this growing challenge.
Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook
This manual explores full-cost pricing as a tool for local decision makers interested in sustainably managing community water supply.
Understanding Conservation Pricing
Every community has unique needs and must decide what it wants to achieve with water rates. This factsheet discusses rate design to encourage efficient water use, in other words, conservation pricing.
Education & Training
- Water affordability report helps inform new Chicago water billing policy
- IISG seeks four interns for summer 2020
- Indiana Master Watershed Steward Program debuts in Northwest Indiana
- Water resource economist Margaret Schneemann featured in American Public Media
- Interns Catherine and Jennifer tackled key water supply planning issues