Studies say development to outpace groundwater

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County’s governments will not be legally bound to follow the guidelines of a water conservation plan nearing completion.

But with studies predicting that the county’s development will outpace its groundwater supply, the task force putting the plan together hopes that municipalities, townships and the McHenry County Board will take it seriously.

The Groundwater Protection Program Task Force held its final review Tuesday of a plan two years in the making. The group consists of representatives from county governments, environmental groups and developers.

“Some parts of the county could face [water] shortages as early as 2020. That’s next decade,” county Water Resources Manager Cassandra McKinney told the task force Tuesday afternoon.

The “model” policy seeks to encourage governments to conserve quantity and quality of groundwater, McKinney said. It contains benchmarks to increase conservation through smarter development that preserves recharge areas, improved farm irrigation and landscaping techniques, and aggressive public outreach.

The plan will go back to county governments for review, County Administrator Peter Austin said. The County Board likely will accept the plan at its Oct. 6 meeting, after a review by the board’s Natural and Environmental Resources Committee formed this year.

“The County Board is just like all of the other groups at the table,” Austin said.

A 2005 study by Baxter & Woodman Inc. named Grafton and Algonquin townships as two of 11 in the Chicago metro area that could run short of water by 2020. It warned that demand could exceed supply in Algonquin Township by 42 percent by 2030 without more proactive conservation measures. The study also warns that supply will come close to or equal demand by 2030 in McHenry, Burton, Dorr and Nunda townships.

A study released last year by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning concluded that groundwater use in McHenry County could more than double by 2050 under a worst-case scenario, far exceeding nature’s ability to recharge aquifers.

The task force’s work builds on a management plan finished in 2006, the year before the county hired McKinney as its first-ever water resource manager. It is the latest step in a county effort to preserve its water resources.

The county last year installed a countywide network of monitoring wells with the help of federal funds, and the Illinois State Geological Survey is in the first year of a three-year project to create a three-dimensional map of the county’s aquifers and surrounding materials.

On the Web

Read the county’s proposed groundwater conservation policy at www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/waterresources.

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