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Specialist: Residents, municipalities must address groundwater sustainability

Specialist: Residents, municipalities must address groundwater sustainability

Jason Thomason, geologist with the U.S Geological Survey, gives a presentation about McHenry County's groundwater Wednesday at McHenry County college.
Jason Thomason, geologist with the U.S Geological Survey, gives a presentation about McHenry County's groundwater Wednesday at McHenry County college.

CRYSTAL LAKE – When you turn on the tap in McHenry County, 100 percent of the water that flows comes from a finite resource.

McHenry County College hosted a forum on water sustainability and resources in McHenry County on Wednesday. Experts from the county, the Illinois State Geological Survey, the Metropolitan Planning Council and other organizations all spoke about the importance of conservation and resourcefulness as it relates to water.

“Water is necessary for all living things. Water is also necessary for economic development,” said Scott Kuykendall, water resource specialist for the county. “You can’t get people invested in businesses and homes if there is no safe, clean and affordable water supply.”

McHenry County doesn’t get its water from Lake Michigan or any other lakes or rivers. About 75 percent of drinking water comes from groundwater aquifers, which are replenished naturally from rain. The remaining
25 percent of water comes from bedrock aquifers which are found deeper in the earth, he said.

Overconsumption, drought, contamination and development can all detrimentally affect the water systems and water availability, Kuykendall said.

“With development, we lose a lot of our recharge,” he said.

Recharge refers to water going back into the ground. For example, if a previously green area is paved, the opportunity for rain water to soak back into the aquifer is gone, he said.

McHenry County residents can help better manage water resources by using water-efficient products such as low-flow toilets, faucets and shower heads while simultaneously reducing water use, said keynote speaker Mary Ann Dickinson, CEO and president of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

“Both are benefits to overall water supply,” she said.

Conservation and water efficiency can provide short-term relief during a drought and benefit long-term planning in terms of growth and supply demand. It’s also an economic tool because it defers building water and wastewater treatment facilities, she said.

Governments can help by enacting green standards and taking other steps to make sure efficiencies are in place. By 2030, McHenry County’s population is projected to grow by 190,000 and shortages are predicted to occur in some areas as soon as 2025, Dickinson said.

“That is not very far away when you think about it. It’s less than 10 years,” she said. “This is a problem we need to think about now.”

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