Protecting and sustainably managing our most precious resource

Water plays an essential role in sustaining economic prosperity and environmental health in our seven-county region. While Lake Michigan, the Fox and Kankakee Rivers, and groundwater aquifers currently provide clean water, their capacity to serve the region’s needs is not limitless. In addition, many of the region’s waterways have been degraded by development practices that have disrupted the natural water cycle.

As our region grows, it is critical that water resources are planned for, conserved, and used efficiently.

Water supply

Despite proximity to Lake Michigan, significant portions of the region — especially those that rely on groundwater sources — experience water supply challenges. Understanding the available supply of water and current and future demand is critical to making informed land use, transportation, and infrastructure investment decisions.

As our region grows, it is critical that water resources are conserved and used efficiently. Long-term water planning includes protecting water quality, water conservation and efficiency, with an eye to how strategies could impact water affordability.

Five ways to use CMAP’s water data

Ariel view of suburban development

Understanding water supply and demand

Groundwater supplies are being depleted throughout northeastern Illinois, raising sustainability concerns for residents and businesses This is particularly true in western Will, Kendall, and southern Kane counties, which also are seeing population increases. CMAP and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant created the ON TO 2050 Regional Water Demand Forecast to inform decisions that affect water supply and demand. Read the water demand forecast overview and download your community’s data on the Data Hub.

Lawn sprinkler

Advancing water conservation and efficiency

Water conservation and efficiency planning and practices help to ensure that the region has adequate water resources in the future. ON TO 2050 builds on the recommendations of Water 2050, which provided the region with a detailed set of water conservation and efficiency measures as well as land use planning strategies that protect supply, reduce demand, and minimize infrastructure costs. Reducing water loss by upgrading aging and leaky infrastructure and reducing outdoor water use are two critical strategies.

Village of Franklin water tower

Water utilities

Local governments are the primary investors in infrastructure, and water rates are the main source of revenue for most community water systems. Setting water rates that recover the full cost of providing service can help create enough revenue to maintain the system. CMAP, in partnership with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the University of Illinois Extension, developed a manual that explores full-cost pricing as a tool for local decision makers interested in sustainably managing community water supply.

Water quality

Water quality impairments are caused by many sources: combined sewer overflows, treatment plants, stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, soil erosion, and more. In addition to reducing the quality of habitat and biodiversity in our region, poor water quality can limit how we can use our water for drinking, fishing, recreation, and other uses. As the state-delegated areawide water quality planning agency for northeastern Illinois, CMAP works with local governments and stakeholders to conserve and restore the region’s water resources to help achieve the goals of the Illinois Water Quality Management Plan and the Areawide Water Quality Management Plan.

Areawide Water Quality Management Plan

Adopted in 1979 and incorporated into Illinois’ statewide plan in 1983, the Areawide Water Quality Management Plan Volume 1 provides an overview of existing conditions and outlines recommendations and strategies for reducing pollution from point and nonpoint sources from a regionwide perspective. Volume 2 provides detailed existing conditions assessments and recommendations for the larger drainage basins in the region.

Significant progress has been made and innumerable recommendations implemented by the region’s local governments and stakeholders over the four decades-plus since the areawide plan was developed, but much remains to be done to continue to protect and improve the region’s water resources and quality of life in light of development and climate change impacts.

River with a pier and boats. Large trees line one side of the river, and plants line the other

Watershed-based planning

A watershed is the area of land where water drains to a common location, such as a river or stream. Watershed-based planning is an important way to address today’s water resource challenges by allowing a plan to be defined by the hydrology of the area instead of political boundaries. It leads to strategies and recommendations to help restore, protect, or maintain the beneficial uses of waters. These multi-objective plans acknowledge the value of water and other natural resources and, with this perspective, seek to improve quality-of-life in the watershed for both current residents and future generations.

Interested in creating a watershed plan for your area? Check out CMAP’s guidance for developing watershed action plans to create a plan for your community. CMAP also conducts watershed planning through the technical assistance program as part of its areawide water quality management planning responsibilities.

Two people paddle in kayats on river. Trees and plants line river. Behind are houses

Water quality technical assistance

CMAP offers technical assistance, coordination, and participation in water quality planning and implementation activities in collaboration with communities, agencies, organizations, and other stakeholders throughout northeastern Illinois. This includes assistance to others developing watershed-based plans or implementing recommendations of Illinois Environmental Protecetion Agency-approved plans, participation in stormwater management and green infrastructure initiatives, water resource monitoring, and public outreach and education programs — all with an eye toward improving and protecting water quality in northeastern Illinois.