Illinois Moves Toward More Sustainable Stormwater Management
On May 27, the Illinois Legislature took a significant step toward statewide sustainable water policy by passing the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, SB 1489. The bill sets the state on a path toward more effective and sustainable urban stormwater management by directing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to consider standards that prioritize natural drainage approaches known as green infrastructure.
As the storm Chicago experienced in September 2008 demonstrated, conventional “hardscape” approaches to stormwater management are not only expensive for taxpayers, they cannot solve all our stormwater problems by themselves. During that storm, over 11 billion gallons of stormwater combined with raw—untreated—domestic sewage water were released into Lake Michigan, and an additional 50 billion gallons above typical flow overflowed out the Chicago River into the Des Plaines and ultimately the Mississippi basin.
The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to report to the Legislature and Governor’s Office on stormwater management techniques that capture raindrops where they fall. Green infrastructure preserves and enhances natural drainage systems which reduce the amount of stormwater that must be collected in pipes and treated or discharged to our surface waters. These sustainable stormwater practices increase infiltration of rain water into the ground, reducing pollution and sewer overflows, and helping recharge declining groundwater aquifers. Several states and major cities around the country have taken the lead in supplementing their conventional stormwater systems with green infrastructure best management practices, recognizing that green infrastructure can save money and enhance community health and vitality.
CNT identified the problem and proposed solutions to members of the General Assembly. The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act was the result. The lead sponsors were Senator Iris Martinez and Representative Elaine Nekritz. Co-sponsors included Senators Susan Garrett, Jacqueline Collins, Ira Silverstein, Pamela Althoff, and Martin Sandoval and Representatives Jehan Gordon, Deborah Mell, Sara Feigenholtz, Elizabeth Coulson, Sandra Pihos, Rosemary Mulligan, Naomi Jakobsson, and Mike Fortner. The IEPA also supported the action and has begun to plan its study, even before the bill reaches the Governor’s desk for his anticipated signature. CNT will be working with the State, municipalities, regional agencies, and the research community on this effort to bring the benefits of green infrastructure to all urban and urbanizing areas in Illinois. Interested parties can help by providing information to the Agency on the benefits and costs involved in using green infrastructure practices.
For information on how to become involved in this effort, please contact Hal Sprague, CNT Senior Policy Associate, at 773-269-4046, or hal at cnt.org.
On June 30, 2009, Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law, as Public Act 96-0026.