Green Infrastructure Key to Ensuring Sustainable Water Supplies for Illinois
Leading conservation experts, water system executives, local environmentalists and others agreed that managing stormwater with green infrastructure is a critical element to sustaining our water supply and preventing a future water crisis for Northeastern Illinois.
Green infrastructure took center stage at a recent regional discussion about sustainable water supply planning for Illinois, hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands. The event was centered on a report to be released by both organizations titled Before the Wells Run Dry: Ensuring Sustainable Water Supplies for Illinois.
Steve Wise, CNT’s Director of Natural Resources, presented a comparison of states’ clean water green reserve process and performances. Green infrastructure projects have been initiated in several states, including Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. “There is no shortage of municipalities and community groups in Illinois that could and would implement cost- and ecologically- effective green infrastructure projects. Illinois could learn from these other states how to effectively promote and fund sustainable green infrastructure investments,” said Wise.
The report states the region could face a long-term water shortage as early as 2015. Implementing green infrastructure practices has the potential to increase Illinois’ allowable water supply from Lake Michigan by almost 30 percent.
Green infrastructure can help solve modern urban water management issues as they relate to land use and development. Green infrastructure manages stormwater by capturing raindrops where they fall. There is a growing awareness in the region of green infrastructure as more communities, including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Aurora, begin to roll out these types of projects.
“In Illinois and around the country, we should revise the eligibility criteria and priorities of public and private infrastructure funding to recognize the multiple values of green infrastructure, for stormwater management, water supply, community vitality, and quality of life,” said Wise. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides a 20% set aside specifically for green projects. Several states have used these funds to initiate a variety of green infrastructure projects.
Wise believes that “by streamlining local, state and federal funding mechanisms for green infrastructure, Illinois communities could help ensure that they have access to sustainable water supplies now and in the future.”