Lake Michigan Water Study

Since 2010, the Village has been studying the feasibility of securing Lake Michigan water as an alternative to receiving water from deep underground aquifers via six wells, of which five are in regular use while the other is maintained as an emergency back-up.  Below is a Q&A on this important subject.

Why consider switching to Lake Michigan water?
 
Regional planners and engineers have posed concerns regarding the long-term sustainability of regional aquifers to provide water to Northeastern Illinois, including Lake Zurich.  Coupled with the high cost of maintaining its well water system, it is prudent for the Village to consider switching to Lake Michigan as its primary source of water. 

Groundwater Supply. In 2010, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) led the development and coordinated implementation of Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply/Demand Plan. Water 2050 is the official water supply/demand plan for an 11-county northeastern Illinois planning area -- the CMAP region of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will, along with Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, and Kankakee counties. The CMAP report determined that deep aquifers throughout northeastern Illinois may not be able to meet anticipated water needs within the next 30 to 40 years.

As it relates specifically to Lake Zurich, the Village asked the engineering firm of Baxter & Woodman Inc. to assess the current condition of water levels in western Lake County. In its December 2011 report, Baxter & Woodman concluded that future groundwater supply available to Lake Zurich is not sustainable over the long term and will be expensive to maintain in the meantime.

High Maintenance Costs.  Village staff and engineers estimate that in the next 10 years the estimated capital costs necessary to maintain the Village’s well water system and meet the projected water use demand at $16.5 million.

Are there water quality issues with well water or Lake Michigan water?

Whether water is obtained from shallow or deep wells, rivers, reservoirs, or lakes, all water suppliers in the United States are required by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to  annually publish a Water Quality Report.  The report summarizes the quality of the water that was provided in the past calendar year, including details about where the water comes from, what it contains, and how it compares to current standards.  In its most recent report for the 2014 calendar year, the Illinois EPA determined that Lake Zurich's water supply source is safe, secure, and meets all EPA requirements.  The report is available for review at LakeZurich.org.

In the early 2000’s the Village realized the presence of naturally occurring radium and barium in the deep aquifer were exceeding standard limits. At the time, it was not possible to obtain Lake Michigan water and the Village faced an EPA compliance commitment.  In response, between 2004-2008 the Village invested in ion-exchange plants at each of its five operating wells to remove the contaminants.  Since then, the Village has met all water quality requirements for ensuring public health.  More information is available here:  Water Quality.  
 

What has the Village done so far to move this issue forward?

Obtained Water Allocation Permit from IDNR. One of the first things the Village did was request a Lake Michigan water allocation from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which it received in January 2011. Allocations are not routinely granted and it is important to periodically provide a progress report to the IDNR. Accordingly, on May 29, 2015, the Village Manager sent a letter to the IDNR advising of the Village’s continuing efforts to review the feasibility of obtaining Lake Michigan water. 

Explored Water Purchase Options. In 2012 the Village asked the engineering firm of AB&H Donohue Associates to investigate water suppliers that could provide Lake Michigan water. These agencies included:

  • Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA)
  • City of Highland Park
  • City of Lake Forest
  • Village of Northbrook
  • Northern Lake County Lake Michigan Planning Group
  • Northwest Water Commission (NWC)

Of the six water suppliers, the NWC has the resources and was determined to be the most economical supplier for Lake Zurich.  Until late 2014, there was the possibility of Lake Zurich partnering with the Village of Wauconda to share in the cost of construction. However, Wauconda decided to secure Lake Michigan water through Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency in partnership with another community.

Held Community Meetings. The Village Board has stressed the importance of ensuring the community is kept apprised of this important topic and have a voice in the deliberations. Informational public meetings were held on October 5, 2013 and December 9, 2013 in which the Village’s engineers from Manhard Consulting discussed the pros and cons of staying with groundwater or switching to Lake Michigan. Power point presentations were made and the links are available here:  October 5, 2013 and December 9, 2013. Both meetings are regularly rebroadcast on Lake Zurich Comcast Channel 4 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. Visit http://lakezurich.org/261/Public-Access-TV for more information. 

 
With Wauconda no longer a viable partner, what are the next steps?

The Village staff will be conferring with other area communities to determine if there are other local governments interested in partnering to share in the cost of construction of a Lake Michigan pipeline.

During the summer of 2015, Lake Zurich partnered with the National Research Center to conduct the National Citizen Survey, a scientific survey that allows for statistically valid results and benchmark comparisons against other communities across the United States.  The survey has a confidence interval of 95%, which means we can be 95% confident that the data represents the opinions of the entire population.  

 The question pertaining to Lake Michigan water read as follows:

The Village has been analyzing the possibility of obtaining its water supply from Lake Michigan. At this point, the current well supply is plentiful and there are no water quality issues. However, there are long-term concerns about the availability, quality and potentially rising costs of deep aquifer water in the region. The cost of delivering Lake Michigan water to Lake Zurich is significant, with an estimated construction cost of $43 million. In the absence of a municipal partner, the estimated increase to an average Lake Zurich resident could be in the range of $300-$440 annually.

Do you support or oppose Lake Zurich switching to Lake Michigan water?

                        Strongly support  - Somewhat support  - Somewhat oppose  - Strongly oppose  - Don’t know

 The results of this question were as follows:

           Strongly support - 17%
           Somewhat support - 32%
           Somewhat oppose - 28%
           Strongly oppose - 24% 

The complete results of the National Citizen Survey are here:  Community Livability Report.

How can I learn more about this important topic?

The decision whether or not to pursue Lake Michigan water is a major decision for Lake Zurich. This is why in 2011 the Village brought in a team of experts to provide objective analysis and advice as the Village develops an integrated water resources plan addressing not just its water supply, but wastewater and storm water management issues as well.  The team was comprised of the Metropolitan Planning Council, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and University of Illinois Extension. The project team also included a task force of experts in engineering, economics, ecology, urban planning, and education, all of whom provided pro bono assistance.  The report is comprehensive and devotes an Appendix (beginning on page 29) to the Lake Michigan decision. The report can be accessed here: June 6, 2012 - Recommendations for Integrated Water Resources Planning in Lake Zurich.
 
A team of Village staff members and the Village’s Engineer from Manhard Consulting are available to answer any the of your questions. Please feel free to contact any of the following:
Name Position Telephone Email
Peter Stoehr Village Engineer/Manhard Consulting 847-325-7318 pstoehr@manhard.com
Mike Brown Public Works Director 847-540-5066 Mike.Brown@LakeZurich.org
Steve Schmitt Utilities Superintendent 847-550-1773 Steve.Schmitt@LakeZurich.org