News Column

Illinois Will Expand Investments in the State's Water Infrastructure

May 9, 2014



CHICAGO, May 9 -- The Natural Resources Defense Council issued the following news release:

Illinois took some big steps towards more resilient, cost effective and sustainable water infrastructure today, according to experts with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).

Late yesterday afternoon the House passed SB 2780, which for the first time ever, provides significant financial support to municipal water systems for water efficiency, green infrastructure, and other projects that make water systems better prepared for flood events and water shortages. State Senator Dan Kotowski and State Representative Elaine Nekritz sponsored legislation that both houses passed unanimously. Governor Quinn's administration worked closely with NRDC, CNT, and others to help craft the legislation, which passed without opposition.

In addition, this week the Illinois EPA announced it would conduct a study on the costs and benefits of leaking water pipes across the state and take action to assist water utilities in their efforts to control leaks. Every day across America, water utilities and water consumers watch their money go down the drain, as more than 6 billion gallons of expensive, treated water is simply lost. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates that there are more than 237,000 breaks per year in U.S. water infrastructure, resulting in approximately $2.8 billion in lost revenue and higher rates for consumers.

"Water loss is an environmental and economic problem: the wasted water and energy to move it amounts to very literal money down the drain across the state," said Karen Hobbs, Senior Policy Analyst for NRDC. "By better understanding the extent of water loss across the state, Illinois EPA will be able to help utilities address this problem, reducing costs for utilities, saving consumers money and better protecting our water resources."

"The amount of water we lose in America each year would cover the entire city of Chicago by 43 feet," said Hal Sprague, Water Policy Manager at CNT. "No one wants to see that, but we do need to start seeing to the needs of our often hidden water infrastructure. The future of our cities, our state, and our country depend on strengthening our water supply and stormwater management systems, making them more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change. It is encouraging to see Illinois leaders take positive steps in this direction."

Rob Moore, a Senior Policy Analyst at NRDC said, "These actions by the General Assembly, Governor Quinn, and the Illinois EPA lay the foundation for making the state's water infrastructure more resilient to floods, droughts, and other events that will become more likely due to climate change."

The National Climate Assessment, released earlier this week, highlighted that the Midwest can expect to see more frequent and severe flooding as well as a greater risk of prolonged droughts. The drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems that communities rely upon will be put under a great deal of additional stress as a result. Illinois has laid the foundation for making sure the state's water infrastructure is prepared for the future.

More information on NRDC's Switchboard blog:

* Illinois Infrastructure: Getting Our Water Systems Up to Snuff Amidst the Climate Crush http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/hhenderson/illinois_infrastructure_gettin.html

* Illinois Moves to Make Water Infrastructure More Resilient to Climate Impacts http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rmoore/governor_quinn_of_illinois_wil.html

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