Local News

Joliet sets timeline to deal with future water shortage

Treated water flows along blue pipes at the Joliet Water Treatment Facility on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, Joliet, Ill.[]

JOLIET – City officials hope to be close to a decision on where to turn next for water by the end of this year.

Joliet is seeking a new water supply with forecasts that city wells could begin to dry up in 15 to 20 years. The city plans to hire a consulting engineer to review options by this summer, Utilities Director James Eggen said Tuesday.

“We would select a firm by summertime so they could work on that and get a report back by the end of the year,” Eggen said.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk a year ago appointed a commission to review the city’s water problem and has said he wants Joliet to deal with the issue.

In his State of the City speech, O’Dekirk said he expects progress in the coming year.

“This is a major, major capital program that’s got to happen,” O’Dekirk said last week while giving the speech at Joliet Junior College. “It’s a big issue, but I think we’re going to address it in the year forward.”

O’Dekirk called the water issue “a regional problem.”

The aquifer from which Joliet draws water spreads across a large area of northeastern Illinois. Other cities, including Aurora, that have drawn from the aquifer have switched or look to change to other water supplies.

More locally, a Public Water Commission created in 1971 to look at water issues that existed back then has been revived and now is meeting every other month to consider a regional approach to water supplies, Eggen said. The regional commission includes Joliet, Frankfort, Lockport, New Lenox, Rockdale and Romeoville.

The Joliet water panel is called the Environmental & Refuse Commission because it was first formed decades ago to study the city’s waste collection issues. O’Dekirk revived the commission solely to examine the need for a new water supply.

The commission next meets at 3 p.m. Thursday in city hall.

Eggen said the commission has reviewed the potential for obtaining water from Lake Michigan. The next session, he said, will focus on the potential for building a pipeline to the Kankakee River.

The engineering study also likely will take in the possibility of treating Des Plaines River water, Eggen said, although he called that option “less desirable” because of the condition of the water.

“Treatment technology has become cheaper, so there’s also the option of taking water out of the Des Plaines River and treating it,” he said.

The city is likely to advertise requests for proposals for an engineering study sometime this spring, Eggen said.

The issue: Joliet wells are projected to begin going dry in 15 to 20 years.
The challenge: Find another water supply.
Options: Lake Michigan water; a pipeline to the Kankakee River; treating Des Plaines River water.
Timetable: Joliet plans to complete studies on the issue by the end of 2018.