Future of water is uncertain in Joliet

By Stephanie Wallace

Fun fact: Joliet draws its water from a supply of 21 deep wells and five shallow wells located in the city. Not so fun fact: these wells could be empty by 2030.

“Along with the urgent need to identify an alternative source comes the possibility for opportunity,” rethinkwaterjoliet.org said.

In 2019, Joliet gained control of both the operations and maintenance of the Lockport Township Water System. The two total systems consist of 665 miles of water main, 11 water treatment plants, 10 water reservoirs, 26 active wells, 7 water pumps, 8,427 fire hydrants, 8,378 water main valves, and over 45,000 service valves.

“The City of Joliet is invested in the construction of 11 water treatment plants to remove the naturally occurring radium from the water supply,” Joliet Drinking Water Quality Report for 2019 said.

The water goes through a long and tedious cleaning process in order to remove minerals such as radium, iron, manganese, and fluoride, which includes using Hydrous Manganese Oxide to bind with the radium.

“In order to ensure tap water is safe to drink, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) prescribes regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water supply systems,” Joliet Drinking Water Quality Report for 2019 said.

In the wake of COVID-19, Joliet is making sure that people are able to wash their hands effectively by not shutting off water services to families who fail to produce their payments.

“Many drinking systems are discontinuing service cut-offs, restoring service to customers whose services were previously cut-off, and refraining from imposing penalties for nonpayment,” epa.gov said.

However, with more water being used, Joliet’s water source could be disappearing quicker than expected. A study done in 2015 by the Illinois Water Survey shows decreasing water levels.

“Based on updated modeling completed in 2018 the aquifer supplying Joliet’s wells could be depleted by 2030,” rethinkwaterjoliet.com said.
In order to help save the water, a new program is being installed that “consists of the planning, design, and construction of a new water source.”

The two options were Lake Michigan: New Indiana Intake and Lake Michigan: Chicago Department of Water Management.

“Currently the city receives its water from the Ironton-Galesville aquifer,” thetimesweekly said. “When determining what its water source would be in the future, Joliet created the Environmental Commission panel.

The Lake Michigan: New Indiana Intake alternative program will consist of the construction of a new raw water intake in Lake Michigan on the Indiana shoreline, pumping facilities and transmission mains to bring raw water to the City of Joliet for treatment and distribution.

“The conceptual implementation costs for this alternative range from $900 million go $1.1 billion,” rethinkwaterjoliet.org said.

The Lake Michigan: Chicago Department of Water Management alternative will involve purchasing water from the City of Chicago at the Southwest

Pumping Station and construction of pumping facilities and transmissions mains the same as the New Indiana Intake alternative.

“This alternative will consider two variation: Joliet owned transmission main or Chicago owned transmission main,” rethinkwaterjoliet.org said.

The City of Joliet is also considering 12 other different alternative water sources including Fox Rive, Kankakee River: Public Water Commission, and Des Plaines River. The sources span three different types which are groundwater, river water, and Lake Michigan water.

“Unlike other areas of the country, Joliet is fortunate to have several possible sources of water that could be tapped individually or in combination to provide high quality water…,” Alternative Water Source Study said.

There are many factors that contribute to which alternative system Joliet chooses including maintenance, redundancy, and governance. However, water quality and quantity are the primary focus.

“All of the water that is pumped out of the ground does not end up at the customer’s tap,” Alternative Water Source Study said. “As efficient as a system is, water loss is unavoidable.”

According to Times Weekly the Joliet City Council has voted to use Lake Michigan as Joliet’s main water source in 7 to 10 years,

“The project is now underway an estimated to cost between $900 million and $1 billion, and it could increase the monthly water bills of Joliet residents as much [as] $50 to $70,” thetimesweekly said.