Joliet running dry; residents will pay

The underground aquifer below Joliet is running dry. A water pipe will be built from Lake Michigan to supply Joliet and surrounding south suburbs. Water rates for residents and Joliet’s large logistics industry will triple to help pay for this pipeline. for residents and Joliet’s large logistics industry. Joliet relies on an aquifer underground aquifer, around 1,200 to 1,500 feet under the surface, for fresh water, around 1,200 to 1,500 feet under the surface, that the city has been using for decades. Maria Anna Rafac, a professor at JJC, is also a chair member of the water conservation subcommittee for the city of Joliet. “The aquifer will be unable to supply Joliet at peak day demand,” Rafac said. This means in the summer when it’s at its hottest, the aquifer is unable to meet the demands for users. “We’ve known about this since 1980, that we’re pulling up too much water,” Rafac said. Rafac helped with Rethink Water Joliet, a public information site that narrowed down solutions to just one: aA pipeline to transfer water from Lake Michigan to supply Joliet. The 31-mile pipe is set to cost over $1 billion. The switch from the aquifer to Lake Michigan will happen by 2030. Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk is a huge supporter of the pipe. “What we are doing is putting a regional solution to this problem that will provide clean and safe drinking water for generations to come,” O’Dekirk told environmental news source Grist. However, there are problems to the solution as federal rules require water plumbing systems to leak at a 10% rate or less, and Joliet’s leakage rate is currently at 35%. The city has 1,600 miles of plumbing, some dating back to the 1800s. The second issue is the price of the pipeline, with a hefty price of $1.4 billion. This means there will be a rise in water bills for residents. The Joliet City Council said that water rates need to triple to pay off the debt for construction of the pipeline. Life-long Joliet resident Stevie Guzman-Alipio says that increased water rates “come at a bad time. When people are worried about the economy and seeing the price of gas and food go up, all the city council could say is that Joliet residents need to conserve water, take short showers.” In 2021, the average monthly water bill was $34; this will rise to $90 by 2030 if Joliet proceeds along with the plan according to Rethink Water Joliet. This new pipeline will also service Joliet’s enormous warehouse and logistics industry. Joliet is the home to the nation’s largest inland port. Nearly 4% of U.S. gross domestic product, worth $735 billion, goes through its streets every year. Warehouses are now the most common type of building in the nation after houses according to the U.S Energy Information Administration. Industrial warehouse usage of water takes up 29% in Joliet. Megacorporations’ warehouses, like those of Amazon, Dollar Tree and Home Depot, used 20.5 million gallons of water in 2020, according to news source Grist. Amazon pays $1.81 for the first 200 cubic feet of water, as well as people who rent in Joliet. Amazon alone uses 100 times more water per year than the average household according to the Joliet Water Department. Walmart owners and Jeff Bezos have grown $116 billion richer during the pandemic according to the Brookings Institute. Incentives funded by taxpayers paid $741 million for Amazon developments in northeast Illinois since 2015, according to Better Government Association. “As a Joliet native, there’s a lot more that should be done for the people who live here,” former JJC employee and alumnus Devin Cooley said. “They’re the workers who manufacture all our stuff and they can barely afford to live in their own town.” “All I’m hearing from city council is use less water, even if we were all to do that, it wouldn’t solve the issue, it’s systemic,” Cooley said. “Corporations come in, use our water, exploit our labor, dirty up our air, being used all around. When is it gonna stop, our wages aren’t going up, only our cost of living.”

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