the conclusion of Part 1, Edward Mehnert of the University of
Illinois Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability said that in
the Lincoln area the Mahomet Aquifer is more saturated on the north
side of town than it is on the south. Therefore, as the city's
economic development partnership works to bring new industry in,
they might want to promote an area on the north side of town if the
company will need its own wells and be using large volumes of water.
He went on to say that every city and or county planner in the water
supply planning region should be concerned about this, and they are
encouraged to contact the committee for assistance in identifying
proper locations for development, based on water needs.
Continuing on in Part 2...
Mehnert said that while the water supply
seems to be secure in Logan County, that is not the case for the
region on the whole.
Water supply planning committee member Jay Henry explained that
in Champaign County there is cause for concern.
In that area, the
aquifer is known as "confined," meaning that the water is trapped in
dense soils and rock formations. Consequently it is not recharged by
rainwater as quickly as it is in some areas, such as Mason County,
where the aquifer is not confined by solid rock formations. The
Mason County soils are sandier, making it easier for water to travel
quickly back to the aquifer.
Measuring water use
To measure how water usage is affecting the Mahomet Aquifer, a
measurement called "head" is used. Henry explained that the
underground water is under pressure. When a well is dug, the
pressure will cause the head to rise above the ceiling of the
In 1930 a well dug in the Champaign area would produce
approximately 180 feet of head. In 2007 a well identified as the
Petro North Well had a head of only 80 feet, a 100-foot depletion
over 73 years, or put another way, a loss of over 1 foot per year.
Extending the scenario to 2050, it is plausible to say that the
Petro North Well head will drop to below 40 feet.
Henry said that this is cause for concern in the entire region,
and he stressed that this is not the worst-case scenario.
Should the region experience prolonged draught, lasting multiple
years, the head on the well could drop to 25 feet or less.
When the head gets that low, it becomes not so much a matter of
"Will the aquifer be dewatered?" as "when the aquifer will be
Dewatered, put simply, means that it's being pumped out without
sufficient recharging; in other words, the supply is diminishing.
As levels drop in the Champaign area, there is a probability that
they will drop throughout the region, perhaps not to such a great
extent, but nonetheless, it could happen.
The committee knows that waiting until that fateful day to take
action is going to be a matter of "too little, too late." Steps need
to be taken now to conserve this natural resource and assure that
future generations will not be faced with an insurmountable dilemma.
The committee is recommending that every county and municipality
in that county have a water conservation plan and that those plans
be joined under the umbrella of the regional water planning
Unified conservation plan recommended
In the past, and even now, municipalities have had plans but have
put them together considering only themselves. The end result has
sometimes been that while city officials were doing what was right
for their community, they were inadvertently hurting another.
Melvin Pleines stepped up to recount the situation that
ultimately led to the development of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium,
a group that has existed for over 10 years and has been an integral
part of the regional committee's work.
[to top of second column]
Briefly stated, he said that there were communities arguing over
water rights. One wanted perhaps more than they needed, leaving
others with less than enough.
As problems arose in the neighboring communities, it became
apparent that these people were going to have to work together to
assure that everyone was taken care of. Thus, the consortium was
formed, and over the years of working together, has developed an
acute understanding of the aquifer and how to keep it living for the
Henry also said that conservation in the region and following a
unified plan need to be voluntary efforts.
He said that there is a very good reason that the regions should
want to manage their areas without state involvement or state laws
mandating what they do.
"State laws are made in Springfield, by people who may understand
the needs of one area but not all," he said.
He went on to say that each region in the state is going to be
different. Their water is going to come from other sources, their
industrial needs may be different, and the populations may be
different. Therefore it can't be a one-size-fits-all program such as
a law would make it.
The committee is recommending that a new regional study be
conducted every five years to monitor conservation efforts and
assure that the aquifer is being protected.
Water consumption is highest in the industrial and agricultural
sectors of the region. The committee wants to bring a greater
awareness to these large-volume users, urging them to adopt modern
water-saving methods and equipment whenever possible.
And while domestic use is the smallest part of the consumption
scale, there are still things that homeowners can do to conserve
A flier passed out during the meeting indicated that 10 percent
of all homes have leaks that can waste 90 gallons of water a day or
more. That is almost 33,000 gallons a year, and the leaks are often
easily corrected by repairing a toilet flapper, replacing a faucet
or even just tightening a valve.
And, there are other recommendations, not the least of which is
The committee has put together a list of online resources
(available below) that will help readers understand more about what
can be done to conserve water, including a link to the committee's
own Web site, where one can read their 111-page report or a
condensed version of it, which includes findings and recommendations
for the region.
[By NILA SMITH]
East Central Illinois Regional Water Supply Planning Committee:
Mahomet Aquifer Consortium:
Illinois State Water Survey:
Illinois State Geological Survey:
Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts:
Illinois Department of Natural Resources:
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency:
Illinois Pollution Control Board:
Illinois Department of Agriculture: