May 2014 Issue 7
Credit—Daniel Abrams, ISWS

Aquifer Desaturation: 

One of the major concerns of water researchers and planners in the region is aquifer desaturation (click on image above to enlarge). Desaturation happens as a result of high levels of deep aquifer pumping that result in drawdown of the hydraulic head (the undergound water level). Too much drawdown may cause groundwater to flow from a shallow aquifer to a deep aquifer, saline (salty) groundwater to flow upward into the deep aquifer from deeper units not used for drinking water and/or desaturation of the deep aquifer. The diagram above depicts this phenomenon.

Partial or complete desaturation of regional deep aquifers may result in loss in transmissivity—the rate at which groundwater flows horizontally through an aquifer affecting water supply—and redox changes—changes in chemical state affecting water quality. The aquifer that is at risk of desaturation in our region is the Ancell deep aquifer. All of this means that there may be pockets of water depletion or poor water quality that affect parts of the region.

Executive Committee Members:

Executive Committee Chairman
Thomas Weisner
City of Aurora, Mayor
(Metro West COG)

Mary McCann
McHenry County Board Member
(McHenry County)

Kathleen Leitner
Village of Tower Lakes, President
(Barrington Area COG)

Ruth Anne Tobias
DeKalb County Board Member
(DeKalb County)

Dale Berman
Village of North Aurora, President
(Metro West COG)

Bonnie T. Carter
Lake County Board Member
(Lake County)

Terry Counley
Village of McCollum Lake, President
(McHenry County COG)

Karen Darch
Village of Barrington, President
(Northwest Municipal Conference)

Joseph Haimann
Kane County Board Member
(Kane County alternate)

David Kaptain
City of Elign, Mayor
(Metro West COG)

John Purcell
Kendall County Board Member
(Kendall County alternate)

Carolyn Schofield
McHenry County Board Member
(McHenry County alternate)

John Shaw
Kendall Count Board Chairman
(Kendall County)

Patsy Smith
Village of Campton Hills, President
(Metro West COG)

Melisa Taylor
Kane County Board Member
(Kane County)

Technical Advisory Committee Chairman:
Peter Wallers, P.E., CFM
Engineering Enterprises, Inc., President
Metro West COG Consulting Engineer
(630) 466-6721
A Message from Mayor Thomas Weisner, Chairman of the NWPA Executive Committee
I want to both congratulate and thank the City of McHenry as the latest community to adopt NWPA’s model ordinance for water conservation in lawn watering.

McHenry joins several progressive communities in the NWPA region, including Batavia, Aurora, Elburn and Montgomery. McHenry was spurred to action by two local studies showing that water shortages could result in the future because of strains on groundwater resources.

The fact is that many communities in our region are drawing on their water sources at rates greater than necessary and that this behavior will negatively impact these communities in the future—whether it be sooner or later. Treating our finite water supplies as though they are infinite is particularly shortsighted when it comes to landscape or lawn watering. Studies have shown that homeowners shower twice the amount of water on their lawns than the amount required to maintain a green and healthy lawn.

The City of Aurora implemented a water conservation ordinance, much like the NWPA model, in 2005. Although there were some initial concerns expressed, the ordinance has been broadly accepted.

The impact of the ordinance has been impressive. Even with significant population growth, Aurora’s peak demand for water on a hot summer day has barely notched upward. This means that Aurora has avoided the capital costs of drilling new wells and making additions to our water plant. Most importantly, Aurora is using up less of the limited water in its deep aquifer, making it available to future generations.

I urge NWPA area municipalities to follow the City of McHenry’s example in conserving our most precious resource—water.


The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) had its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. It appears that water quality and supply issues that arose during the harsh winter are finally beginning to decrease. The level of the Fox River is currently high. No communities reported high chlorine concentrations or high numbers of frozen service lines as in previous months.

Dr. Daniel Abrams, Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), gave a presentation entitled "Available water supply from deep aquifers in Northeastern Illinois: Preliminary model estimates." Dr. Daniel Abrams, Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), gave a presentation entitled "Available water supply from deep aquifers in Northeastern Illinois: Preliminary model estimates." ISWS has been working with NWPA to derive an estimate of available groundwater located in regional deep aquifers through modeling techniques. The available water supply in the NWPA region is not a static number, and is dependent on future pumping scenarios and well locations. Dr. Abrams presented a number of hypothetical pumping scenarios with preliminary impact results, but more work and data is needed to further refine the accuracy of the model.  NWPA members are encouraged to provide suggestions to ISWS researchers for model scenarios that could be run, including using partial allocations of Lake Michigan water (see the legislative update below). NWPA is taking part in this initiative to develop a more clear understanding of water supplies in order to create planning policies that prevent desaturation of deep aquifers.

Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources' proposed changes to the Lake Michigan water allocation rule (see page 5754) went to first notice of JCAR in March, and the public comment period is open. Section 3730.307 Subpart d) contains language that is significant to NWPA communities. Current rule language forces groundwater communities that want a Lake Michigan allocation to completely abandon their deep wells. NWPA supports the addition of language to this section that will allow groundwater communities apply for a waiver from this requirement and tap into Lake Michigan water pipelines for some months out of the year to use lake water and rest aquifers. 

To learn more about NWPA and participate in our planning process, please attend our Technical Advisory Committee meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at The Centre at Elgin at 10:00am. The next TAC meeting will be on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.
Progress Report

McHenry Adopts NWPA Lawn Watering Ordinance

The City of McHenry became the latest adopter of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance’s regional conservation lawn watering ordinance when the City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance on March 17, 2014. McHenry joins a handful of communities—such as Aurora, Batavia, Elburn and Montgomery—moving to implement uniform watering hours and drought status criteria across the five-county NWPA region to ensure a sustainable water supply. The ordinance establishes a year-round, even-odd/time of day watering restriction with a tiered drought status provision.

McHenry’s water supply is dependent upon shallow aquifers. Shallow aquifers are more susceptible to drought conditions than deep aquifers because their recharge rates are largely dependent upon precipitation. According to Jon Schmitt, Public Works director, a report released recently by the Illinois State Water Survey about McHenry County’s aquifers spurred action by the City. The report details two studies conducted to support water resources planning in the county. One that mapped “heads” (the height of underground water levels, which affects water pressure, pumping efficiency and discharge to streams) in the shallow aquifers of McHenry County and one that developed and used a computer model to simulate groundwater flow in the aquifers supplying the county. The report concludes that groundwater resources in McHenry County could be strained to the point of water shortages and adverse effects on rivers, streams and wetlands by 2050 if action is not taken immediately to address the volume of groundwater pumping taking place.

According to Nancy Lorch, Public Works administrative assistant, McHenry is in the process of informing residents about the specifics of the ordinance. Information about the ordinance will be posted on the city’s website and delivered via newsletter. In addition, brochures providing details about the ordinance will be available at the McHenry Municipal Center and the Public Works Facility. Signs that will advise residents about current watering conditions will be installed at the main entrances to the city. 

NWPA is committed to working with members to get the ordinance or resolution passed in each municipality to achieve consistency among NWPA communities and all work together on preserving water supplies. To help with this process, NWPA is working on a conservation outreach toolkit that can be used to educate elected officials and the public about regional water supplies and the importance of conservation to maintain a sustainable water supply. Information will be distributed to each of the five Councils of Government this month. The adoption of this ordinance is a great step forward for McHenry and the region, and NWPA encourages other communities to adopt this ordinance and begin to proactively and collaboratively manage regional groundwater and river water supplies.

Interested in adopting the NWPA lawn watering ordinance in your community? Contact Kaitlyn McClain and Peter Wallers for more information about the ordinance and next steps.


As part of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)'s Areawide Water Quality Planning role, the agency serves as a regional watershed coordinator and guides several watershed planning projects underway in northeastern Illinois. In 2011, CMAP released the Silver Creek and Sleepy Hollow Creek Watershed Action Plan that inventoried existing natural resources and land use features in the watershed planning area; identified policy, planning, and stormwater management recommendations to protect and improve water quality and supply; and recommended site-specific actions and projects. These two watersheds are located McHenry county, and many of the municipalities are NWPA members. One of the central recommendations was to update municipal plans and ordinances to better protect surface water and groundwater quality and quantity as well as natural areas and open space. As a step towards implementing recommendations put forth in the Watershed Action Plan, Comprehensive Plan and Ordinance Assessments were completed in 2013 for Crystal Lake, McHenry, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills.


The Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA), formed by intergovernmental agreements, seeks to collaboratively plan for and steward our shared river and groundwater resources to ensure a sustainable water supply for the people, economy, environment, and future generations.

For more information or to contribute to the newsletter, contact Kaitlyn McClain.

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