Joliet City Council votes to switch water source from underground aquifer to Lake Michigan

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Joliet officials vote on new water pipeline project
Joliet City Council is expected to approve a massive project to switch its water source from an underground aquifer to Lake Michigan

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- The Joliet City Council voted Tuesday night to build a pipeline from Indiana into the city to bring in water from Lake Michigan.

There are looming concerns that the city's wells are expected to be insufficient by the year 2030, but if a new water source is approved, it could bring higher bills for the area's residents.

"The geology in this area doesn't allow for rain water and surface water to percolate down into the aquifers, so pretty much all the water that we are taking out is not being replenished," said Allison Swisher, Joliet's director of public utilities.

The preferred remedy for officials was the plan for a new pipeline to Lake Michigan instead of buying water from Chicago. It could potentially cost billions, but the control the proponents say it offers is worth the risk. Joliet's Environmental Commission agreed.

"The cost difference is fairly negligible when you look at the actual increase to the customer on a monthly basis," said Swisher.

If the plan is approved, customer bills are expected to more than triple over the coming decades to pay for the new water source.

Many residents said they have mixed opinions about which option the city should take.

"It is something I think could've been avoided," said Darell Burton. "Joliet at one time, we had the river boats and I think if the money had been used more wisely back then, I'd have thought we could avoid these price increases right now."

"I think it is a proactive move and because if you have been following the water thing for any amount of time, we're seeing that they are pretty much tapped out from where they can go," said Jim Sleike.

"The question is, is it better to pay more for water or not have a sustainable water source, and I think all of us come to the conclusion that we would rather have the water and pay more for that," said Acting City Manager Steve Jones.

Tuesday afternoon the mayor said he was confident the proposal will pass in the city, and that the plan is critical to the city's growth.