Across Illinois cities and towns are working on their drought management plans. For some places, that means restrictions on water use. And as Rachel Otwell reports, conservation efforts don’t come without some negative consequences:
Greg Kail is with the American Water Works Association. He says utility companies and cities are using water restrictions as a way to cope with the on-going drought.
SKELLY: “Well certainly, that’s a large concern for us, we saw during the drought of the 1950s that the lake dropped 13 feet below full pool.”Skelly says if the lake gets that low again the city’s power plant which depends on lake water would be forced to limit its production. And he says if conditions don’t improve, restrictions will become more severe, like a surcharge for water use that goes over a set limit.Springfield Mayor Michael Houston says water restrictions are aimed at making residents think seriously about conserving water, but he’s long pushed to have another lake built here:
HOUSTON: “I am a firm believer that those places that have water in the future are going to attract people and they’re going to attract jobs, and I think it really is important for Springfield, and I think it’s important for the entire Midwest that we protect the water sources that we have here.”
As water restrictions spread, so does the pain. In Decatur, stricter measures include a ban on car washing. For Dawn Grandon who works at a commercial car wash, that means the end of her job:
GRANDON: “It’s going to affect us a lot, we’ve got ten employees here at this wash alone that are going to have to go to unemployment or find another job or something for the next like three to six months if not longer.”
Brian Fuchs is a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center based at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He says it often takes something as serious as a drought for city officials to consider updating their water systems:
FUCHS: “When you do start talking restrictions and preaching conservation messages I think that’s good for everyone because it does make them step back and realize that their water’s coming from somewhere and they need to … know … what they can do to sustain that flow of fresh water.”
And that’s a message city officials in Illinois are trying to spread. For now they say, sacrifices will have to made to ensure there’s enough water left for the bare necessities.