The decision regarding whether the village will decide to tap in to Lake Michigan as its future water supply is currently up in the air, but a community discussion held at Village Hall on Wednesday showed that residents are interested in learning more.
Representatives from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, collectively known as the Community Building Initiative, presented findings after months of study regarding everything water in the village. The group presented information gleaned from community surveys completed mid-summer.
Of the close to 20,000 Lake Zurich residents, 260 people responded to the survey, which was included in water bills.
The findings included:
- Eighty percent of respondents understood that the water supply comes from an underground aquifer. Nineteen percent of respondents were not sure of the water source, while 1 percent believed the village water derives from lakes or rivers. Water use reports showed that residents consume 133 gallons per day compared to the state average of 109.
- Regarding future water choices, of those who support using Lake Michigan water, just over 50 percent "strongly agree or agree" that faucet water is safe to drink.
- Of the residents who do not support Lake Michigan water, 75 percent believe the current water supply is safe.
- Almost 25 percent of all respondents drink only bottled water.
- Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that water conservation is important regardless of the water source and said they are taking steps to conserve water.
When asked about flooding, 186 of the 260 residents surveyed said it never happens on their property. But of the roughly 25 residents who attend the forum Wednesday night, three stated there have been serious and long-term issues at their homes on Bristol Trail and at the intersection of Stone and Thistle.
“We’ve had fire engines come out to pump water out of our neighborhood that has been thigh-high,” said Mary Dobrow. “A woman who lives near me has had two of her cars totaled because they were completely flooded out.”
Project manager Josh Ellis of the Metropolitan Planning Council said before his group comes back to the village on Nov. 21, it will take that information into account in their future recommendations.
In the surveys, respondents said they have redirected downspouts, planted trees and used a sump pumps to manage storm water on their properties.
Other issues included the desire for more information about using Lake Michigan water, which will be forthcoming at the Nov. 21 village board meeting.
Village officials have stated that they plan to put a referendum on the November 2012 ballot to have Lake Zurich voters decide whether to stay with well water or move to Lake Michigan water. The survey revealed that residents are concerned about the cost of maintaining the existing system or staring anew, with residents stating they do not want to see any increases to be included in property taxes.
Community Building Initiative has not identified the costs yet.
Water and sewer taxes have not been raised since 2005, and village officials have said an increase may be needed.
“Regardless of where we go, we will need to find a means to pay for whatever the village ultimately decides relating to water,” said Trustee Rich Sustich.
Some positives to build on, Community Building Initiative officials reported, are that there is no immediate threat of a water supply shortage, the infrastructure is in good condition and water quality meets all required standards. The Community Building Initiative noted a few areas of concern, however, including: the flooding issues don't mirror the extent of the problem; the responsibility for maintaining retention ponds is undefined; and communications between the village and residents could be stronger.
Community Building Initiative also highlighted some potential opportunities, including that the parks department could incorporate storm water management into its property management by partnering with wetlands groups. Community Building Initiative noted that the village should be aware of the increasing frequency of severe weather/precipitation events, the rising wastewater treatment and radium disposal costs, and a decline in water levels of the deep aquifer.
Going forward, Community Building Initiative will present a draft finding of its assessment and recommendations to the village in November with a final report expected in December.
In the meantime, residents are encouraged to weigh in on the many issues relating to water throughout the village. For more information, visit the village website at www.volz.org.