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Water Resources Team to Look at ‘Everything Water’ in Village

Lake Zurich may become a model community for water resource management.

For the next several months, the village of Lake Zurich will investigate how to sustain the water supply in the face of potential shortages, the long-term cost of producing and delivering potable water, treating wastewater and managing storm water. The discussions will lead to an integrated water resources plan.

“We are looking at where the village is now and where it is heading with the integrated water resources plan for the water supply, wastewater and storm water management,” said Bob Vitas, village administrator. 

The Metropolitan Planning Council, a not-for-profit community planning provider, is working alongside the village to form an action plan with an eye toward all future water needs of Lake Zurich.  The group entered into an agreement in March of this year that will remain in effect until December.

Whether or not the village will utilize the Lake Michigan water allocation is one part of the plan that will be further examined.

“The current deep water wells may not be able to sustain current and future water use, and another issue is the high cost of producing water because we have to reduce the radioactive radium,” said Trustee Rich Sustich.  

Lake Michigan is believed to be more sustainable, because its water won’t be exhausted as likely would be the case with the current deep water well system.

“Examining all costs is part of the study; there is the cost of putting the pipes in (for Lake Michigan water), so we have to look at the long term,” Sustich said.  

“The questions are, 'What are the major water infrastructure investments needed and at what cost?'” Vitas said.

Vitas said the Lake Michigan water allocation is still in the study phase, and the village's top priority is ensuring a long-term, viable future water supply.

In May, the village will have to decide if it will continue looking into the Lake Michigan water allocation.  Vitas said it will cost the village $20,000 to remain in the study group, but it is a non-binding agreement. 

“Long before we make that decision, we will have recommendations from our consultant,” Vitas said.

Ultimately, Vitas said cost benefits will be determined and facts and figures presented to the public in the form of a referendum question, likely next spring, as to whether the village will ultimately move away from the deep water well system and to Lake Michigan water for its supply. 

The current storm water management system could also benefit from the study being conducted.

The storm water system in Lake Zurich is known as an MS4, a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

MS4s are a national priority for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of the problems they pose for water quality. 

“There is a lack of national guidance and examples of how to deal with water quality issues in the estimated 16-thousand MS4s across the country,” Sustich said.

“The Lake Zurich project is the culmination of a decade-long personal effort, first as an advisor to the three EPA administrators and then as manager of a National Science Foundation water research effort,” Sustich said.

All of these steps helped to put the village in the position to become a major water research and demonstration center, added Sustich.

Becoming a research location would increase visitors to the village coming to gain knowledge and benefit from our activities, and it would also make the village more attractive to developers, Sustich said.

The study could also have a positive impact on future redevelopment of the downtown area, because of its antiquated infrastructure.

“We know that it (infrastructure) would need to be replaced as any part of redevelopment,” Sustich said.

Special Service Areas (SSAs) in the village could also be impacted.

“You can’t say that SSAs are totally separate; any study we undertake will have an impact on the future of the five active SSAs,” Vitas said.

“How we go about dealing with storm water, and even water that flows from one community to the next will also be a consideration,” Vitas added.  

The final piece of the study will look into how waste water is exported to Lake County treatment facilities and whether the current treatment system is the best long-term strategy for the village, taking into account revenue stability, efficiency and environmental protection.

Vitas said the project timeline was finalized at a meeting on April 12, and a report is estimated to be completed by late November or early December.

The report will include anticipated needs of the village, facts and figures.

“We have a lot of users on the complete water system in Lake Zurich; we are not just talking potable water, but also sanitary discharges and sewer lines, retention and detention, everything to do with water,” Vitas said.

The study will include how the potential Lake Michigan allocation is utilized by the village, and how it would integrate into a long-term future for potable and gray water (waste water) and how we deal with it, said Vitas.

By the end of the month, residents will receive inserts included with their water bills that contain information about the overall integrated water resources plan.

“The inserts will tell people that the study is going to take place, and that we want and encourage broad input from the community,” Sustich said.

Information about the study is also available through the village website, and an overall goal is to include residents, industry representatives, Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce members, and current and potential developers to incorporate their ideas. 

Because the Metropolitan Planning Council will utilize its efforts in Lake Zurich as a learning experience and help it to provide comparable services to similar communities, the council is substantially underwriting the costs of the project.

Though thge planning services will cost the village $8,000, Sustich estimates the potential cost of hiring outside consultants to cost as much as $100,000 for a comparable study.

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