Behind-the-Services: Let's Talk Water
By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
Did you know that each year the Village’s water treatment plant provides Glencoe’s 3,000 + homes and businesses with over 575 million gallons of water, all with a single source: Lake Michigan? But like any natural resource, the lake has limitations, and like any built infrastructure, the Village’s water infrastructure requires maintenance and investment to keep it operating in top shape in order to deliver excellent water to our customers. (Especially when considering the stringent state and federal requirements relating to over 100 contaminants that the Village meets each year as reported in the Annual Water Quality Report). With these limitations in mind (and with warm weather ramping up!), I wanted to take a moment to remind you about the simple steps you can take to alleviate our impact on Lake Michigan and to provide you with a brief update on what’s going on behind-the-scenes to plan for the future of the Village’s water system.
Water Conservation Tips
Being one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, and with a surface area of over 22,000 square miles, there seems to be an endless supply of water in Lake Michigan for surrounding communities to draw from. The truth, however, is that our choices and actions have major negative impacts on the lake—whether through littering, runoff pollution, overfishing, introduction of invasive species or other harmful actions. Similarly, while there isn’t a concern currently about drawing down the lake too much (as water levels are nearing record highs), water conservation remains important in order to limit our overall impact on the regional environment. Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your water consumption (and save money) this summer:
- Regularly check all faucets, pipes and toilets for leaks
- Does your water bill seem high? Schedule a leak check with Public Works by calling (847) 461-1652
- Only run full dishwashers
- Fill your sink when washing and rinsing dishes, instead of running water
- Install faucet aerators
- Only run full loads of laundry
- Consider water saving washing machine models that automatically adjust to load size
- Install low-flow fixtures. Village code requires that when fixtures are updated, that they carry a WaterSense rating from the EPA. Learn more here: https://www.epa.gov/watersense
- Turn off water when brushing teeth
- Take shorter showers
- Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket
- Add compost to soil to improve water retention
- Apply mulch in flower beds and around shrubs to reduce evaporation
- Only water the lawn when necessary and avoid watering on windy and hot days
- Water in the morning or late at night to maximize the water that reaches plant roots. Remember that as per the Village’s lawn sprinkler regulations, watering your lawn is prohibited between noon and 6 p.m. from May 15 to September 15 of each year
- Reclaim water! Rain barrels are a great way to capture runoff from your downspouts to use later for watering your garden or lawn. Learn about local options for purchasing rain barrels here from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). Also, stop by the Glencoe Festival of Art on Saturday, July 27 to paint a rain barrel and enter a raffle to take one home for free! This special opportunity is brought to you by MWRD and the Sustainability Task Force!
- And, finally, share your dunk tank like we did with the Glencoe Park District at the Fourth of July Party in the Park!
The Future of the Village’s Water System
Remember how I mentioned that the Village’s water treatment plant produces more than 575 million gallons of water each year (or about 185 gallons per Glencoe resident per day)? In reality, the water treatment plant is just one component of a much larger system that takes the freshwater from the lake, makes the water safe for drinking and delivers the final product to your home. The system begins over 3,000 feet into Lake Michigan, where an intake pipe feeds collects water from the lake into the water treatment plant. After it is cleaned of containments and tested at the plant, it is distributed either directly into the system, a reservoir or the Village’s water tower. The distribution system itself is made up of over 58 miles of water mains, supporting over 3,000 water meters and 505 fire hydrants throughout the community.
Needless to say, keeping the water treatment plant and this vast system operational takes a major investment of both time and dollars. Studies conducted over the past several years have pointed to the need for investment in all aspects of our water system in the coming few decades and beyond. Beyond built infrastructure, the system also requires technology upgrades, as evidenced by our investment of over $350,000 over the last three fiscal years into the computer system (called a Supervisory control and data acquisition system, or SCADA for short) that collects real-time data from across the plant to ensure its safe for you to drink and is compliant with State and Federal regulations.
To identify the best path forward for the system overall, the Village worked with outside consultants to conduct the Water Distribution System Plan in 2016 and the Water Supply Planning Report in 2015. The Village is already using the Water Distribution System Plan to prioritize projects as part of our 10-Year Community Improvement Program. In Fiscal Year 2020 for example, it helped staff to prioritize water main replacement projects along Euclid Avenue, Lincoln Drive and Longwood Avenue, representing an estimated $615,000 investment into the system. Relating back to next steps for the water treatment plant: in April, the Village partnered with the Village of Winnetka to hire a consultant to supplement the Water Supply Planning Report. The supplemental analysis, due back to the Village next spring, will help determine the feasibility of potential partnership opportunities in the future. We look forward to discussing these opportunities with the community, ultimately with the goal of ensuring that the water delivered to our customers remains the highest quality possible.
Until then, I hope you take time to incorporate the above water conservation tips into your daily routine this summer!