April 8, 2007 - Water, water everywhere - not!

Water, water everywhere, but will there be enough? Probably not, especially in the areas where it is most needed. I’ve talked for years about the battle over water, who gets it...industry, home developers, farmers...and its quality.

After talking about it, I now find myself involved in the battle where I live in northern Illinois. Two years ago I moved to a rural community about 55 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, an area where urban sprawl has changed the landscape with farms being replaced by shopping centers and housing developments. My house is one of 5,800 homes located on land that just 10 years ago was a dairy farm, and today consumes a lot more water than those dairy cows drank.

Because of the explosive urban growth, water availability is beginning to concern people to the point where a group of citizens has organized to establish a three-county water authority, and after a court battle, made it a referendum issue on the ballot later this month. Water authorities were established years ago in Illinois to provide adequate water safeguards for farmers and long-time homeowners with shallow wells as well as home developers moving into farm country. The vote should be a slam-dunk proposal for orderly growth and water use.

Believe me, it is anything but, with strong well-funded opposition coming from different directions and groups....municipalities who feel it will curtail development and the opportunity to increase their tax base; home developers who feel it will subject them to restrictions and added costs; realtors for reasons I don’t understand; and yes, some farmers in the path of urban sprawl and the opportunity to sell their farms at inflated prices.

I have publicly endorsed a “yes” vote on the referendum and stated this should not be a political battle. Farmers need water to put food on our tables and sustain our lives, urban and suburban residents need it to sustain their lives. Since moving to the rural area, I have become painfully aware of the lack of planning on the part of municipalities and developers, as well as farmers, for infrastructure and the use of natural resources. I am not assessing blame, but now it is time to establish rules to fairly govern the use of natural resources.

Response from the opposition has ranged from “you’re not qualified to get involved”, “we have to make a living, too”, and “keep your nose out of our business” to some other suggestions I cannot quote in print. It makes no difference where you live, I predict you will be involved in a water battle sooner, rather than later, and I urge you to start preparing now because demand for water will escalate across the country.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.