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Group warns conserve water now, or pay later
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/10/2008 12:12 AM

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Think twice about turning the sprinkler on your grass, regional planners advised Wednesday, following the release of the latest findings from a report on water consumption.

In a worst-case scenario, water use could soar by 64 percent in northeastern Illinois, growing from 1.5 billion gallons a day to 2.4 billion gallons by 2050 - creating serious shortages, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimates.

The agency is conducting a three-year study of water needs in 11 counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.

The predictions ranged from the 64 percent level to a more optimistic increase of 35.8 percent, which translates into 530 million gallons a day more if people continue with current trends.

How much water we drink and use is affected by population growth and where people chose to live, weather and climate change, as well as how much businesses and industries require.

Another variable is water conservation. If water use is limited, demand would grow at a much slower pace - only 7.2 percent or 107 gallons a day by 2050, planners surmise.

"To ensure an adequate water supply for residential, commercial and industrial needs, we must start now to plan better - and conserve more," CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn said in a statement.

But getting the region to cut back on water will have to be tied to how much consumers pay for it, planners explained.

The water study is aimed at preventing a water crisis in the future by understanding needs and planning appropriately. But CMAP leaders noted funding for its completion is in crisis because of state budget problems.