May 10, 2013

Report Offers Solutions to Stem Lake Michigan Water Loss

Metropolitan Planning Council report supports proposals to modernize water permit conditions

Lake Michigan Water Loss Metropolitan Planning Council Report

Best estimates suggest northeastern Illinois loses enough Lake Michigan water each week to fill more than one Willis Tower—but that figure, some 26 billion gal each year, may be even higher. To improve the information collected about regional water loss and, ultimately, to reduce wasted Lake Michigan water, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has proposed changing regulations for its 200-plus local permittees using Lake Michigan water. The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released the report, Immeasurable Loss: Modernizing Lake Michigan Water Use, which supports IDNR’s proposals and makes further recommendations.

At an event hosted by MPC, Ellis explained why and how IDNR’s proposals and MPC’s further recommendations will help communities and the region develop better solutions to prevent Lake Michigan water loss. The audience included local and state elected officials, water resource professionals, utility managers, and other stakeholders. A panel of speakers including representatives from IDNR, Village of Westmont and Illinois American Water—which sponsored the event—added their perspectives on the proposed changes.

The INDR’s proposals will improve the information collected about water loss and inform policies that require Lake Michigan water users to invest in both modern infrastructure and modern water practices. These proposals position northeastern Illinois to make more productive and cost-effective use of its Lake Michigan water by reducing loss and waste—of both water and scarce public dollars.  

IDNR currently requires permittees to submit an annual reporting form, called the LMO-2. IDNR’s proposal would change the form to eliminate the designation “Maximum Unavoidable Leakage (MUL),” which allows permittees to exempt some of their water loss before tallying and reporting their total loss.

MPC strongly supports eliminating this exemption, as well as IDNR’s proposals to modernize its permit conditions on water rate setting, metering, outdoor water use, and plumbing. MPC’s report urges additional changes as well, which fall under five action areas:

  • Improve the existing accounting system, while exploring a new approach
  • Encourage communities to adopt full-cost pricing and comprehensive, advanced metering
  • Require permittees to adopt modern plumbing standards
  • Strengthen and streamline outdoor water use standards
  • Increase the capacity of IDNR’s Office of Water Resources to provide greater support to permittees

IDNR needs to build the capacity of its Lake Michigan management program to analyze incoming data, check for possible inaccuracies, work with permittees on controlling water loss and use every feasible way to manage Illinois’ Lake Michigan diversion as efficiently as possible. An emboldened IDNR will be able to provide educational resources, technical assistance, data monitoring and other support to permittees, all in the service of improved management.

To read a copy of MPC’s report or download and use the infographics in the report, visit