Joliet City Council Looking Into Options For Getting Lake Michigan Water

Bernie Tafoya
January 08, 2020 - 11:35 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Joliet’s underground water supply is expected to run out by 2030, so Tuesday night, the Joliet City Council voted to look into two options for getting Lake Michigan water for its residents.

The council decided to look equally at options that include building a 43-mile pipeline to Indiana to tap into Lake Michigan directly or to buy water from the City of Chicago.

“There’s a lot to think about going into Indiana. What could possibly go wrong in 43-mile state lines, all these different municipalities? I’d like to keep our option open with Chicago," said Councilwoman Sherri Reardon.

Officials said that if the pipeline to Indiana option is chosen, Joliet would treat the raw lake water and be able to control pricing. Interim City Manager Steve Jones also said Joliet would also be able to sell lake water to nearby communities that are in the same predicament Joliet is.

Joliet Councilman Larry Hugs is concerned the “buy from Chicago” option could leave Joliet at the mercy of whatever Chicago wants to charge for water in the future.  He also wonders whether the city of Chicago, which has had large financial issues, might deal with those problems by selling off its water service.

"How binding would any agreement on price be? Should Chicago, which has its well-publicized financial woes and the challenge that is before Mayor Lori Lightfoot - God bless her to get it done, it's a big challenge. I don't envy her position. Is whether or not they could take that asset...and do what they have done with parking and the Skyway."

No matter what, water bills in Joliet are expected to at least triple in 2030 from their current average of $30 a month. Joliet Utilities Director Allison Swisher said water costs would go up, on average, $60/month if the “buy from Chicago” option is chosen and $67/month if Joliet builds a one billion dollar pipeline through Indiana to Lake Michigan.

The Joliet City Council still has about another year before it needs to make a final decision.