Joliet Considers Massive -- And Massively Expensive -- Water Pipeline Project

Bernie Tafoya
January 07, 2020 - 5:04 pm

JOLIET (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Joliet City Council is considering the building of a water pipeline to Lake Michigan -- a project that would be the city's biggest this century.

Joliet Interim City Manager Steve Jones said the Deep Aquifer that Joliet and surrounding communities get their water from will be unusable by 2030.

"This is something we want to get right. We want to do this once. We don’t want to have to reexamine this in 20 or 30 years as to whether this was the right decision,” he said Tuesday.

After an 18-month study, the recommendation being put before Joliet aldermen is that the city consider two options, according to Utilities Director Allison Swisher.

One is to build a water pipeline about 40 miles to Indiana and take raw water out of Lake Michigan and treat it in Illinois.

The other option is to buy treated water from the city of Chicago.

"The construction costs for the new Indiana intake option range from about $900 million to about $1.1 billion, depending upon the capacity of the system."

Officials say residents have indicated they want Lake Michigan water. The other option had been to take water from the Illinois River. 

"In northeast Illinois, Lake Michigan is considered the gold standard," she says.

Jones said a water pipeline, if approved, would likely be the largest single investment the city makes for the rest of the century. Under any scenario, water rates for residents are expected to increase.

In the long term, Swisher says the Joliet pipeline option may be the least expensive because Joliet would have more control over the pricing.

Jones says Joliet would need to decide in the next year whether it would want to build a pipeline or buy water from Chicago.

The City Council could make a decision as soon as Tuesday evening.