Report Offers Method to Protect Drinking Water Wells in Illinois

ELPC report describes use of overlay districts to protect aquifers

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) released the first in a series of reports that explain how areas like Kendall and McHenry counties in Illinois can protect their supply of clean drinking water. Kendall and McHenry counties get all of their drinking water from underground wells, which means water quality in these areas is directly linked to land use and development. Without smart planning, chemicals or pollutants can seep into groundwater or buildings and pavement can prevent clean water from filtering back into aquifers.

“Thoughtful land use can make the difference between a reliable supply of clean drinking water and wells that are contaminated or dried up,” said Jessica Dexter, clean water attorney at ELPC. “We’ve pulled together tools and resources that communities can use to protect their drinking water.”

The report released today explains overlay districts, a zoning tool that incorporates water quality safeguards into zoning ordinances. Overlay districts help ensure that areas that are critical to a supply of clean groundwater are not paved over, contaminated or compromised.

ELPC’s report contains information for community leaders on putting overlay districts in place, including an explanation of their benefits, sample ordinance language and examples of communities that have successfully adopted overlay districts to protect their water supply.

“We hope this report helps citizens and elected officials understand their role in protecting groundwater,” Dexter said. “With the right planning, our communities can have clean water to drink for decades to come.”

McHenry County has started working on a Unified Development Ordinance that would apply to the unincorporated areas of the county. The purpose of the Unified Development Ordinance is to streamline the regulations that apply to new development as well as incorporate the recommendations of the recently adopted McHenry County 2030 Plan and the Water Resources Action Plan. ELPC’s reports explain in detail how several of the most important policies recommended by the 2030 Plan and the Water Resources Action Plan could be incorporated into the Unified Development Ordinance or any other county or municipal ordinance.

Environmental Law & Policy Center

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