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Orland Park mulls ways to curb water use

OrlPark officials are taking look comprehensive plan enact water conservatimeasures village.  |  Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

Orland Park officials are taking a look at a comprehensive plan to enact water conservation measures in the village. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 8, 2013 6:17AM



As the price of water continues to rise, something not expected to change any time soon, Orland Park officials are embarking on a strategy of figuring out how to use less of it.

But as they start to consider a series of ordinances that have a cumulative goal of conserving water, trustees say they don’t want to enact heavy-handed regulations forcing residents to turn off the spigot.

The village gulps down, on average, about 2 billion gallons of water annually, the majority of that being used by homes. But the village government is a significant user.

Orland Park has been working with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which in 2011 provided the village with a grant to develop a comprehensive water conservation strategy.

Trustees adopted a resolution in early May supporting water conservation measures, noting that “Lake Michigan water is a finite and vulnerable resource.”

The village envisions enacting, over the coming three years, measures covering indoor and outdoor water use. It’s not expected that the village board will take initial action until later this summer.

Discussing the issue at a July 1 village board committee meeting, Trustee James Dodge said he wants to see “close scrutiny of ourselves (village government) first” before telling residents how much water they can use.

Speaking after the meeting, Dodge said steps the village might consider include relying less on water-intensive landscaping outside municipal buildings and using more efficient plumbing fixtures inside village buildings.

While saying that village government has an “obligation to help people use water more effectively,” Dodge said he hoped its role would be primarily educational.

Of the proposals being considered, “most of it is suggestive, most of it educational,” village manager Paul Grimes told trustees, adding that the village can be a “resource to residents on how they can use less water.”

Grimes noted that some conservation measures already are on the books, such as building codes that mandate the use of plumbing fixtures that conserve water in all new construction.

He said Orland Park’s water-pricing system charges a higher rate to heavy users of water and that steadily rising water costs ultimately could lead to more residents and businesses curbing their use.

Chicago, the gatekeeper of Lake Michigan water for much of the suburbs, is imposing rate increases to pay for improvements to its water distribution system, passing those higher costs on to suburban customers.

Orland Park, Mokena, New Lenox and Oak Forest — which buy their lake water from Chicago via Oak Lawn — are working to negotiate a new 50-year supply agreement. However, Grimes said Oak Lawn plans to sink about $160 million into upgrading its water lines and the suburbs it supplies will share in paying for those improvements.



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