Guest Column: Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority?

How many of you have heard of the Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority? It is currently not in existence, and locally few people know of it yet, but more and more are becoming aware.

Concerned citizens are hoping to have the matter come before them in a referendum in the April 2007 election and to make it a priority of discussion over the next few months. It will be up to the voters to decide whether they would like to have the Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority be a stronger voice for them in the halls of power—a voice they say is, “Now too much ignored.”

The effort by these individual is to get the public informed to the fact that there is not an endless supply of free, clean water, but water is a natural resource and it needs to be protected and preserved.

Rob Cisneros said: “The underlying idea of a water authority is that it treats water as a resource and not a commodity. We need to use this resource intelligently and to understand it is not unlimited. Yes, it will be another layer of government; however, it has only one function, which is to protect and preserve the water resource.”

Oct. 21, in Woodstock, the Alliance for Land, Agriculture and Water (A-LAW), a not-for-profit corporation, announced its initiative to create a new water authority to preserve and protect area ground water. The proposed Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority “KVWA” would include much of rural McHenry, Boone and DeKalb Counties.

Five-hundred signatures of registered voters are required to have the issue placed on the ballot. It would not be 500 from each county, but instead a total of 500 from the above-mentioned area.

Beginning Oct. 21-Nov. 6, petitions requesting the referendum will be circulated by members and volunteers. If certified, the question of whether to create the Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority will be on the April 2007 ballot.

Attorney J. Dale Berry, a member of A-LAW and resident/farmer of unincorporated Marengo, said: “A water authority will provide a voice to those rural residents who are concerned about the future of their water supply. Since Lake Michigan water will not be available to the area within the authority, we need to have a dedicated governmental entity with local control that can manage water usage and preserve the supply.”

It is estimated that some areas in McHenry and Kane counties may run short of water in the next 20 years because of uneven population growths that will put pressure on the local aquifers.

A-LAW was created by concerned citizens of various backgrounds and occupations in McHenry County. Its mission is to inform, educate and influence the use of this region’s natural resources. Members of A-LAW first came together to fight against adoption of a staff drawn, development friendly, 2020 Comprehensive Plan being considered by the McHenry County Board earlier this year.

During the county board’s meetings, it was observed that farmers and residents in the rural areas of the county did not have fair representation before the board. A major issue to residents in the rural areas of the county was how more development would affect the most important resource in the county-ground water.

Because of the concern that development would continue to dominate control over future zoning and planning in the county, A-LAW members searched for a vehicle to provide the local community with the ability to monitor, protect and control usage of their ground water.

“They are going to have to negotiate with us rather than just take it,” Berry said. “In many ways, we are the gate-keepers preventing the thieves from entering in and making sure that they do not harm or destroy the recharge areas. We will have teeth to the water authority. We will be able, under state law, to impose fines if anyone is in violation. For example, if a landowner’s well went dry as a result of a high-capacity residential development with the authority being in existence, we could force the developer to dig a new well for the property owner. Without the water authority, the property owner would have no recourse and be stuck with digging a deeper well and the bill to go with it.”

A McHenry County-funded comprehensive report on ground water recently completed by consultants confirmed the biggest issue facing this region is the future ability of water. The report identified several heavily populated and growing townships on the east half of McHenry County that are projected to suffer water shortages by 2020 and more townships facing shortages by 2030.

McHenry County consultants suggest one major answer is to move water from the areas of abundance to those of need in McHenry County. This means piping water from the west parts of the county, located in the Kishwaukee Watershed, to towns in the east that are water short.

The impacts of these recommendations are multi-county to farmers, residents and existing businesses as groundwater does not follow political boundaries. Currently, everybody shares the right of reasonable use to the groundwater. However, increasingly there will be demands on water supplies in western McHenry County, Boone County and DeKalb County.

Linnea Kooistra, a farmer and resident of unincorporated Woodstock, said, “Farmers have every reason to support the authority since it will help preserve their water supply which is vital to the agricultural business throughout these counties.”

What is a water authority?

A water authority is a public body established by a referendum vote of citizens living within its boundaries. If established, three trustees will have specified authority under state statue to adopt rules to protect the water supply within its boundaries. It has the power to regulate the permitting of any new wells for high capacity residential, municipal, industrial and commercial users.

The water authority can monitor and conserve groundwater and protect important groundwater recharge areas within the authority. Existing wells, at current usage levels, are not affected. Also, wells serving agricultural uses along with residential wells that serve less than four single-family homes are exempt from the regulation. A water authority can provide significant controls to ensure that adequate water is available by regulating high-capacity wells and studying and protecting the natural aquifers holding the groundwater.

What is the cost?

The amount of levy proposal is .03 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Under State law, the maximum levy is capped at .08 cents. If the proposal level of .03 cents is approved, it will cost the owner of property valued at $250,000 a total of $25 per year. The current cost to dig a deeper well is estimated at $75-plus per foot. Dale Berry said, “It’s cheap insurance to protect the water.”

Attorney Robert Perbohner added: “There are three main talking points as to why people should support the Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority. First, since groundwater knows no political boundaries, we need a governmental entity that can protect this valuable resource, not from the top down, but from the ground up. Second, taxes collected by the water authority will be used to evaluate, monitor and maintain sustainable levels of groundwater rather than simply focusing on redistribution of water. Third, Lake Michigan water is not available to the area within the water authority, therefore we need a dedicated governmental entity with local control that can manage water usage and preserve supply.”

The McHenry Farm Bureau has endorsed the creation of a water authority. Support is growing from Boone County farmers as well as support in DeKalb County, and they anticipate getting more endorsements shortly.

Act now to protect your groundwater!

Our wells, our property values, our livelihood, our future depend on our supply of groundwater. Lake Michigan water is not available for us. The aquifers under our homes and farms are all we have. We must protect and preserve them.

Members are J. Dale Berry, Michael Walkup, Jane L. Collins, Patricia Kennedy, Thomas W. McGrath, Robert M. Perbohner, Julene Perbohner, Emily B

erendt, John Kunzie, Linnea Kooistra, Rob Cisneros and Nancy Jung.

For more information, call Robert Perbohner at 1-866-649-9049 or e-mail

To date, the members of A-LAW have used their own personal money for the project. They are accepting financial donations.

From the Nov. 1-7, 2006, issue

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