SPRINGFIELD – Plans for state scientists to study underground water supplies in the Champaign area and around the state went down the drain Tuesday, when Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed a bill calling for the survey.
"While I support the study of the state's groundwater supply as a comprehensive and long-term approach to water supply management in Illinois, due to the state's diminishing revenues, we do not have the money available to fund the study at this time," the governor said.
The study was estimated to take between 10 and 20 years and could cost between $500,000 and $2 million a year.
State Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, sponsored the bill ordering the Champaign-based Illinois State Water Survey and the Illinois State Geological Survey to conduct the first extensive testing ever done of the Mahomet Aquifer and all other aquifers in the state to make sure communities are not draining them too rapidly.
He said the study would give citizens more information about the effects that population growth, utility companies and businesses have on their water supplies.
"Naturally, I'm very concerned," Winkel said in response to the veto. "The aquifer study must be done and we need to do it sooner rather than later. I certainly understand the budget implications. I accept that for now, but I can guarantee you that I will pursue this. It's absolutely critical. It's vital to the future of this state that we know how much water we have in the ground. It's that simple. Right now, we don't know."
The Mahomet Aquifer supplies water to Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, Paxton, Lincoln, Hoopeston, Mahomet, Monticello, Clinton and other towns within a 4,000-square-mile area.
To conduct the study, the scientists from the survey would have to drill observation wells and collect samples to determine the quality of the water in the state's aquifers and how much water may safely be drawn from each.
No comprehensive baseline study of the state's aquifers has ever been done, Winkel said.
"To not know this information, to not research it and establish a baseline, we don't know when someone comes to us and says we'd like to withdraw a million gallons a day, we don't know if that's going to be a problem or not," he said.
Winkel introduced similar legislation when he was a state representative, but it never made it to the desk of the governor.
State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, who co-sponsored the water study bill this spring, was not available for comment Wednesday.
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.