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Illinois State Water Survey News: March 2021


The Illinois State Water Survey conducts state-of-the-art research and collects, analyzes, archives, and disseminates high-quality, objective data and technical information, providing a sound technical basis for the citizens and policymakers of Illinois to make decisions. 


FEMA recognizes Water Survey's significant contributions as a Cooperating Technical Partner


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently praised the Water Survey’s accomplishments as a FEMA Cooperating Technical Partner, including improving the flood mapping process in Illinois and developing accurate, easily accessible flood data for every county in Illinois. 


Improved pest degree day calculators are available for the 2021 growing season


Two updated pest degree day calculators are now available for commodity and specialty crop growers in Illinois, featuring seven-day weather forecasts, graphs, and insect emergence maps to track accumulated degree days and light for the most notorious pests.


Warmer soils this winter in Illinois could indicate healthy insect populations for spring


Despite the cold weather this February, winter soil temperatures averaged 1 to 2 degrees higher than the long-term averages in Illinois, indicating a greater chance of insects surviving the winter, according to Jennie Atkins, manager of the Water Survey's Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM) program.

Center Pivot Irrigation within the Imperial Valley Water Authority

Long-term Water Survey collaboration provides vital data to the Imperial Valley Water Authority


For more than 30 years, the Water Survey has supported the Imperial Valley Water Authority, which comprises all of Mason County and four townships in Tazewell County, in understanding their water resources and water availability. This area represents the westernmost part of the Mahomet aquifer, which is the primary source of water for people in 15 Illinois counties. 

Because of its sandy soils, this region gets significant recharge and uses more groundwater than any other part of the state. During the growing season of the 2012 drought, Imperial Valley irritators pumped more than 93 billion gallons of water from more than 2,400 irrigation systems, representing more than 30 percent of Illinois' irrigation. 

To aid the Imperial Valley trustees in understanding and managing the region's water supply, the Water Survey operates a network of rain gauges and groundwater observation wells, collecting long-term data to determine the impact of groundwater withdrawals during dry periods and during the growing season and the rate at which the aquifer recharges due to rainfall.

Read more and access project findings and data, including real-time groundwater hydrographs and monthly precipitation summaries, on the Water Survey website. 


February–March funded projects

  • Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index Enhancements - Phase II (PI Michael Timlin): ISWS will enhance the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index with additional stations, an updated climatological map, expanded data download options, and improved ability to choose comparable seasons to display along with the current season. Funded by the Clear Roads research consortium
  • Detection and attribution of recent trends in phosphorus loadings in the Illinois River (PI Momcilo Markus): ISWS staff and U of I collaborators will use state-of-the-art load estimation methods to detect and attribute recent trends in phosphorus loadings in the Illinois River. These trends will serve as a basis for agricultural management decisions in the areas of the highest phosphorus levels. Funded by the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council
  • Isotopic Assessment of Groundwater Flow Along the Sandwich Fault Zone in Northern Illinois (PI Allan Jones): A major cone of depression has formed near a structural feature referred to as the Sandwich Fault Zone. The fault zone behaves as a lateral flow barrier. This barrier may prevent recharge to the aquifer but may also allow mixing of groundwaters via fractures, which could have long-term negative effects on water quality. Understanding the impact of the fault zone on groundwater flow using isotopes to track flow paths and sources of groundwaters is vital for water supply planning. Funded by the Illinois Water Resources Center
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Watershed Specific Release Rate Phase III (PI Gregory Byard): The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has commissioned the Water Survey to assess watershed management decisions inside the Watershed Management Ordinance regulatory area that could impact potential future flood risks within Cook County, excluding Chicago. This will include hydrologic and hydraulic analyses and collaboration experts in the University of Illinois’ departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geography and Geology, and Natural Resources and Environmental Science.  Funded by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
  • Washington County Hazard Mitigation Plan Update (PI Sally McConkey): The Water Survey will coordinate with the Southwestern Illinois Metropolitan & Regional Planning Commission to assist Washington County in updating its natural hazard mitigation plan. Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
hands with water

Is Joliet running out of water?


Water Survey associate research scientist and groundwater flow modeler Daniel Abrams recently joined Steve Bertrand on Chicago’s Afternoon News to explain why groundwater is running out in Joliet.


Staff spotlight: Bondville Environmental Research Site

 Christine Atkinson

Christine Atkinson, who is also working on a PhD in Food Science and Human Nutrition, emphasizes that the Bondville Environmental and Atmospheric Research site "is a great opportunity for new research collaborations that study climate monitoring and agricultural productivity."

 Mike Atkinson

Mike Atkinson says he's proud of the long-term data the Water Survey collects at the Bondville site. "The big picture illustrates the value of long-term monitoring and forward thinking." 


Historical highlight: Wilfred Langelier


Wilfred Langelier, known for developing the Langelier Saturation Index, got his start at the Illinois State Water Survey. 

Wilfred Langelier

ISWS virtual events


April 8: Groundwater and well construction 101


ISWS employment opportunities


In memory of Dorland Smith

 In memory of Dorland Smith

The Water Survey recently lost a close friend, supporter, and champion of water issues in Illinois. Dorland Worth Smith, board member of the Imperial Valley Water Authority and the Illinois Water Authority Association, passed away on March 11, 2021. Dorland helped found the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium and was instrumental in providing comprehensive changes to the Illinois Water Use Act through the 2010 amendments related to reporting high-capacity water use in Illinois. We are forever grateful for the positive influence Dorland has had on promoting sound water science in Illinois.