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autumn leaves on grass

Illinois State Water Survey News: November 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. ISWS is a division of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI).

Ashish Sharma

Sharma discusses how cities help accelerate climate action to meet COP26 goals


Recently, international negotiators approved the United Nations Glasgow Climate Pact at the 26th Conference of the Parties. Water Survey climatologist Ashish Sharma discusses how the goals set at the global-level conference can be translated to the local level by U.S. cities.

field being irrigated

It's time for Illinoisans to report irrigation water use


The deadline is approaching for Illinoisans to report their 2021 irrigation water use to the Illinois Water Inventory Program. The deadline for individual reporting is Jan. 1, 2022, while aggregate reports are due by March 1, 2022.

heat map of radium levels in northern Illinois wells

Researchers study radium in aquifers of north-central Illinois


Groundwater chemist Walt Kelly, leader of the Water Survey's Groundwater Science team, answers questions about the findings of his recent study on radium levels in groundwater of the St. Peter Sandstone aquifer, with a study area in north-central Illinois. Radium levels are above the drinking water standard in many community water supply wells open to the aquifer.

aerial view of the Kaskaskia river

Understanding water’s role in decarbonization


When researchers from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center needed to find adequate and reliable water sources to keep a carbon capture system running without compromising fragile aquatic ecosystems, local economies, and nearby communities’ water supply, they turned to the expertise of the Watershed Science team at ISWS.

  • 2021 Illinois Risk MAP (PI Glenn Heistand): In coordination with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Water Survey's Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program will continue to update flood hazard and flood risk information for Illinois. funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • 2021 LOMR Review (PI Christopher Hanstad): The Water Survey, a FEMA Cooperating Technical Partner, will evaluate conditional and final map revision requests for the State of Illinois. funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Assessing the Influence of the IDOT East St. Louis Dewatering Project on Contaminant Plume Migration (PI Tyler Pierson): This project involves monitoring the chemical treatment work of IDOT's well rehabilitation contractor and evaluating the chemical treatment/rehabilitation procedures and their effectiveness on approximately 12 of IDOT’s large-capacity interstate roadway dewatering wells. Tasks also include continuing the program of groundwater-level observation for IDOT’s roadway dewatering system. funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Assessing Subsurface Transit Times and Denitrification in the Rock River Basin (PI Vlad Iordache): Nitrate loads in the Illinois portion of the Rock River approximately doubled from the baseline period of 1980-96 to 2013-17. Understanding the dramatic increase requires understanding why the baseline level was so low. Part of the answer may involve nitrate transport through a large aquifer, introducing long lag times between losses from agricultural fields to streams and rivers. This project will assess nitrate concentrations in groundwater, including groundwater used for irrigation, and will examine how groundwater contributes to nitrogen loading in streams. funded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
  • CASTNET Monitoring at BEARS (PI Jennie Atkins): Monitoring of the U.S. EPA Clean Air Status and Trends (CASTNET) network, the U.S. EPA NCore Multipollutant Monitoring Network, and the cooperative Interagency Monitoring for Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network stations at the Water Survey's Bondville Environmental and Atmospheric Research Site (BEARS). funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Developing an AI-based Framework for Climate Impact Assessment (PI Ashish Sharma): This project will develop new physics-based AI techniques that combine process-driven and data-driven models to predict climate impacts over North America related to water resources, food production, and urban life with high fidelity and improve deep learning-based weather generation algorithms. funded by the IBM-Illinois Discovery Accelerator Institute
  • Lidar Support for Argonne Wind Study (PI Dave Kristovich): To support a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy aimed at improving models to simulate the atmospheric boundary layer response to the presence of a wind turbine in an area of low buildings, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) contracted with ISWS to use its mobile Doppler lidar to collect wind and turbulence observations at ANL in July 2021. funded by Argonne National Laboratory
  • PrivateWellClass (PI Steve Wilson): The U.S. EPA is continuing its support for the Water Survey's Private Well Class program, which uses a combination of online and in-person methods to boost knowledge and competency of the individual well owner as well as the thousands of dedicated environmental health, cooperative extension, and water well professionals that serve well owners day to day. funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • WaterOperator.org (PI Steve Wilson): The U.S. EPA has extended its support for WaterOperator.org, which aggregates the best resources on the web for small water system operators nationwide in a free, user-friendly location. funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Staff spotlight

  Nahal Hoghooghi

Postdoctoral researcher Nahal Hoghooghi earned bachelor's and master’s degrees in soil science with a focus on soil physics, followed by a Ph.D. in environmental sciences at the University of Georgia. Her doctorate research focused on assessing the effects of septic systems on stream water quantity and quality in the metro Atlanta area. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development in Cincinnati for a year as a hydrologic modeler, evaluating the effect of green infrastructure on watershed hydrology. Then she returned to UGA, where she researched the effects of agricultural land management changes and future climate extremes on hydrology, nutrients, and sediment loads in the southern coastal plain of the U.S.  In her new role at the Water Survey, she will conduct watershed hydrological modeling and water supply planning studies across Illinois.

Learn more about Nahal Hoghooghi




Dec. 7: Groundwater and Well Construction 101
Dec. 15: Private Well Assessment and Outreach for Environmental Health Professionals

lakeside location of the Lake Forest sewage treatment facility, circa 1910

Historical highlight

  diagram of Lake Forest sewage treatment facility, 1910

In October, the Water Survey participated in the annual WEFTEC conference, the largest wastewater-related conference in the world at McCormick Place in Chicago. The survey displayed historic images of wastewater plants, typhoid investigations, and advances in wastewater treatment that were part of research activities at the ISWS until the late 1930s.

Among the historic projects on display was development of the wastewater treatment plant in Lake Forest, Illinois, around 1910. The treatment system included a septic tank and filter field. The location on the shoreline of Lake Michigan (as shown in the image above) was the standard approach to treating wastewater at the time.


ISWS employment opportunities


Visit the Prairie Research Institute website to see current Water Survey job opportunities.

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