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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.


The Illinois State Water Survey began in 1895 when the Illinois legislature earmarked funds for scientists at the University of Illinois to study the state's water supplies. Since then, the Water Survey has been a leader in the study of water resources, weather, and climate. Its scientific research and service programs anticipate and react to practical problems related to the quality, quantity, and use of ground, surface, and atmospheric water resources. Much of the work is facilitated by extensive data collected and analyzed for more than a century.

A series of free half-day seminars will be offered across the state this year to commemorate the Water Survey’s 125th anniversary. The celebration kicks off Feb. 4 in Champaign. 


With its unique geology marked by sinkholes, crevices, and caves, Jo Daviess County is highly susceptible to water contamination. Scientists from the Water Survey and the Illinois State Geological Survey are using their expertise and collaborating with a local organization to help citizens understand water quality issues and protect their water supplies.


Scientists studying and mapping flood hazards have long identified whole neighborhoods that are vulnerable to flooding, but with new data, researchers at the Water Survey can specify flood risk for individual homes and businesses.




There are about 800,000 private domestic wells in Illinois, serving about 2 million people. When these Illinoisans have questions about their home water supply, the Water Survey’s Public Service Lab can provide answers. For a modest fee, our lab can analyze water from any Illinois well, checking for parameters including calcium, magnesium, iron, arsenic, manganese, sodium, hardness, total dissolved solids, alkalinity, color, turbidity, fluoride, chloride, nitrate, and sulfate. The lab also can test water samples from wells or households supplied by municipal water for lead.

The first step is to call the lab at 217-300-7420. A staff member will talk about your testing needs and walk you through the sample collection process.

For more information, visit https://www.isws.illinois.edu/chemistry-and-technology/public-service-laboratory.



muddy stream 

Excessive sediment is a water quality issue affecting the environment and the state’s pocketbook. Shipping lanes and reservoirs must be dredged periodically when sediment becomes too thick, and fish habitats can become unhealthy.

State Hydrologist Laura Keefer has waited her entire career at the Water Survey to be able to talk about trends in the amount of sediment carried in Illinois’ rivers and streams, because it takes many years of data to glean some answers. The news looks promising, as noted in the new ISWS Report of Investigation 124, “Benchmark Sediment Monitoring Program for Illinois Streams: Analysis of 36 Years of Sediment Data.”



 Private Well Class logo

More than 15 million private wells provide the primary source of drinking water to 15% of the U.S. population, but a majority of well owners don’t know how to care for their well, determine if their water is safe to drink, or protect groundwater from contamination. The Private Well Class program 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. The effort is a close collaboration between ISWS and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.

On Feb. 11, The Private Well Class is offering a free 90-minute webinar on Water Treatment and Testing in collaboration with the Association of Public Health Laboratories and the Water Quality Association. In this training, well owners will learn: why their water should be tested and what to test for, how to find and work with a lab, and how to find and work with a treatment provider.

Register for the Feb. 11 free webinar

Recently funded projects
  • Analysis of Groundwater Level Change, Surface Water Conditions, and Water Use in the Barrington Area, 2014-2019 (PI Daniel Hadley): This project will provide an update on the groundwater and surface water levels in the Barrington area, describe the changes that have occurred since a potentiometric surface was developed in 2014, and discuss trends in water use from the sand and gravel system from municipalities surrounding the Barrington area. Barrington Area Council of Governments
  • Assessing the Influence of the IDoT East St. Louis Dewatering Project on Contaminant Plume Migration (PI Tyler Pierson): The Water Survey has a large database of water level measurements associated with the East St. Louis dewatering project; these data will be used to build a flow model. Illinois Department of Transportation
  • IDOT Statewide River Sediment Sampling Program (PI Kip Stevenson): ISWS will collect river sediment samples at various locations, including near bridge projects, and will prepare summary reports including sample descriptions, lithography, and testing results. Illinois Department of Transportation
  • Technology Solutions for Community and Regional Flood Disaster Planning and Mitigation (PI Sally McConkey): This phase of an ongoing project includes acquisition and processing of lidar data for 10 Illinois counties as well as structure-specific assessments of flood risk. Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity 
  • World Data Centre for Precipitation Chemistry (PI Brian Kerschner): The World Meteorological Organization is transferring the World Data Centre for Precipitation Chemistry (WDCPC) to the Water Survey. The WDCPC is responsible for receiving, reporting, and archiving precipitation chemistry data from monitoring stations and labs across the globe. The Water Survey will maintain this database, which informs researchers around the world about important chemicals in our atmosphere and their global impacts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Air Resources Laboratory


Laura Keefer 

Laura Keefer is the leader of the Water Survey's Watershed Science section and is the Illinois State Hydrologist. She has more than 30 years of experience in multi-scale watershed monitoring studies of hydrology, sediment, and nutrients for many Illinois watersheds. In this short Q&A, she explains what she does as Illinois State Hydrologist and what changes she's seen in the Water Survey over her career. 



Jan. 22: Well Care 101 - What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family
Jan. 30: 4-Hour Workshop: Private Well Assessment and Outreach for EHPs
Feb. 4: 125 Years of Water and Weather
Feb. 11: Water Treatment and Testing Webinar
Feb. 26: Midwestern Regional Climate Center Annual Webinar



In this undated photo (probably from the 1910s) a "young citizen" assists a Water Survey scientist with water testing. 



Visit the Prairie Research Institute website to see current job opportunities at ISWS. 


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