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Illinois State Water Survey News: July 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. 

Chicago shoreline

Climate studies focus on a new priority: urban areas


Scientists at the Water Survey study the relationship between cities and climate to determine ways to make cities more resilient.

“Heat waves are advancing now across the U.S., and even in moderate climates, the combined high temperatures and urban heat island effects make the impacts even worse,” said ISWS research climatologist Ashish Sharma. “The important drivers of climate change and characteristics unique to cities must be well represented in climate models to better understand the processes and tackle issues related to environmental, biological, and chemical hazards.”


Scientists study regional benefits of limiting climate warming


Limiting the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial conditions compared with 2 degrees C, as predicted for the future, will avoid more intense and more frequent heavy precipitation and extreme heat waves, according to a recent study at the Water Survey that explored global warming’s effects on specific U.S. regions.

“The regional focus is somewhat unique for the U.S. and hopefully provides some value added to the national-scale reports like the National Climate Assessment,” said Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford, co-investigator on the study. “This is particularly valuable for planning and adaptation, where regional-to-local scale information on historical and future climate change is vital for decision making.”


Analyzing flood risks in Bureau County


The Water Survey is conducting hydrologic and hydraulic modeling in the villages of Tiskilwa and Walnut in Bureau County as part of a study to help local communities identify areas of high flood risk for flood mitigation planning.


FEMA awards Water Survey flood work


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on May 12 that the Office of Water Resources in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Water Survey took first place in FEMA’s 2021 National Cooperating Technical Partner Recognition Award for their statewide efforts to assess flood risk at the individual property level. 


Recently funded projects

  • Bathymetric Survey of Highland Silver Lake (PI Kip Stevenson): The Water Survey will conduct a bathymetric survey of historic transect lines in Highland Silver Lake, providing the City of Highland with the necessary data to update their watershed plan. The bathymetric survey will provide a determination of the current capacity of the reservoir and an estimate of the total sediment deposition over the specific time intervals for which information is available. Funded by the City of Highland
  • Richland County Hazard Mitigation Plan Update (PI Lisa Graff): The Water Survey’s Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP) will assist Richland County in updating its natural hazard mitigation plan. Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Sustainable Source Water Assessment for the City of Elgin (PI Cecilia Cullen): Using the Water Survey’s statewide groundwater model and demand scenarios provided by the community, scientists in the Groundwater Section are evaluating the future water supply and particle tracing of Elgin. Funded by the City of Elgin

Staff spotlight: John Beardsley

 John Beardsley unloads equipment from the back of a truck

The Prairie Research Institute recently honored John Beardsley with the Distinguished Research Specialist award. In nominating Beardsley for the honor, Jennie Atkins, manager of the Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM) program, wrote: "John shares his knowledge with citizens through presentations at conferences and public events, often using his personal time on weekends to attend. He has introduced many school children to stream morphology and the impacts of erosion through stream table demonstrations. He also represented the Water Survey at public forums, educating others on our work and its impacts. Simply, John represents the best of the Illinois State Water Survey."


The climate in Illinois is changing rapidly. Illinois is already warmer and wetter than it was a century ago, and climate change will continue to drive rapid changes across the state. A new report from The Nature Conservancy – the first-ever comprehensive climate assessment for Illinois – describes these changes and  projects how temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather are expected to change. Highlights from the report were presented in a May 17 webinar

In the next webinar on Aug. 3, leading climate experts and Illinois scientists will discuss the results of the report with a focus on how predicted changes could affect Illinois agriculture & producers, including impacts to hydrology and public health.

Sharing key takeaways from the assessment will be Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford; Jim Angel, former Illinois State Climatologist and co-author of the climate report; and Elena Grossman of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.

Attend the Aug. 3 webinar
Ohio River floodwaters cover a street in Mound City, Illinois, in February 1937

1937 Ohio River flood


This image from the Water Survey's photo archives shows floodwaters from the Ohio River rising to submerge nearly the entire first floor of buildings along a street in Mound City, Illinois, in early February 1937. This flood caused extensive damage across several states, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois. More than 300 people died in this natural disaster, and it's estimated that 1 million people were forced from their homes. 


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