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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.


agricultural field experiencing drought

Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford warns that defining droughts as solely long protracted events with minimal precipitation can underestimate short-term drought risk. Ford is at the forefront of research to better understand flash droughts and the unique impacts they create, which can help those vulnerable to its effects better prepare.

Read more about the concept of flash droughts



 Topographic Wetness Index

The Water Survey uses a GIS analysis tool called the Topographic Wetness Index to identify low-lying areas that could be subject to ponding during rain events. The index is particularly important because areas of low terrain with upslope—conditions that contributes to drainage areas—can be spotted outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mapped floodplain areas.

The Illinois Urban Flooding report recommended the development of a statewide Topographic Wetness Index to help identify areas that might pond to aid in planning. Communities can use the tool to locate low-lying areas where runoff might accumulate. Homeowners who are planning to build a shed on their property or plant a garden can learn where water accumulates and avoid those areas.

Use the user-friendly interactive map to look up an address and zoom in to locate relatively low areas.



 girl drinking water

The Water Survey (with collaborators from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and county public health departments) measured lead levels in homes with private wells in rural areas of Peoria, Jackson, and Kane counties, finding that approximately 40% of the sampled homes had measurable lead.

Lead exposure can cause serious damage to children's developing brains, so identifying elevated lead concentrations and working with homeowners and public health workers to mitigate sources of lead in water is vital.

Now this collaboration has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand their work, focusing on testing various remediation techniques on homes with measurable lead. This study will include two additional counties, Champaign and Whiteside. The researchers will again work closely with local public health departments.

Follow progress on this project on our website, or contact Walt Kelly for more information:  wkelly@illinois.edu

Recently funded projects
  • Establishment of a Real-Time Mahomet Aquifer Monitoring Network in DeWitt County (PI Daniel Hadley): The Mahomet aquifer is the major water source for east central Illinois communities. The City of Decatur operates a wellfield as a backup water supply and uses the aquifer during times of drought. This project will install equipment at monitoring wells surrounding the Decatur wellfield to report water levels in real-time in response to Decatur withdrawals, seasonal changes from climate patterns, and other stresses on the aquifer. This data collection addresses a critical gap in our understanding of water levels in this portion of the Mahomet Aquifer. Funded by the City of Decatur
  • Developing the Illinois Coastal Area Water Quality Database and Data Analysis (PI Elias Getahun): The Water Survey will develop a database of water quality parameters of concern and will conduct an exploratory data analysis to provide insight into the water quality of the Illinois coastal area. This involves a comprehensive inventory of the water quality data collected by various agencies and compilation of data that will help assess the status of the Illinois coastal area’s water quality and the longitudinal success of management measures. Focus will be given to water quality parameters for which waterbodies in the coastal area boundary are listed as impaired in EPA’s Section 303(d). Funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources


 map of groundwater flow model area

Due to projected growth of the population and economy, Illinois could require 20 to 50 percent more water in coming decades. Ensuring adequate and reliable supplies of clean water for all users at reasonable cost requires us to think ahead. Since 2006 the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has tasked the Water Survey with leading regional water supply planning activities for 11 Illinois regions. Learn more about this team and their work





As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many water and wastewater systems have significantly altered the ways that they operate and maintain their systems. In order to understand the approaches systems have adopted to manage the pandemic as well as to understand their primary concerns, the Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) conducted a survey of its membership. The WaterOperator.org team at ISWS analyzed the responses and compiled this report, which will not only help ISAWWA better assist systems dealing with this crisis, but also provides insights for members.

Read the report on the ISAWWA survey



May 20: Groundwater and well construction 101 (webinar)
May 21: Free Compliance Resources for DBPs (webinar)
June 3: Advanced Tips & Tricks for Social Media (webinar)



The Illinois State Water Survey has been a leader in the study of water resources, weather, and climate since 1895. Throughout 2020 we're commemorating our 125th anniversary by sharing highlights for our history. 

In 1931, the Water Survey compiled a photo catalog of contractors whoe were repairing wells in Illinois. The collection includes 27 photos of water well contractors from central to northern Illinois.

1930s well drillers



See all full-time and part-time Water Survey job opportunities. 


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