News Briefs: Chicago Breaks Ground on $55 Million Stormwater Tunnel

In this week’s news briefs, Lake Mead water level hits an all-time low, Chicago looks to reduce flooding in Albany Park, and West Fargo prepares to change its water source amid customer concerns.
News Briefs: Chicago Breaks Ground on $55 Million Stormwater Tunnel

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The water level in Lake Mead — the nation’s largest reservoir that serves about 20 million residents in Nevada, Arizona and California — dropped to an all-time low May 18, ABC News reports.

At an elevation of 1,074, the water level was the lowest since the basin was built in 1937, surpassing the previous record low set in June 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation estimates a loss of another 5 feet by the end of this June, but expects it to return to 1,078 feet bay the end of the year.

“Everyone is working together to see how we can leave more water in the system so that Leak Mead isn’t below 1,075 feet at the end of the year,” says Rose Davis, the bureau’s pubic affairs officer.

When the elevation drops below 1,075 feet, the first tier of a federally mandated water-reduction plan is initiated. That would lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada, WZZM-TV reports.

Source: WZZM-TV, ABC News

Chicago Breaks Ground on $55 Million Stormwater Tunnel
Chicago broke ground a $55 million stormwater tunnel that will prevent flooding along a vulnerable stretch of the Chicago River in Albany Park, WGN-TV reports.

The joint Chicago Department of Transportation/Metropolitan Water and Reclamation District project will take two years to construct. The tunnel will sit 150 feet below ground and divert stormwater about 1.4 miles from the North Branch of the Chicago River to the North Shore Channel.

The 18-foot-diameter tunnel will have an intake shaft in Eugene Field Park. It will kick into operation before the water level reaches flood stage and will divert flow of 2,300 cubic feet of water per second, bypassing Albany Park and emptying at an outlet shaft at River Park.

Since 2008, Albany Park has experienced two major floods that have affected several homes.

“No resident of the City of Chicago should have to live in fear of the type of devastating floods that Albany Park residents have lived through twice in recent years,” says Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “A project of this magnitude takes teamwork, and we are very pleased to work with our partners at the federal, state and local level to get this work under way and deliver the 21st century infrastructure that the residents of this neighborhood need and deserve.”

The city says the project will produce an estimated 250 construction jobs.

Source: WGN-TV

Texas Water Board Approves $62.5 Billion Water Plan
The Texas Water Development Board voted unanimously May 19 to approve a $62.6 billion plan that outlines more than 5,500 strategies for long-term sustainability.

The five-year water management plan projects the state’s population will grow by 73 percent by 2070 along with a projected 17 percent increase in water use, the Associated Press reports. If implemented, the strategies are expected to create an additional 8.5 million acre-feet of water by 2070.

Among the various conservation strategies that were presented includes a recommendation to increase treated toilet water from 3.9 billion gallons to 28.3 billion gallons. El Paso’s advanced toilet-to-tap purification plant will be the largest direct water reuse project in the U.S. when it begins operating in 2018, according to reports.

Further, the board called for capital costs for conservation projects to increase from $1 billion in the 2012 water plan to $4 billion in the 2017 plan.

“The last drought exposed the huge amount of water waste in the Texas economy, from leaking water mains and irrigation systems to profligate water use in industry,” says Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “This new water plan recognizes the powerful role that conservation and ending water waste plays into meeting our water needs.”

About 30 percent of the plan’s strategies aim to increase water supplies through conservation efforts, reports The Texas Observer. The remaining strategies include efforts to increase the water supply through infrastructure projects, such as desalination plants and 26 new reservoirs.

Source: The Associated Press, The Texas Observer

West Fargo Prepares to Change Water Source
West Fargo, North Dakota, will change its drinking water source and begin using mostly Fargo water on June 1. West Fargo currently gets its drinking water from an aquifer below the city.

Crews began flushing the system on May 23. Public Works Director Chris Brungardt told the West Fargo Pioneer that the entire city will be using Fargo water by June 15.

“What happens when we’re flushing is we’ll be taking our water towers offline, and we’re more concerned about water main breaks and having a shortage of water,” Brungardt says.

Some residents are worried about the switch, pointing to the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, WDAZ-TV reports. However, Brungardt says what happened in Flint won’t happen in West Fargo.

“We coat our pipes with orthophosphates and polyphosphates just to ensure — like a belt and suspenders type of thing,” he says. “Everything is safe and drinkable. A lot of people’s lives depend on it, and we don’t want anybody to ever get sick.”

Source: WDAZ-TV, West Fargo Pioneer


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