A new law aims to lay the groundwork for updating severely outdated water infrastructure throughout Illinois, though experts say overhauling those systems will require additional investment and could ultimately cost tens of billions of dollars.
The law, signed Aug. 23 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, establishes a new Clean Water Workforce Pipeline program that will train workers for water-related jobs through grants to labor organizations.
Environmental and public health advocates that support the new law say Illinois’ water infrastructure is in dire shape, pointing to a 2018 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave the state a C- grade for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
Evidence of the aging water systems is seen across the state. Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently suspend the city’s water meter installation program after new data showed an increased level of lead in some metered homes. There is also evidence of nutrient runoff that pollutes rivers and other waterways, and inadequate stormwater management systems that leave residents vulnerable to flooding.