Simon Review Paper #3


Illinois is uniquely blessed with fresh water resources. Hundreds of miles from the sea, it is in Illinois that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway connects with the Mississippi-Ohio River system via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois River through the heart of the state. The navigable Wabash, Missouri and Tennessee Rivers also border Illinois or terminate at its borders giving Illinois superb overall waterbased transportation access exceeded in tonnage shipped among U.S. states by only Alaska and Louisiana. Notwithstanding the serious drought Illinois is suffering in 2005, Illinois receives abundant and reliable precipitation, under the current climatic regime, with no dry season and a favorable annual range from 35” in the northwest to 45” in the south. This hydrography, combined with the fertile agricultural soils left by the Illinois and Wisconsin glaciations, gives Illinois one of the most favored geographies in the world. Yet Illinois and its neighboring Midwestern states face substantial water resources problems that form policy challenges and dilemmas. These stem primarily from the complex interplay between agriculture and water quantity and quality, but also involve other water uses such as cooling of thermoelectric power plants, how to meet the growing water needs of metropolitan Chicago, and how to handle the substantial risk of damages from floods that goes hand-in-hand with living along major navigable rivers.