Chicago and its surrounding cities are unique places in the world for many reasons. Aside from the wonders of good cuisine, sports teams, and local spirit, Chicagoland possesses several unique water sources.
Water is one of the essential resources we all require to survive, and yet how often do we stop and think about it? Knowing where your water comes from and how it gets to you is important. When you’re aware of these issues, you can stay safe and informed.
1. Contaminants are Common
Anything from tap water to the purest bottled water has a certain amount of contaminants. Don’t let the word “contaminants” scare you too much. Trace amounts usually are fine, but it’s always good to review what’s harmful.
Anything in your water that isn’t pure water counts as a contaminant, although few have any lasting effect on your health. As water travels to your tap (and it can travel quite a distance), it accumulates contaminants.
Because there are so many sources of contaminants, water can contain many different types. Below is a basic list of potential contaminants:
- Microbial viruses and bacteria
- Inorganic salts and metals
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Organic chemicals
- Natural or organic radioactive contaminants
Radioactive contaminants are fairly rare. As for the other contaminants, many originate from urban storm water runoff, nearby agriculture, industrial byproducts, mining, septic systems, sewage, and livestock.
Whether your water contains traces of the above contaminants depends greatly on the source it comes from.
2. Sources of Chicagoland Drinking Water
Sources of drinking water could include:
When it comes to Chicago drinking water, it comes from two main sources: Lake Michigan and private and public wells. Most wells draw water from aquifers. These are natural geological formations of water located below the ground.
3. City Measures to Purify Water
No matter where your water comes from, city regulations call for regular water testing to meet public health standards. Cities also use local treatment plants to soften and purify drinking water. Some common chemicals used to purify water include chlorine and fluoride.
Well water can receive increased exposure to contaminants. To combat this, areas like Joliet, Lemont, and Park Forest all have regular and extensive well-water testing. For instance, it’s typical to have monthly testing to meet state EPA requirements.
Some areas like the City of West Chicago use water from 8 public wells. While some wells are deep, others may be shallow and are thus more susceptible to contaminants. West Chicago monitors this water for weekly assessments as a result.
4. Special Water Sources of Chicagoland
Lake Michigan is second only to Lake Superior by volume. Its water reaches temperatures between 60° and 70° Fahrenheit during the summer months.
A local water phenomenon is “the fountain of youth,” also known as the Schiller Park water pump. This public pump draws from fresh spring well water, and has attracted locals and visitors for years.
On any given day, you’ll see a large line of people waiting to fill several jugs with the tasty spring water. Depending on who you talk to, some claim the water has medicinal and healing properties.
Because of the fascination with this water, local Chicago authorities tested it. Chemically, the water is quite hard, with about 19 grains per gallon. The mineral content is high, although not in iron. These traits are typical of well water, but the pump’s ordinary traits don’t prevent extraordinary crowds from coming.
Chicago is home to plenty of unique water sources. Contact your municipal water supplier with any questions regarding your water treatment. You can also call the USEPA safe drinking water hotline at 1-800-426-4791.