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updated: 2/29/2012 1:37 PM

In face of rising costs, Des Plaines to study new water sources

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In the face of rising rates, Des Plaines city leaders next week likely will sanction two feasibility studies to explore the possibility of purchasing Lake Michigan water through either the villages of Wilmette and Glenview, or the city of Evanston.

The cost of doing the studies is being split between the different communities, acting City Manager Jason Slowinski said.

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The Des Plaines city council Monday night is expected to approve spending roughly $68,000 to cover its portion of the costs for both studies. The money will come out of the city's water and sewer fund, Slowinski said.

"It doesn't commit us to doing anything other than exploring the option," Slowinski added.

The city is in the second year of a 10-year water agreement with Chicago, whose rates went up by 25 percent this year.

Des Plaines raised its own water/sewer rates by roughly 21 percent retroactive to Jan. 1, which includes Chicago's rate increase for 2012 that will be passed on to Des Plaines residents.

Chicago's four-year water rate hikes call for a 15 percent increase in each of the following years. Des Plaines will pay an additional $4 million to Chicago for water service -- $36 million in total -- for those four years.

Des Plaines could opt to break the deal with Chicago or limit the volume of water it purchases to supply its roughly 57,000 residents.

"We are not required to buy all of our water from Chicago," Slowinski said. "It may be, at the end of the day, we don't buy 100 percent from Chicago, and we don't buy 100 percent from Wilmette."

Wilmette might be the better choice over Evanston since the village draws water from Lake Michigan and sells it to Glenview, which shares a border with Des Plaines.

The studies will lay out the potential costs of infrastructure upgrades needed if Des Plaines were to switch suppliers, and how long it would take to build a pipeline to connect with Wilmette's and Evanston's systems.

"We are talking a while before we would be in a position to do that," Slowinski said. "The residents in Des Plaines need to know we are doing our due diligence and studying the options available to provide water at the lowest possible costs."

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