The Des Plaines city council Monday night authorized two feasibility studies to determine the costs of getting water from sources other than Chicago, which raised its rates this year.
The studies will explore the possibility of purchasing Lake Michigan water through either the villages of Wilmette and Glenview or the city of Evanston to supply Des Plaines' roughly 57,000 residents.
The city council approved spending roughly $68,000 to cover Des Plaines' portion of the costs for both studies. The money will come out of the city's water and sewer fund.
"I think this is very important," 8th Ward Alderman Mike Charewicz said. "We are trying to save everybody some money."
Des Plaines would have to break its 10-year water deal with Chicago -- the city is in the second year of that agreement -- or limit the volume of water it purchases.
Chicago's 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.
The cost of doing the studies is being split between the different communities, acting City Manager Jason Slowinski said.
Wilmette, Glenview and Des Plaines will divvy up the cost of their study, while Evanston has invited the villages of Lincolnwood, Morton Grove and Niles, and the cities of Des Plaines and Park Ridge, the Northwest Water Commission and Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency to participate in its study.
Both 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. Wilmette is the closer option since the village draws water from Lake Michigan and sells it to Glenview, which shares a border with Des Plaines.