Barrington-area residents soon will be able to keep an eye on a valuable resource below their feet: water.
The Barrington Area Council of Governments acquired a grant to pay for high-tech equipment that will be installed in three wells to provide the public with reports on area ground water levels every 15 minutes.
Janet Agnoletti, the executive director of the council, said installing the monitors is the latest step in ongoing efforts to understand the water table, educate the public about it and, ultimately, preserve it.
The project comes at a time when the local water table is shrinking as a result of too much water being pumped and not enough being returned.
According to a 2009 state water survey, the Barrington-area water table will recede anywhere from 10 to 20 feet by 2050, if the present trend continues. In addition, two of the largest water sources for the Barrington area, Flint Creek and Spring Creek, are projected to shrink about 58 percent.
Agnoletti said a drawdown of any significance would be particularly disastrous for the Barrington area because there are 7,000 to 8,000 households that rely on private wells and septic systems. If the water table were to recede, residents would be forced to drill their wells deeper to keep the taps on.
The water table tends to be an "out of sight, out of mind" issue for water users, including residents who may not realize they are wasting water and municipalities who may not consider how it is affected by development, Agnoletti said.
"The idea is to make sure that the development is supported by the resources available in the area," she said.
The threat of wells drying up is not merely a concern for the future. During dry spells over the past 10 years, some residents have had to extend their wells at a significant cost.
Barrington Mayor Karen Darch said even the village of Barrington, the only member municipality that is served by a community system, had to dig one of their wells 15 feet deeper during a 2005 drought.
Darch said the governments council is trying to inform the public that the water system is connected.
"We are all drinking from the same cup," she said.
The council obtained the monitoring equipment through a grant from the Illinois office of the United States Geological Survey. Agnoletti said the process of installing the equipment, valued at over $20,000, began last week.
Agnoletti said the council is paying about $6,000 a year to the geological survey for them to operate the equipment, including transmitting and analyzing the data. The council will provide yearly reports on the Barrington-area water table using the new equipment.
The data might be available to the public via the United States Geological Survey website as early as next week, Agnoletti said.