The Future of Lake Michigan

Challenges of Population Growth and Water Consumption

Access to natural resources are a key factor in community organization.  With Chicago’s proximity to the largest body of freshwater in the world, disregarding the polar ice caps, it has allowed Chicago as well as 17% of Illinois to become very dependent on the limited water supply [3,4].  Future projections of population growth show that “By 2030, demographers predict that around 61 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, at which time the world’s urban population will be approaching 5 billion” [1].  Through the rapid increase in population and the detrimental impacts of climate change, cities like Chicago are expected to transform into megacities.


Photo Source: Jashaun Bowens Lake Michigan Sunset. Michigan City, Indiana

Consequently, rapid increased population creates complex problems and impose concerns to the environment, natural resources, and public health.  With the population estimated to double current rates, water usage will become extremely unsustainable.  According to Josh Ellis the program associate for the Metropolitan Planning Council aquifers in and around Chicago are being pumped faster than they can be recharged [2].  One of the most distressing aspects in our current conundrum is that no matter how much water is salvaged, it will never be completely replaced due to the reversal of the Chicago River.

The United States Supreme Court would agree that Illinois must create a sustainable plan and improved infrastructural system in order to conserve more water.  “Due to the loss of water the United States Supreme Court limited the amount of water that Illinois can remove from Lake Michigan to 3,200 cubic feet per second” [3].  However, these are still not sustainable solutions to fix this current problem. “64 percent of Chicago’s water pipes are 60 years or older; and some are well over 100 years old. Resulting in 24 million gallons of drinking water lost to leaks per day” [3].  The only solution is to redesign the pipe system and create a water monitoring system much like energy smart grids.


[1]  Cohen, B. (2006). Urbanization in developing countries: Current trends, future projections, and key challenges for sustainability. Technology in Society, 28(1-2), 63-80.

[2]  Population growth statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2016, from

[3]  W., & C. (2009, September). What Our Water’s Worth Advantages and Challenges of Lake Michigan’s Water. Retrieved from

[4]  I. (n.d.). Lake Michigan Monitoring Program. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from



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