Poll: Suburban Cook Voters Like Their Water Quality, Not Price

October 26, 2018

By David Ornsby - View Original Article at ChicagoTribune.com

(Chicago, IL) - Suburban Cook County voters overwhelming like the quality of their water pumped into their homes but a plurality think that the price is too high, according to a new survey.

The poll of 502 likely voters conducted between October 9-10 by Illinois Public Opinion, Inc. found that 42.1% of voters "rate water quality in their community" as "excellent" and 38.6% say it is "good." Just 11.1% say their water is "fair" and only 3.5% rate it as "poor." The rest were undecided.

Though suburban voters like the quality, they dislike the price.

The survey says that 45.6% of voters believe their water is "more expensive than it should be" while 38.6% report that the price is "just about right." And 5.8% of voters think the price is "less expensive than it should be." The rest were undecided.

An Illinois Department of Natural Resources survey of Lake Michigan water rates, for example, found that the average residential rate was $7.97 per 1,000 gallons in 2015, which was up from $5.22 in 2010. The residential rates ranged, for example, as little as $3.33 per 1,000 gallons in Wilmette to $12.48 in Riverside.

"Multiple factors go into a local community's water rates that can have a significant impact on prices even between neighboring communities," said suburban Cook County municipal attorney Michael Del Galdo, managing partner of the Berwyn-based Del Galdo Law Group, who serves as the legal counsel for multiple suburban communities, including the Town of Cicero. "The age of a town's water pipes is a huge driver of cost as older pipes require more expensive maintenance and the percentage of leakage from a town's pipes as well as who is the town's water supplier."

An October 2017 Chicago Tribune investigation found, for example, Evanston leaks just 2.3% of the water from its pipes while Skokie leaks an average of 13.47%.

"Water supply price, quality, and infrastructure maintenance are priorities that top suburban communities' agendas," said Del Galdo. "Water is a flashpoint in many towns, and it can set off a political fire storm if elected officials mishandle price, quality, and infrastructure issues and fail to douse residents' concerns."

Del Galdo also noted that in Cicero "proactive, preventive maintenance" aims to preserve low water costs.

'In Cicero, for example, the town's water department has a proactive, preventative maintenance program that seeks to keep water lines in good condition and also routinely monitors water pipe leakage in order to achieve low leakage rates, passing the cost savings on to town residents."

The automated survey had a +/- 5.0% margin of error.