The Kaskaskia Watershed Association’s 2024 Summit Addresses Drought Conditions

The Kaskaskia Watershed Association (KWA) recently hosted their 22nd annual summit and were kind enough to invite Water Program Manager, John O’Donnell to present at the meeting. 

The 2024 KWA Summit theme was “Water, Water Everywhere And Not a Drop to SPARE!” which was in reference to the recent drought and low water conditions. Drought is having a significant impact on the Carlyle Lake Reservoir, Kaskaskia River, and many communities in the Kaskaskia Watershed.

Because groundwater (i.e., water below the surface of the earth) is limited in the area, most of the communities in the Kaskaskia Watershed use surface water, like Carlyle Lake and the Kaskaskia River for their drinking water. When drought is prolonged, these drinking water sources become more scarce, causing issues for rural communities, navigation, and industry. 

For example, the US Army Corps of Engineers reports that they remove an average four million tons/yr to maintain navigation in the Mississippi River, but for the last two years they have dredged 18 million tons (9 million tons/yr) due to the low water levels in the river.

The summit featured presentations on new models and research on water availability and erosion from graduate students and professors at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIUC). HeartLands Conservancy presented an overview of the upcoming process to update the Kaskaskia Watershed Water Supply Plan. The process will use new data and guidance from the Illinois State Water Plan to refresh the strategy for low-water conditions in the Kaskaskia Watershed. Some of the guiding recommendations from the State Water Plan include: 

  • Prioritize water services for vulnerable communities.
  • Determine sustainable water yield for all water supply sources.
  • Increase and prioritize local collaboration for regional water management.
  • Incorporate climate change impacts for better water availability assessment.
  • Work with regional water supply planning committees to develop program policy and/or regional ordinances for implementation during emergencies including stream minimum flow protection.

Many local and state agencies, community members, and organizations were present at the summit, including The U.S. Army Corps St. Louis District, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources (IDNR), and the Illinois State Water Survey.

If you have questions about the Kaskaskia Water Supply Plan, please contact John O’Donnell, Water Program Manager at john.odonnell@heartlandsconservancy.org or (618) 566-4451 ex 14.

Kaskaskia 2050 Water Supply Study

To learn more about the last Kaskaskia Water Supply Study, download the document (pdf) here.

John O'Donnell, Jesus Sanchez, and Daizjah Day, HeartLands Conservancy team at the KWA Summit in 2024