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Evanston aldermen this week were told the city will need to spend about $26 million soon to replace its aging water reservoir under a parking lot at the north end of the Northwestern University campus.

The five-million gallon reservoir is about 80 years old. The city had previously considered replacing only its roof — at a cost estimated earlier this year of just $4 million.

But City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Utility Director Dave Stoneback say inspections have shown that the walls of the reservoir need replacing as well.

Top: Aldermen at a meeting Monday look over presentations detailing the city’s capital needs. Above: This parking lot on the NU campus, shown in an image from Google Maps, sits on top of a city water reservoir.

Getting the reservoir replaced is one key to convincing more nearby communities that they should buy water from Evanston — a business city officials hope will generate substantial new revenue for Evanston in the future.

The reservoir is the single biggest capital improvement project on tap for the city’s water treatment and distribution system over the next several years — but not the only one.

Stoneback says the city needs to spend about $2.7 million to paint and repair its two standpipes, and, since the standpipes provide additional storage capacity, that work need to be done before the reservoir is shut down for replacement.

He says the city stores another five-million gallons at the water plant itself and can still meet supply need while the parking-lot reservoir is out of service but will have to coordinate operations very carefully to do so.

Several other projects on the list add up to about another $8 million in capital needs.

Then there’s the water distribution pipes under city streets.

How old are the water pipes serving your home? Check the map to see.

Roughly a third of them are already over 100 years old — the typical expected lifetime for water mains.

The city has been spending enough each year to replace about one percent of its 157 miles of water mains each year, Stoneback says, but at that pace some of the existing ones will be 130 to 150 years old before the city can get around to them.

Stoneback says the city is spending about as much proportionately as other nearby suburbs on water main replacement — but that it has a lot more old mains than most of those communities.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. But they can’t do that

    Don't they know that more money is needed to buy parking lots for stores, fences and awnings for businesses?  How else will they get re-elected?

    They can't bothered with pesty infrastructure!

  2. 150% tax on water/sewer

    I've been following the water increase discussions that have been surfacing these past months and this is yet another of the reasons they are going to use as to why they haven't yet started backing off on the 150% tax we've been paying on the water/sewer bills for years now.  That tax, which was implemented incrementally over years to fund the sewer replacement, was supposed to start going down incrementally already, but it isn't ever going to go away.  Once they get us paying something, they aren't going to just give it back to us.  As a matter of fact, not only will they keep that tax revenue, but they are going to raise water rates 30% over the next three years…. Which is also an additional 90% for the water portion of the tax that will be tacked onto the 150% tax of your water/sewer tax bill.  Evanston – revenue before residents every time.  We need some savvy person to figure out the real cost of the water increase when coupled with the tax. we are already paying.

  3. Water money diverted ?

    As I recall a year ago or so it was pointed out a substantial amount of money from the water/sewer fund was diverted to cover other budget expenses.  At the time a rate increase was sought—i.e. place money elsewhere and then claim not enough funds. 

    If so, was it replaced ?

    Has the golf course paid its bill yet ?

  4. Five-million gallon reservoir, 80 years old, how to pay for it?

    26 million dollars for 8 million gallons is about $3.25 a gallon if paid for one time.

    That's a bit more than milk, on the face of it.

    Though over a 100 year lifespan that equates to a pretty good deal per gallon.

    Just curious – does Northwestern pay for water use?

    If not, that might be a place to start, as I'm sure they use quite a lot.

    If they do pay, then perhaps we look at a system that charges a bit more for high volume and/or specifically those who benefit most from the reservoir water. I believe water meters are still functional?

    I mean, if I'm watering my golf course and my football field, shouldn't I pay a little more than the guy who washes dishes with his and uses oh, maybe 10,000 times less water? Hmm.

    I'd also be very curious to know if any sources use water that don't pay, and an estimate of how much water they use.

    Parks and Rec? Streets and Sanitaiton. Sewers. Corporates/Churches/Business/Private Use/etc.

    A transparent cost system that is paid for by all in a fair manner would likely make everyone else feel less gouged by the pricetag.

    Just a thought.

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