08/25/2014 11:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Are Floods and Illinois Government Connected?

The weather has been wet in Illinois this week, with rain-inundated streets enough to set off middle-of-the-night emergency alert flood warnings.

But it's not just the rain that Illinois has to thank for its flooding tendencies. The state's rivers, infrastructure and landscape all play their parts. Sustainable water advocate Pete Mulvaney wants to know who is going to fix the state's mess so floods don't continue to flow in at every heavy downpour.

Illinois has 966 publicly owned waste water treatment plants, 1,742 regulated community water supplies[1] within 33 major watersheds. To regulate these assets, we have local utilities, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Survey, Department of Natural Resources and various health departments. Then there are the Feds--the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency. While managing water is no small task, getting all these agencies to coordinate is an even bigger challenge. This quagmire of management agencies fractures the water cycle--and too often undermines our ability to respond in times of crises-leads to inefficient use of resources and buries solutions in a byzantine bureaucracy.

How the state can more efficiently manage its water resources will be among the topics Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican governor nominee Bruce Rauner will address at the Metropolitan Planning Council's Annual Luncheon on Aug. 28. I'll be interested to hear their ideas because solving these issues in Illinois will not be easy.

Illinois' problems with governments and floods don't stop there. Back in 2010, Iroquois County Board Chairman Rodney Copas says, the Ford-Iroquois County Health Department funneled federal flood-relief funds into the homes of its own employees. Plus, he and Edgar County Watchdogs' Allen Kirk says the same health department double-billed federal grants and the county's Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, spend department money on personal items and mishandled county contract bidding. Check out the story of how one anonymous
whistleblower put a stop to it.