Joliet OKs $90 million in water main work for this year

Aging pipelines will be replaced to reduce water loss

Pipe for the Ingalls Avenue water main project is stacked up along a side street on Thursday, July 6, 2023 in Joliet.

Joliet will take on another 18 water main projects this year at a price tag of almost $90 million.

The 2024 projects are the latest in an ongoing program to replace all water mains built before 1970 and reduce the amount of water loss believed to be primarily leaking from aging pipes.

The water main program attracted more attention in 2023 as the city completed work on major roads, including Plainfield Road, Collins Street and Caton Farm Road. The city will return to another section of Plainfield Road this year.

“This is a critical part of our plan to reduce our non-revenue water to less than 10%,” Public Utilities Director Allison Swisher told the City Council before it voted Tuesday to approve 18 contracts for water main replacements totaling $89.3 million.

A total of 33 miles of water main will be replaced in 2024, according to a staff memo on the contracts.

“Non-revenue water” is a term officials use to refer to water that the city pumps through its system that is not paid for.

A fraction of that water goes to city operations, including fighting fires. But most of it simply leaks out of pipelines.

Construction worker work along Oakview Avenue placing new water pipes in Joliet. Thursday, August 4, 2022 in Joliet.

About one-third of Joliet water was non-revenue before the city embarked on a campaign to reduce the amount, although the city still loses about one-fourth of its water.

The city needs to reduce water loss to 10% as it prepares to tap into Lake Michigan water to meet requirements set by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“This year we made a commitment to the IDNR to accelerate the program even further,” Swisher told the council.

Joliet replaced 16 miles of water mains in 2023.

Council member Cesar Guerrero pointed out the cost of the water main replacement program before the vote but said it was money that the city needed to spend.

“These are absolutely necessary contracts that we have to issue to get that Lake Michigan water allocation,” Guerrero said.

A section of Ingalls Avenue is closed during daytime hours while work is being done for a water main project. Joliet, July 6, 2023.

Plainfield Road again will be affected by the project as the city replaces water mains from Black Road to Theodore Street.

Another project will be done on North Broadway Street between West Division and Oneida streets. That project also will include sections of Center Street and Western Avenue.

Other areas where water main work will be done include the Cathedral Area, Forest Park, Garnsey Park, Idylside, Krings Acres, Parkview North, Varnado Park and West Park.

The city of Joliet’s website, joliet.gov, contains more information, including a map of areas where work will be done in 2024 posted on the Public Utilities page under the Construction Zone tab.