Emerging intrastate transboundary issues focus on use of the Mahomet aquifer, which underlies about fifteen counties and many other political entities in east-central Illinois. This sand and gravel aquifer in the lower part of the buried Mahomet Bedrock Valley ranges between four and fourteen miles wide and from about 50 to 200 feet thick. Much of the region's rural population, several large communities, and many small towns obtain water from the Mahomet aquifer, as do industrial, agricultural, and commercial users. Increased development of the Mahomet aquifer to meet growing demands for water has caused conflicts over real or perceived adverse effects. One result has been the creation of fifteen resource protection zones and twelve water authorities. For groundwater supplies, resource protection zones help municipalities protect water-supply wells from potential adverse impacts. Many resource protection zones overlap one another, however, so this situation could lead to disputes over use of the resource. The reason that several of the twelve water authorities were organized was to meet a challenge perceived from a demand to be placed on the aquifer, in other words, a potential for conflict of use. Complicating the situation is that some of the water authorities overlap the resource protection zones. This could lead to disputes not only about water use, but also over which jurisdiction has the authority to settle a dispute. The Mahomet Aquifer Consortium was recently organized by concerned people representing diverse groundwater interests at the local level, including the private sector, professional organizations, and various governmental units. The consortium brings together representatives of some groups that typically did not communicate with each other in the past. The consortium may provide a forum through which emerging transboundary issues pertaining to use of the Mahomet aquifer can be addressed. Because the consortium is a voluntary organization that relies on Consensus building, the success it may achieve in resolving future conflicts over groundwater use from the Mahomet aquifer remains to be seen.
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The Mahomet aquifer: A transboundary resource in east-central Illinois