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Lake County Stormwater Management Commission  

Why We Flood

Roughly 20% of Lake County is covered by surface water consisting of streams, lakes, wetlands and floodplains. There are four major watersheds with three major rivers systems that run wholly or partly through the county and draining into approximately 545 miles of streams draining into 170 lakes, 8,750 acres of wetlands, 55,434 acres of floodplain and even into Lake Michigan.

The majority of riverine and tributary flood damage over the past fifteen years has effected older developments, or those built before 1992 when SMC enacted the countywide Lake County Watershed Development Ordinance (WDO). There are however areas of the county that because of natural depressional areas see flash flooding during heavy rain events. These heavy rain events can temporarily flood roads, backyards, basements, and low lying areas because storm drain systems are overloaded. Flooding can also occur when creeks are blocked by debris.

Because of SMC's effective floodplain and stormwater management and flood hazard mitigation activities, flood damage has decreased. At the same time, home and business owners can and are taking proactive steps to reduce flooding and potential flood damages. See below for how you can prevent flooding. 

Partnerships with local jurisdictions and state and federal agencies continue to play a key role in flood damage reduction across Lake County but more still needs to be done. SMC is working to enhance its rain gauge network to capture more flood prone areas in order to monitor rainfall and local river/stream heights. Flood hazard mitigation activities, mainly voluntary floodplain buyouts and elevations, will continue as funding becomes available. Lastly, restudying and updating floodplain maps are being modeled as funding becomes available.

How You Can Prevent Flooding

Many homeowners know when and under what circumstances their homes will be susceptible to flooding based on past history and have already taken certain precautions. For new homeowners in flood-prone areas, here are some considerations before the next flood: 

  • Before you purchase a home, the home seller must disclose any information related to flooding or sewer back-ups per the State of Illinois.
  • Purchase flood insurance if you are in a known flood prone area. You are required to purchase flood insurance if are purchasing a home or business in a regulatory floodplain, or if you refinance.
  • Ensure the backwater valve on your sump pump is functioning properly. Consider installing a back up pump.   
  • Keep your sewer lines clear of roots, debris and grease.
  • Dry and wet flood proofing do-it-yourself are inexpensive ways to reduce flood damages.
  • For repetitively damaged homes consider taking advantage of SMC's voluntary buyout program.

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