Northern Illinois has abundant, but stressed, groundwater resources. Major bedrock aquifers supply much of the region's water. The overlying glacial deposits and shallow bedrock provide local supplies, control recharge to deeper aquifers, and are prone to contamination from waste disposal and other human activities. Chicago (an hour's drive from DeKalb)and its suburbs are regional headquarters for major regulatory agencies and numerous companies engaged in environmental work in Illinois and throughout the Midwest.
Downstate, Illinois has an active coal mining industry and is also one of the world's major agricultural regions. The groundwater concerns and problems of the mining and agricultural industries provide further impetus for research and professional activity. Faculty and students have cooperated extensively in hydrogeological studies with the USGS, Illinois State Geological Survey, and other regional and local agencies.