MWRD Settlement with EPA Could Signal New Focus of Stormwater Management in Chicago Region
The US EPA and other federal and state agencies have announced a legal settlement with the Chicago area’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to address the problem of raw sewage being released into Chicago area waterways during rain storms. The settlement includes a requirement to complete the Deep Tunnel by 2029 to increase its capacity to handle wet weather events and address combined sewer overflow discharges. It also requires the agency to implement a $25 million to $50 million green infrastructure program that will reduce stormwater runoff in communities.
“We are pleased to see green infrastructure included in the overall plan to manage our stormwater in the Chicago region,” said Kathryn Tholin, CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), which has worked for more than a decade to demonstrate the myriad benefits of green infrastructure and foster its widespread use. “The additional investment in green infrastructure dwarfs previous investment in the proven, cost-effective practice, and it will allow the district and others to measure its benefits at a regionwide scale.”
“Despite the positive step forward, the 15-year timeframe for implementing green infrastructure is far too long and should be accelerated,” said Tholin. “Philadelphia and St. Louis, cities smaller than Chicago, have invested much more money in green infrastructure in a much shorter period of time. The beauty of green infrastructure is that we can implement these solutions now and begin seeing positive results in communities long before the Deep Tunnel is complete. Deploying green infrastructure in communities is the quickest, cheapest way to address costly flooding in homes and businesses.”
The research around stormwater management shows that an investment in green infrastructure measures can be as effective as conventional approaches in relieving flooding and managing stormwater, at a lower cost. In addition, green infrastructure can bring multiple community benefits, reducing water pollution, saving energy, enhancing green space, improving air quality, and increasing home values, to name a few.
CNT has helped demonstrate the benefits of green infrastructure in numerous ways, such as:
- installing 35 green infrastructure demonstration projects throughout Chicago.
- creating the Green ValuesTM Stormwater Management Calculator for planners and practitioners to understand the costs and performance of various green infrastructure strategies on specific properties.
- advocating for policies that remove barriers to widespread deployment of green infrastructure and provide funding for communities to implement their own green infrastructure projects.
- developing a guide based on measured results and good engineering practice that allows municipalities to quantify the economic value of green infrastructure’s benefits.