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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates sound off on strategies to handle storms
South Side Weekly | March 16, 2020
Flooded basements and roads in Chicago are rarely the result of swollen rivers or overbank flooding from Lake Michigan. The culprit, instead, is rainwater. Overdevelopment and a lack of green space in Chicago have left parts of the city unequipped to handle even relatively minor storms. When forests are replaced with asphalt, rainwater cannot be naturally absorbed into the ground, and the city’s aging sewer infrastructure has proven to be inadequate at handling increasingly common rainstorms.
But this flooding is often left out of the conversation about how climate change will impact Chicago. Olga Bautista, the Southeast Side Community Planning Manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, says this oversight can be attributed to the fact that urban flooding doesn’t align with the typical narratives about what flooding looks like.
“When people think about flooding, they think about Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria,” Bautista said. “So when you ask people if they’ve experienced flooding, they say no. But in reality, basement seepage, sewer backups, flooded backyards, and flooded roadways are huge issues that people don’t associate with flooding.”
One agency of government owns most of the responsibility for urban flooding in Chicago: the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). With three commissioners seeking re-election in a crowded Democratic primary next week, voters must consider how their policies would affect how Chicago deals with this largely overlooked aspect of environmental injustice.
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