Water conservation urged to keep Chicago River from overflowing

Water conservation urged to keep Chicago River from overflowing

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(Photo) View from the east tower of Marina City of a flooded Riverwalk west of State Street on June 15, 2015. Photo by Jeff Lewis.

1-Apr-17 - A shorter shower, wearing clothes two days in a row, and flushing less often are just three of 30 ways to help keep the Chicago River from overflowing on especially rainy days. The suggestions were offered on Friday by Friends of the Chicago River. A month-long campaign will encourage Chicagoans to conserve clean water and reduce pollution going into the river.

When it rains, water from storm drains combines with domestic, commercial, and industrial sewage and is piped to a pumping station where the water is treated and returned to the river. If there is too much water, most of it goes into a reservoir before going to the pumping station but some of it goes back into the river untreated. Just one-third of an inch of rain can cause sewer overflow into the river, according to Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Photo by Steven Dahlman


"If you want to stop combined sewer overflows altogether, reducing inputs to the sewer system is crucial," said MWRD president Mariyana Spyropoulos (left).

She says the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan - 109 miles of tunnels and two reservoirs that can store 10.55 billion gallons of stormwater - can handle storm and wastewater most of the time but conserving water can still help.

"Thanks to environmental laws, restoration work, and changes to wastewater management, the Chicago River's water quality has improved dramatically in recent years," said United States Senator Dick Durbin, "but we can't take this progress for granted, especially in our current political climate."

On April 26, as part of Overflow Action Days, Friends of the Chicago River is hoping to get 500 people to the Chicago Riverwalk between Clark and LaSalle Streets for what could be the largest group photo taken on the Riverwalk. The 500, says the nonprofit organization, would "represent the thousands who care about the Chicago River."

Friends of the Chicago River

(Photo) Friends of the Chicago River got to Chicago and on board a water taxi two members of the Illinois congressional delegation to help publicize its month-long public awareness campaign. At front, left to right, are Michael Borgstrom, president of Wendella Sightseeing Company, United States Senator Dick Durbin, Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, Mariyana Spyropoulos, president of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. Image obtained from Friends of the Chicago River.

 More info: Overflow Action Days

• Contact Steven Dahlman at sdahlman@loopnorth.com