When I ran for the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) in 2006, I did so because I believe that water is going to be “the” issue in years to come and this agency — with its mandate to protect drinking water, treat wastewater, and manage stormwater — has a vital role to play. Since then, we’ve experienced two of the wettest years on record — 2008 and 2011 — and are in the midst of a significant drought. The water level in Lake Michigan is nearing its historic low level and in late October the annual rainfall in the Chicago region is about seven inches below average. Storms of unprecedented magnitude have caused basement backups, flooding and significant property damages for many thousands of people throughout Cook County.
Happily, I can report that we’ve gotten some good things done, big and small, in my first term at the MWRD. But much worthy work remains. Here’s what I intend to work on in my second term.
It’s a propitious time to be working on water issues. Author Charles Fishman noted, “In the last century, we moved water to people; in the next century, people will move to water.” The Chicago region can have a robust economy going forward because of our access to fresh water and our transit infrastructure. But the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District must reinvent itself as a 21st century resource recovery agency, finding and capturing the value in what we previously considered ‘waste’ — the methane gas generated by the treatment process, the biosolids, nutrients, and wastewater itself.
I am excited about the prospect of contributing to this transformation and I thank you for affording me the opportunity to serve for a second term. Because water matters.