April 8, 2016

Illinois Water Day


It’s Illinois Water Day (who knew?)! Today is the third annual Illinois Water Day launched by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to raise awareness about water resource issues (as if the crisis in Flint weren’t enough, but — yes — we could benefit from every day being a water awareness day!) and to promote discussions about local water issues.

How fitting, then, to tell you about the recent launch in Chicago of Current, a new initiative developed by World Business Chicago to foster economic development based on the Chicago region’s unique mix of freshwater and used water resources, premier academic and research institutions, robust technological sector and leading utilities.

Part of this new initiative grew out of conversations I and others had with World Business Chicago and many other groups pitching the idea that reuse of treated wastewater could be a driver for economic development in the future — that as water scarcity and water quality issues become ever more pressing elsewhere, Chicago’s access to freshwater and ample treated water can attract the water-intensive industries of the future. That idea — and the enterprising efforts of leaders at Argonne National Labs, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the Chicago Department of Water Management, and many industries — led to the creation of Current, designed to serve as “a platform for the Chicago region’s water industry to leverage its strengths for greater economic impact.”

By strengthening our water ecosystem and promoting collaboration, the Chicago region can better leverage its water and economic assets to enhance:

  • Innovation

  • Investment

  • Productivity

  • Business Attraction

An example of utility and private sector partnerships emerging in this region is a test of a phosphorus removal technology developed by Clearas Water Recovery at the MWRD’s O’Brien treatment plant, which uses algae to capture phosphorus from the waste stream and then produce bioplastic that can be used by various industries. Wow!

When Bill Cronon, now an esteemed professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, published his seminal environmental history called Nature’s Metropolis, Chicago and the Great West, he wrote that Chicago became a great city because of the “intersecting geographies of nature and capital.” By that I believe he meant both financial capital and human capital — the ideas, creativity, and enterprise that the city attracted and harbored. The Chicago region is poised to become Nature’s Metropolis for the 21st century because of those same intersecting geographies of nature and capital.

Current is now off and, um, flowing and we will report on new projects as they emerge.

High Notes

Summer Solstice Celebration
Save the date of Thursday, June 16, for my annual Summer Solstice Celebration at the Erie Café, 536 W. Erie in Chicago from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. It’s my once-a-year fundraiser to help me pay for my annual report (which should be arriving in your mailboxes very soon) and newsletters such as this one. Please plan to join us!

Pharmaceutical Collection Ordinance
The measure designed to expand collection sites for unused and expired medicines throughout Cook County that I reported on in my last newsletter has been deferred until May at the Cook County Board. I will be sending an update soon, but this means there is still time to contact your county board member and other commissioners to signal your support for this important measure.

Drug Take-Back Day – April 30
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring another drug take-back day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. You can find a collection site near you at this website. Bring your unused or expired prescription or over-the-counter meds for safe, secure disposal. Someday, if the ordinance referred to above is adopted, we’ll have many more permanent collection sites throughout Cook County — a benefit for public safety, public health, and the environment!