News Feature | October 16, 2013

Chicago To Invest Millions In Stormwater Management Initiative


By Kevin Westerling


Rahm Emanuel announces one of the largest green stormwater infrastructure investments in the nation.

The annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) had a touch of political star-power this year in Chicago, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Governor Pat Quinn (D-Illinois) on hand as featured speakers. While Quinn helped set the stage for the Oct. 7-9 exhibition and Kennedy promoted a huge wastewater treatment deal, Emmanuel used the platform to announce a significant new stormwater initiative for the Windy City.   

In keynoting the conference’s Water Leaders Session, Emanuel announced that Chicago will spend $50 million over the next five years in “greener, cleaner stormwater management.” The goal, he stated, is to reduce runoff by up to 250 million gallons per year through methods such as permeable pavement, tree-planting, and bioswales.

Dubbed the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy Initiative, the plan contains two elements. First, it promotes the building of capital projects that incorporate green stormwater infrastructure, to be guided by a new, interagency government process. Second, it establishes a framework to study climate change impact and conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the possible implementation of further, larger-scale green stormwater infrastructure projects.

“It is clear the abnormal is becoming the new normal with regard to climate change and the environment,” said Emanuel, who also took the opportunity to tout the $7-billion infrastructure investment the city announced last year, part of which includes the replacement/repair of 900 miles of water pipe, 750 miles of sewer line, and 160,000 catch-basins.

“I look forward to what you produce — a roadmap for the future, for sustainable growth,” Emanuel said to the gathering of water and wastewater professionals. “The City of Chicago is taking a holistic approach to better invest in water management, and our investment is a down payment on that future.”