Achieving Water Greatness

Sept. 11, 2015

About the author: Elisabeth Lisican is editor-in-chief of Water & Wastes Digest. Lisican can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1012.

Chicago is known for a lot of things, civic pride ranking high on the list. Not far behind that is the body of water adjacent to it: Lake Michigan. Add to that a lot of talk about water management, and the city is dubbed a “great water city”—or a large city with water on its mind. 

In addition to being my own city of residence, Chicago is host to the Water Environment Federation Technical Exposition & Conference (WEFTEC), which is devoting a session to discussing the Second City and other great water cities with transformative leaders. David St. Pierre, executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) will be moderating that discussion. MWRD has had a productive year finishing up a new Ostara phosphorous recovery facility at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in Cicero, Ill. (For more on that project, see Recovering Resources.) The district will host several facility tours this year during WEFTEC, which takes place Sept. 26 to 30 at McCormick Place.

Phosphorous recovery and other initiatives count toward Chicago’s long-term goal of becoming a zero-waste city. The idea of resource recovery is an ongoing theme at WEFTEC, and this year, engaging the community seems to be an added priority: “Diverse global cities lead by making water a central priority and show how it can be managed in a way that is not just more sustainable, but is transformative and provides community benefits ranging from improved resilience, livability and economic vitality,” reads the description of the Great Water Cities session.

A city does not have to be particularly big to be great when it comes to water; smaller cities are every bit as deserving of recognition. Milwaukee, for instance, is striving to become a global water hub, thanks to its Global Water Center, home to water-related research facilities for universities, existing companies and accelerator space for emerging companies. One of W&WD’s 2014 Top Project award winners, the city of St. Cloud, Minn.’s Wastewater Treatment Facility Rehabilitation, Upgrade & Expansion Project, is an excellent example of how a large investment in a facility was made possible by ratepayers, city leaders and community support—not to mention the strong environmental stewardship characteristic of a great water city.

We plan to share many more examples of great water cities, towns and everything in between, including our 2015 Top Project winners, which will be announced at an award ceremony during WEFTEC. Stay tuned, and see you in Chicago!

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About the Author

Elisabeth Lisican

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