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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

The MWRD works every day to reduce flooding and improve water quality in our service area and you can help too!

Flooding is natural 

The flat landscape of the Chicago region is naturally flood-prone. Much of this area that is now home to over 5 million people was originally marshland with slow-moving rivers and streams that would flood often. 

In heavy rainfall today, excess water can contribute to basement backups, street flooding and sewer overflows to waterways. Learn more about how sewers work.

What you can do

Disconnect your downspouts from the sewer 

The easiest thing you can do to keep water out of the sewer system is to disconnect downspouts. Direct the water away from your (and your neighbor’s) home so it can soak into the ground. 

Sign up for Overflow Action Alerts

Using less water before and during rainstorms is an easy way to make more room in the sewers for stormwater. Every little bit helps! Sign up to receive Overflow Action Alerts from our partnership with the Friends of the Chicago River.


A person smiles at the camera while installing a rain barrel

Install a rain barrel

Rain barrels are an excellent way to keep water out of the sewer system and save it for reuse. We have an affordable price on rain barrels - delivery included!

Properly dispose of medications

You can help keep pharmaceuticals from entering our waterways by disposing of unwanted medicine properly.

Landscape with native plants

Native plants absorb more water than grass and have strong root structure that can help prevent erosion. They also provide vital habitat for wildlife such as pollinators and monarch butterflies. Take our monarch butterfly pledge to receive some free native milkweed seeds!

pledge to plant wildflowers in Cook County and receive free native wildflower seeds!

Yellow and black flowers in the front yard of a house

Install a rain garden

Rain gardens are a type of landscaping that absorbs 30 percent more water than grass. See our Green Neighbor Guide for more information.

Ground level view of permeable pavers in a large parking lot

Replace paved areas with pervious surfaces

Replacing paved areas like driveways with water-absorbing surfaces such as pervious pavement can help keep excess water out of the sewer system. 

Go easy on the road salt

Road salts travel from sidewalks and roads and eventually enter our waterways, where wildlife can be harmed. Using the right amount of salt can make a big difference for our waterways while still maintaining safe roads and sidewalks. 

Report waterway blockages

Our stream maintenance crew depends on you to report waterway blockages when you see them.

Report flooding to your municipality

Your municipality owns and operates the neighborhood sewers that your property drains into. These municipal sewers flow into larger MWRD sewers. Your municipality will coordinate flood response efforts and can partner with the MWRD on stormwater management projects.

Don’t litter

Litter from streets often ends up in waterways. Our skimmer boats and debris boats remove thousands of yards of trash and debris from waterways each year.

Plant trees

Trees can soak up rainwater, which helps prevent flooding and improve water quality. A medium-sized oak tree absorbs 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year. Of course trees have many other benefits including producing oxygen, providing cooling shade and habitat for wildlife. You can help Restore the Canopy by planting free native oak saplings.

Use water wisely

Take quicker showers, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, washing your face, or washing dishes by hand. Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes. 

Only flush the 3Ps

Only flush pee, poo and toilet paper. Anything else (including flushable wipes) can potentially cause plumbing blockages or basement backups. 

Clean up pet waste

Pick up after your dog. Pet waste can be washed into waterways during rain, contributing to pollution.