Cook County residents are experiencing quite a bit of rain these days -- the wettest May in Chicago history -- and while the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago can't control the weather, we do play a significant role in preventing flooding during these seemingly endless rainstorms.
In our control room, we monitor the weather to prepare for the coming storms. Our engineers begin by drawing the river system down to allow for retention in our waterways. At our seven treatment plants, we go into maximum production, treating as much waste water as we can so that we can take in water from the sewers.
Pumps located 300 feet below the ground start draining sewers throughout the county, again providing as much space to hold and convey stormwater in our system as possible.
This includes emptying our Deep tunnel -- a system of 109 miles of 30-foot-diameter pipe which can hold two billion gallons of water -- and our three reservoirs, which currently can hold approximately 10 billion more gallons.
The truth is that we can never totally prevent flooding in Cook County. MWRD has striven to do our part to keep up with Mother Nature, but it is going to take more investment and newer technologies to reduce the effects of these storms on the residents of Cook County. Replacing old sewer lines, increasing green infrastructure and promoting residential upgrades and maintenance will help us get there.
But we must accept that climate change is real, and that we have the responsibility to operate in a manner that reduces its effects. That means we need to educate the public on being smarter about how we create and consume energy and conserve water, and on enacting policies and regulations that protect our environment.
Kari K. Steele, President
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District