For The Love of Water (FLOW) is a summary of news from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. 

In this edition:

Latest News

Upcoming Events



Latest News 

MWRD President Kari K. Steele's 2021 Annual Message

President's Message


You can find the message in its entirety here

2021: A Year in Review

As the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) looks to a brighter new year, we have continued to exceed expectations during the second year of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Not only did we deliver essential services -- transforming wastewater into clean water, managing stormwater, improving our waterways and drinking water source, and recovering resources – but during the pandemic, we played an integral role in studying the coronavirus.

For a second year, we sent samples from our treatment collection to four different studies to gain a better understanding of the virus detection in wastewater. These sewage surveillance studies measure traces or fragments of the RNA genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to track the spread of COVID-19. This information is used by public health departments to make decisions for controlling the spread of the virus instead of depending on information from clinical cases, which is only available after the fact. All seven MWRD water reclamation plants (WRPs) were selected to provide samples to local and national research institutions, universities and public health departments and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As always, our staff continued to work 24/7 to maintain reliable service levels and deliver peace of mind to the residents of Cook County. As another year concludes and we reflect on our achievements, I am grateful for everyone’s service, health and clean water.

 Kari K. Steele
President of the Board of Commissioners

LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois honors MWRD with the 2021 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year

LGBT Award
Pictured (L-R): Matt Phillips, LGBT Chamber Board Chair, MWRD President Kari K. Steele, MWRD Chairman of Finance Marcelino Garcia, MWRD Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos and MWRD Commissioner Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda.


The LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois honored the MWRD with the 2021 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year award at the Chamber’s 25th Anniversary Gala.

The Chamber mentioned MWRD inclusive business practices that allow vendors of all backgrounds to apply for MWRD contracts and business opportunities. Read more about it here.

CMAP honors MWRD, Lake County Forest Preserve District

Vice President Barbara McGowan
In the photo (L-R): MWRD Vice President Barbara McGowan, CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman, and MWRD Executive Director Brian Perkovich.


The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) honored the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and Lake County Forest Preserve District with a Regional Excellence Award during its inaugural State of the Region event.

The award highlights collaborative work on a $9.7 million project to expand the Buffalo Creek Reservoir to increase the region’s resiliency against flooding. The project expanded the capacity of wetland terraces, improved erosion control and added recreational amenities for users. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the project will reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million.

Under the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, the MWRD agreed to cover the cost of the $9.7-million project, while the Lake County Forest Preserve will maintain the site. The expansion increases the existing Buffalo Creek Reservoir by approximately 180 acre-feet to account for an additional 58.6 million gallons of storage.

The expanded storage benefits Cook County communities affected by flooding. An estimated 107 structures will be protected from various flood recurrence intervals and more than 2,000 structures along Buffalo Creek and the main stem of the Des Plaines River will receive some form of flood reduction benefit. Read more here.

MWRD Board of Commissioners approves 2022 Budget

2022 Budget Book image


The MWRD Board of Commissioners formally approved the 2021 budget to ensure that the MWRD continues performing its essential services to protect public health and the region’s water environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $1.3-billion budget allows the MWRD to maintain its around-the-clock service, treating wastewater for Chicago and 128 surrounding municipalities, as well as its role managing stormwater for Cook County, protecting area waterways and the region’s drinking water supply in Lake Michigan.

While the pandemic disrupted lives, it also emphasized the significance of frontline workers, and the lesser-known work of MWRD personnel to keep water flowing.

Every day, the MWRD’s 1,940 employees provide a reliable and innovative service to protect the water environment for an equivalent 10.35 million people, including 5.25 million residents living in a service area of 882 square miles across Cook County. To view the budget, visit

MWRD to receive award from National Association of Clean Water Agencies for "Where Does IT Go?" animation

Where Does It Go Cover


The MWRD Office of Public Affairs will be receiving the National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies for their “Where Does IT Go?” storybook animation.

The storybook is currently in four languages (English, Spanish, Chinese and Polish) and the now award-winning animation in 3 languages. The Polish animation will be completed in the coming weeks.

The award will be presented in February during NACWA’s Winter Conference.

Prescribed burns offer multiple benefits

Stickney Prescribed burn


Pardon the smoke! Last month we performed prescribed burns throughout our native prairie landscaping (NPL) at our Stickney Water Reclamation Plant. The burn helps release nutrients into the soil to encourage growth for next spring. It also eliminates woody plants and weeds with shallow roots, leaving the native prairie forbs and deep-rooted grasses to thrive in the post-burn season.

Licensed personnel following local and state regulations conduct controlled burns in the late fall or early spring when the thatch is dry, when wind conditions are safe and after neighboring property owners have been properly notified. Between our seven water reclamation plants and pumping stations, we have more than 50 acres of NPL, which serves as green infrastructure soaking up stormwater to improve local water quality, sequester carbon, and increase biodiversity and wildlife. Among the native plants is an abundance of milkweed we have planted to nourish and assist our monarch butterfly population. Read the story here.

Lockport Powerhouse featured on WTTW

Lockport Powerhouse


WTTW Chicago host/writer Geoffrey Baer takes to the skies to travel "Beyond Chicago from the Air." He shares fascinating history through drone photography, and one of the sites he visits is our Lockport Powerhouse.

Located in Lockport, Ill., the MWRD built the Lockport Powerhouse in 1907 which marks the southern point of the MWRD-managed Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). The Powerhouse is located where the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects with the Des Plaines River. The facility is an integral part of the MWRD's work to manage the CAWS to reduce the risk of flooding throughout the MWRD service area. 

The Powerhouse allows the MWRD to control the levels of the waterways and provides financial benefits from hydroelectric power generation. The water flowing through the facility is harnessed by two turbines to provide a safe and environmentally friendly hydroelectric energy source that is sold back to Commonwealth Edison. The Powerhouse has generated more than $1 million worth of electricity almost every year for the last 20 years. 

Watch the program here and learn more about the Powerhouse at this link.

Fall/Winter edition of Biosolids/Compost Newsletter is available

Windy City Newsletter


Ongoing efforts to reclaim, process and reuse solids while expanding the use of our biosolids and compost are highlighted in our Fall/Winter 2021/2022 newsletter, "Windy City Biosolids/Compost."

This publication provides information on techniques for using biosolids, highlights local projects that have utilized biosolids, and gives updates on biosolids-related events and services.

This month's issue features speakers from the 9th Annual Sustainability Summit and recipients of the 2021 Biosolids Beneficial Reuse Awards; Ruta Lietuvninkas, creator of the Berteau butterfly garden project, the Southside Blooms project in Washington Park, and a primer on how to start your own butterfly garden.

Click here to read the full issue.

Use Salt Wisely
Spreading lightly protects water quality and fish

Go Easy on the Salt brochure


A winter wonderland can be a welcome sight, but with all that snow and ice comes a responsibility to keep our roads and sidewalks passable and safe. Road salt helps us thaw out of those icy conditions but unfortunately, salt can also harm our waterways. 

Excessive road salt runs off our sidewalks and streets and enter sewers or water bodies where they can negatively impact aquatic life. Road salt can contaminate groundwater and drinking water; and harm wildlife, insects, animal paws, soil, trees, and plants along roadways and sidewalks. It can even stain your leather boots.

The more urban development there is, the more miles of roads and walkways there are required for winter deicing. All that salt eventually makes its way to area waterways, and the MWRD water reclamation plants cannot always filter it out before releasing it as clean water into the Chicago Area Waterway System.

But you can help the MWRD protect the water environment at home. Using the right amount of salt makes a big difference for our waterways. The MWRD has partnered with the Lower Des Plaines Watershed Group and partners with the Salt Smart Collaborative to provide tips that can help save resources while also protecting the waterways.

For more information, visit and download “A Healthy Waterway Begins With You: A Guide to Water Wellness” for more tips on how to protect the waterways year-round from contamination.

Additional information about the Salt Smart Collaborative can be found at A short video clip can be found at this link. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events

Board of Commissioners' January meeting dates

BOC Portrait


Pursuant to Public Act 101-0640, the MWRD will hold its Board of Commissioners’ Regular Board Meeting by video conference at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 6. Only essential MWRD personnel will be allowed into the Board Room.

 To view the meeting and public hearing and to comment, visit our website at Public comments may be made during the public comment period by calling (312) 751-3299. Comments may also be made by registering under the eComment link during the live meeting. Electronic comments will not be read during the meeting but will be provided to the Board electronically. If you would like to view the live stream of the meeting, click the "In Progress" link under the Video Column. The "In Progress" link will only be active when there is a meeting in session. The format of the January 20 meeting will be determined closer to the date.

Join us for a live virtual tour at 10 a.m. on January 11

Virtual Tour images


At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11, travel back in time to early Chicago to see how we reversed the Chicago River and developed wastewater treatment technology.

Go behind the scenes and under water to see how we transform used water; descend 300 feet into the Deep Tunnel system; and watch our electrofishing crew at work sampling fish on the Chicago River. 

Our virtual tours are free and open to the public. Please register at this link.

No time available on January 11? Click here to watch a one hour pre-recorded tour.


MWRD Employment Center

Careers Logo


Are you seeking a new career or looking for your first job? Do you or someone you know have a love for the environment? If so, please visit our online employment center at this link to register, apply and learn more about jobs and the selection process at the MWRD.

Doing Business with the MWRD

Want to learn how to do business with the MWRD? Visit this link to get started. You'll find many resources, including videos presented by our Director of Procurement and Materials Management and Engineering and Diversity Administrator.

The Department of Procurement and Materials Management procures materials and services required for operations in compliance with the Purchasing Act. The mission of the Diversity Section is to ensure that minority owned (MBE), women owned (WBE), small (SBE), and veteran owned (VBE) business enterprises are given equal opportunities to participate in the performance of the MWRD’s construction program and professional service contracts in excess of $100,000.

Our procurement process is designed to ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, so we encourage you to register to become a vendor.

Procurement Brochure


Procurement Brochure


Call 1-800-332-DUMP or 1-855-323-4801 to report waterway blockages, illegal or suspicious dumping to waterways or sewers, or odors.

Report Issues brochure


Report Issues brochure spanish


Historical Photos of the Month
Follow us on social media to see a historical photo every day!

Historical image


Historical image


Top Photo: Lockport Powerhouse on May 16, 1907 and bottom photo: after construction concluded later that year. In 1935, two of the original horizontal generators were replaced by vertical generators and the remaining horizontal generators were eventually phased out. The 1935 vertical generators were replaced by more efficient vertical generators in 1999 and 2001. These generators each have a rated capacity of 6.5 megawatts and together generate an average of 40 million kilowatt-hours per year (110,000 kWh/day). Electricity generated at the Lockport Powerhouse was originally sold to municipalities for street lighting. In the 1930s the MWRD began using it to operate its treatment plants. Now the electricity is sold back to the “grid.”

January 2022 Calendar

Contact the Office of Public Affairs at (312) 751-6633 to request a hard copy of our 2022 wall calendar.

Calendar 2022 Cover


Calendar January 2022