Skip to main content

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Chicago, its environment, the Great Lakes and the work of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to protect it all were well represented during an international conference that brought tens of thousands of water professionals to the shores of Lake Michigan.

At the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), the MWRD was honored as a “Utility of the Future Today,” one of many highlights commemorating the MWRD’s commitment to protecting the region’s water environment. MWRD staff and commissioners gave lectures and speeches, opened their doors for tours, competed in the WEFTEC Operations Challenge, participated in an educational outreach event and service project to build a rain garden at a Chicago Public School, and collaborated, learned and exchanged ideas on issues confronting the water sector.

“The annual WEFTEC was extremely successful, and we were thrilled to be recognized again as a Utility of the Future Today,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “I hope those who attended had a chance to learn and exchange information with our fellow water colleagues, many of whom were our very own staff participating on panels or presenting their groundbreaking work.”

The MWRD was recognized as a Utility of the Future Today by the Water Environment Federation, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, The Water Research Foundation, WateReuse Association, and US Water Alliance with support from the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Wastewater Management, and the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. A Utility of the Future represents an agency that is forward-thinking, innovative, a leader in sustainability and resilience, and transformative in the way that it recovers resources. It was the third time that the MWRD was recognized with the honor, having first been recognized in 2016, followed by honors in 2020 for watershed management and partnership and engagement in 2023.

The honor was one of many memorable highlights from WEFTEC events in and around Chicago that included:

  • The MWRD signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Danish Water Technology Alliance Authority, represented by the Consulate General of Denmark in Chicago and Aarhus Vand of Denmark. Since signing previous agreements that date back to 2015, the MOU has provided a channel for open communication with Aarhus Vand and the Danish Water Technology Alliance that allows advice and recommendations on equipment and processes that they have successfully implemented, and in turn the MWRD shares its expertise as well.
  • MWRD Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Officer Allison Fore received a WEF Volunteer Service Award for her work over the past 10 years facilitating the Water Palooza educational outreach and rain garden construction project as well as coordinating the dozens of international and professional tours that are requested during WEFTEC.
  • MWRD staff and water professional volunteers participated in Water Palooza and constructed a rain garden at Thorp Scholastic Academy. The garden is designed to uplift the community with a new and vibrant public meeting place and equally as important, provide the community a tool against flooding.
  • The MWRD hosted dozens of visitors and fellow utilities from as far as Helsinki, Finland, to the Trinity River Authority in Texas and filmmakers from New York and students from Mt. Carmel High School for tours of the MWRD’s Stickney Water Reclamation Plant (WRP), Mainstream Pumping Station and McCook Reservoir to exchange ideas and offer lessons learned in operating one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment plants and one of the world’s largest public works projects for water pollution and stormwater management at the MWRD’s Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) facilities.
  • As part of the WEF operators’ tour and train the trainer workshop, the MWRD welcomed guests to the Stickney WRP for multiple visits, including a workshop that focused on exchanging practical information from WRPs to participants who are new to giving facility tours.
  • The MWRD hosted public health officials from across the United States that were in town for the Wastewater Disease Surveillance Summit. These leaders participated in a tour of the Egan WRP led by MWRD Managing Engineer Lucille Oduocha, and a lab tour led by MWRD Associate Environmental Microbiologist Kaylyn Patterson. The Wastewater Disease Surveillance Summit brought public health, utility, academic, and industry representatives together to discuss issues, challenges, and the future of wastewater surveillance. The summit was organized by WEF in cooperation with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • President Steele gave opening remarks to the conference at McCormick Place and also participated on a panel with WEF’s InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water), to introduce prospective workers about the opportunity for job opportunities in water and to enhance diversity and inclusion in the water workforce. Through the InFLOW CareerTech Program, President Steele and fellow utility leaders introduced community-based organizations such as GreenCorps Chicago to the variety of rewarding career possibilities in water quality.
  • The MWRD’s Second City Sewer Crew competed in the WEFTEC Operations Challenge with more than 50 other teams from utilities across the world and finished in second place in 3 categories: they placed 2nd Place Overall, 2nd Place in Process Control and 2nd place in Collections. The honor follows months of training and years of dedication to the MWRD employees’ craft in maintaining and operating MWRD facilities. It also demonstrates the sense of pride they have in their work.
  • MWRD Managing Engineer Jonathan Grabowy and MWRD Principal Environmental Scientist Kuldip Kumar participated on multiple panels to discuss decarbonization and the MWRD’s Climate Action Plan and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. MWRD Managing Civil Engineer Mwende Lefler discussed products that the MWRD reclaims, processes and makes available to the public as part of the WEFTEC Live Studio for a presentation entitled “Reclaiming Resources in the Second City.”

“I’d like to thank all the thousands of water professionals for visiting Chicago this week to share their talents and willingness to collaborate toward a better water environment for our planet,” said MWRD Vice President Patricia Theresa Flynn. “We hope the ideas and knowledge exchanged at WEFTEC leads to future protections for our precious water resources.”

Press Release
Awards and Announcements, Events, Stormwater

Established in 1889, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.


For more information: