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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

A dozen projects designed to collect stormwater runoff and mitigate flooding through green infrastructure elements have been selected by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for funding.

The MWRD Board of Commissioners approved the selected projects on May 2 as part of the annual call for projects through the Green Infrastructure Partnership Program (GIPP). The 12 projects were chosen from a field of 35 pre-applications and 22 full applications, with the MWRD placing a priority on disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) in search of green infrastructure upgrades. 

Green infrastructure Countryside lot
A new permeable parking lot at Countryside Park on 61st Street in Countryside uses brick pavers to collect stormwater thanks to financial assistance from the MWRD’s Green Infrastructure Partnership Program.

These projects include green alleys, green parking lots, bioswales and a green roof in Blue Island. The green roof at the Blue Island Public Library, at 2433 York St., is expected to help mitigate flooding in the project area and demonstrate the benefits of constructing green infrastructure. A green roof provides an innovative and unique green infrastructure application that can drive public engagement, particularly given the educational opportunities a public library provides.

“We are eager to support these green infrastructure projects that mitigate flooding, enhance community spaces and educate residents on the importance of green solutions to address stormwater management,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele. “By adding green alleys, green parking lots, green roofs and rain gardens, we can increase capacity for larger rain events and also encourage everyone to consider ways to absorb more stormwater in their communities.”

For this year’s call for projects, the MWRD’s Engineering Department reviewed each application and prioritized the eligible projects based on a variety of factors, including the total retention capacity, drainage area, project visibility, flooding prevalence, median income of the community and whether the project is in a separate or combined sewer area. The selected projects collectively represent a total investment of more than $8.75 million in green infrastructure construction that provides drainage for a combined area of more than 34 acres. 

All the projects serve municipalities that have a percentage of areas classified as DIA. The projects also account for industrial and commercial spaces and combined sewer areas that benefit from green infrastructure as a mechanism to protect area water quality in addition to curbing flooding.

DIAs are defined as low-to-moderate income areas that may be more susceptible to flooding. The MWRD’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan strives to increase its presence in DIAs by identifying and eliminating barriers to MWRD participation. During the application process, the MWRD’s Engineering Department and Environmental Justice Section sought out DIAs in municipalities that had not previously partnered with the MWRD for a green infrastructure project. The MWRD also hosted a webinar and promoted participation throughout Cook County. As a result, nine full applications were submitted from majority DIA communities.

In 2015, the MWRD adopted a Green Infrastructure Plan to increase the acceptance and investment of green infrastructure practices throughout Cook County. Since that time, the MWRD has partnered with dozens of agencies, municipalities and government entities to fund a range of green infrastructure projects. In 10 years, 107 green infrastructure projects were constructed. The projects can retain around 18,000,000 gallons of water each time it rains. In addition, there are 15 additional projects planned for completion in 2024 from previous calls.

Green infra­structure mimics the natural environment by capturing water and allowing it to infiltrate into the ground before it enters the traditional convey­ance system. This helps to reduce the amount of water flowing through the gray infrastructure of pipes that can be overwhelmed by in­tense rain events. These projects can also reduce wet weather flows to combined sewer systems, reduce combined sewer overflows to local waterways, and protect water quality in these vital water­ways. Green infrastructure also reduces runoff volumes and improves water quality in separate sewer service areas. 

“Green infrastructure makes public spaces more attractive and provides social benefits that enhance how we view and feel about our communities,” said MWRD Commissioner Precious Brady-Davis. “As recent rainfall totals can attest, every inch of surface can matter when protecting our communities from urban flooding. We thank everyone for submitting applications and participating in this important program.”

Each of the selected projects will require an intergovernmental agreement by the end of 2024 for the projects to be completed in 2025. For a complete list and description of the MWRD’s selected green infrastructure projects, see below:

Green Infrastructure Project chart


Press Release

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.


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