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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Current: H2NOW measures water quality data and communicates to the public for informed decision-making on river recreation

Current, the Chicago-based water innovation hub, announces the return of H2NOW, its real-time water quality monitoring platform for the Chicago and Calumet rivers. Assessments updated every 15 minutes help people make decisions about recreation on the river. 

Launched in 2021, H2NOW is now in its fourth season. The platform uses cutting-edge sensing and analytic technologies to measure water quality parameters. Three probes with embedded sensors collect data on the Main Stem, South Branch and North Branch of the Chicago River; a fourth probe is placed in the Calumet River. 

H2NOW data, among other water quality validation tools, will be monitored leading up to and on the day of the planned Chicago River Swim on Sept. 22, 2024. The first organized swim in nearly a century is possible because of the river’s remarkable environmental turnaround, and in part because of the availability of water quality data. 

“H2NOW Chicago is back for the 2024 season with its earliest launch yet,” said Alaina Harkness, executive director of Current. “When we rolled out H2NOW in 2021, we dreamed of a real-time monitoring program for the Chicago River that could answer very real questions about water quality and recreational safety. We’ve delivered that and expanded to include the Calumet River and new data points. We’re proud to continue to lead and evolve this platform for water quality monitoring to help the public understand the health of our urban rivers.” 

Sensitive probes have been installed in three locations and measure tryptophan-like fluorescence (TLF). Tryptophan readings are taken to estimate fecal coliform levels. This group of bacteria originates from humans and animals; while largely non-harmful, such bacteria are indicators of the potential presence of pathogens. 

"Water quality monitoring is essential to our mission of protecting the waterways and our environment," said Kari K. Steele, President of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. "We are proud to partner with Current for another season of innovative water quality monitoring through H2NOW, which provides real-time data and instant information."

Solar panels at monitoring sites power the probes during the day and recharge probe batteries at night for continued data collection. Water quality measurements are collected, transmitted, analyzed and communicated to the public every 15 minutes via an H2NOW dashboard. 

H2NOW probes will remain active throughout the summer and fall and will be removed in the early winter.

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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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