Photo by Meshawn Ayala

I love my plumber—but I really hate having to call him, since I’m pretty sure we’re funding his kids’ college educations every time a pipe springs a leak.  So I’ve wondered lately:  who’s minding ourcollective Chicagoland “plumbing” underneath our streets and before the pipes reach the kitchen sink? Is there a big whopping bill on the way to us as a community, too?

The delightfully surprising answer?  Truth be told—yes, there is indeed a big whopping predicted $13.5 billion expense that’s been forecast.

But on the other hand, that number may well go sharply down, thanks to the huge amount of R&D, headlines and political attention being devoted to clean water right now.

Here are a few things giving me hope for our local water systems:

Politicians are voting for cleaner water.

For example, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) voted this month to disinfect treated sewage before pouring it back into the Chicago River.  This represents a victory for advocates for a cleaner Chicago River such as Friends of the Chicago River. Read more about it here, from WBEZ.

There’s money in fixing our plumbing, and the business community knows it. In May, I attended the Ontario Global Water Leadership Summit, and it was evident that the business and technology communities are taking notice of the opportunities to improve the technologies communities use to treat water, and to deliver it.  Everyone agrees that there is both economic and environmental value in addressing water shortages and improving water treatment technology.

Headlines are shining a spotlight on water issues. This can only mean more public discussion, and more talk about solutions for meeting our infrastructure needs.  Recent headlines have shone a spotlight on shortages and river clean-up and bloggers are beginning to get into the game, too.

What did I learn as I explored the possible big plumbing bill to come?  Thanks to those like water.org who are shining a light on this important issue, there are technologies on the way and political momentum building that will help us fill our Brita pitchers and keep our low-flow toilets running for years to come.

All with help from our friendly neighborhood plumbers, of course!

– Margy Sweeney, Director of Partner and Public Engagement, EcoMyths Alliance

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