Report - Our Liquid Asset: The Economic Benefits of a Clean Chicago River

Investing in the Chicago River Pays Us Back

On May 9, Friends, together with partner organization Openlands, released a report that proves what we knew all along, investing in the Chicago River is good for the river and good for the region. Our Liquid Asset: The Economic Benefits of a Clean Chicago River underscores that improvements that address water quality, flooding, and public access to the river support the local economy by creating jobs, generating income and revenue, and improving our quality of life.

Historically, there has been a lack of information that quantified the specific positive return on investment in caring for the Chicago River, which hindered investing in infrastructure and policy improvements. This new report provides economic analysis and useful information for decision makers and elected officials who want to make effective changes that benefit the river. By working together, taking a closer look at our liquid asset, and making common sense investments, we are working to make the Chicago River one of the world’s greatest metropolitan rivers.

Read on to find out how…

Our Liquid Asset Summary Report 
Our Liquid Asset Technical Report
Our Liquid Asset Brochure

Flood Reveals Chicago’s Achilles Tendon

Photo coverage of the April 18, 2013 flooding highlights the importance of understanding the link between stormwater management and runoff and our sensitive river system. That day, expressways were closed, basements filled with water, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District opened the Chicago locks so that sewer-laden Chicago River full of trash could flow backwards into the lake.

Flooding, closures, overtaxed sewers, and lost productivity and property are caused by the fact that all of the rain had nowhere to go except into storm sewers, which don’t have the capacity for this much stormwater. Before we developed the region with buildings, roads, parking lots and alleys, the water used to be absorbed into the ground rather than running off on our hard surfaces and into pipes to our sewers.

At the forefront of the river’s recovery, Friends of the Chicago River has been advocating for accelerating the timeline to complete the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan and to implement a comprehensive green infrastructure plan, both of which are needed to address an event like April’s flooding and increased rainfall events in the future.

To document the impact of the torrential rains on the river and the region we asked members to send us photographs of the river or the flooding from wherever they were in the Chicago River watershed. Go to our Facebook page to see some photos that were sent to us. Keep sending photos, this is an important event that we want well documented for future discussions around stormwater management.