Overflow Action Month Success
The month-long collaboration in April of Friends and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to raise awareness about the effects of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to our rivers and Lake Michigan was a grand success. The awareness campaign was a vital effort leading up to this month since the past three Mays in Chicago has averaged over 8 inches of rain, well above the normal 3.5 inches for the month, breaking the previous year’s rainfall records each year.
Engaging the public about the importance of everyday actions in water use as well as green and grey infrastructure, the awareness initiative featured a total of 24 of partners and elected officials who tackle issues related to the impacts of CSO’s and how to eliminate them. The effort netted a 6% increase in sign-ups for OAD alerts, garnered over 93,700 social media impressions and engagements, and was the subject of significant news coverage by NBC 5 news, the Chicago Tribune, and WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program.
The awareness campaign, dubbed Overflow Action Awareness Month, showed how rainfall can contribute to CSOs and the detrimental effects CSO’s have on public and environmental health. The campaign also provided tips on what individuals and families can do to conserve water use before, during, and after heavy rainfall to reduce the possibility of CSOs such as holding off on laundry, dishwasher use, and turning off the tap when brushing teeth. Kicking-off the month was a creative and informative Overflow Action video by Friends’ Policy Specialist Chelsey Grassfield outlining the issue and the steps individuals can take at home. The campaign also featured a video message from MWRD President Kari K. Steele about how the public can help prevent CSOs and protect water quality by reducing water use before and during rain events. Longer-term strategies for capturing rainwater include gardening with native plants whose deep roots systems absorb much more rain than nonnatives especially turf grass, and provide a multitude of benefits including food and habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees.