Natural Solutions Tool


The Natural Solutions Tool is free to use but it needs ongoing investments to maintain it. Please consider a donation to support our efforts to manage this unique and valuable resource. Please click here.

In 2021, the Greater Chicago Watershed Alliance launched an 18-month effort to develop the Natural Solutions Tool. This free, publicly available tool was custom-built to empower decision makers and community leaders to help drive watershed wide investments in nature-based stormwater solutions while also addressing related environmental, social, and public health goals.

Founded upon five modeling objectives that drive us towards healthy, equitable, biodiverse, protected, and connected landscapes and communities, the Natural Solutions Tool incorporates over 90 data layers that allow users to visualize and customize data to address complex environmental challenges and substantiate the work we are doing to address them.

Friends of the Chicago River and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) are thrilled to be recognized as a Climate Champion by the Chicago Innovation Awards for our leadership in creating the Natural Solutions Tool. The Climate Champion Award was presented in November 2023 in Chicago. The Natural Solutions Tool also received a Chicago Wilderness Dr. George B. Rabb Force of Nature Award in January of 2024.


The Tool was custom built using local data to meet our goals and the choices of modeling objectives and data layers to use were the result of a months-long, collaborative process which included a Technical Advisory Team of 30+ technical experts and members of the Watershed Alliance Steering Committee including Friends' executive director, planning director, policy manager, and planning and GIS specialist.

The Natural Solutions Tool analysis incorporates 42 subwatersheds within over 1,300 square miles in four counties (predominantly Cook and Lake). It provides understanding of:

  • Detailed modeling objective layers searchable down to an unprecented parcel level; 
  • Data overlays such as core habitats, political boundaries, natural areas, and trails; 
  • Age, race, and economic demographics; and
  • Regional needs and opportunities.

It can be used to inform decision making, reveal opportunities and priorities, for advocacy and community protection, substantiating grants and investments, and strategic planning.

Demo Video of the tool

Check out a live demonstration of the Natural Solutions Tool on Friends’ YouTube.


Friends' staff provides training opportunities, those interested can email to set up a group or individual training.

Friends’ Amy Heldman providing a training of the Natural Solutions Tool at a Chi Hack Night in November of 2023.

The Tool is set to receive annual updates, please reach out to with data requests to be included in a future update or if you notice any updates needed to the existing data layers.

ClicK here to view a one page brochure about the tool