• H2NOW Chicago

    H2NOW Chicago is a massive effort to build a weather app for water quality in the Chicago River in real-time. This is a first, requiring collaboration among 20 partners, including the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the government body that oversees Chicago’s wastewater system. This pilot project is the first real-time water quality monitoring project in the U.S. that measures microbial pollutants. When the second phase is live in 2021, this pilot project will stream real-time data about fecal coliform levels in the Chicago River via a publicly accessible online data visualization platform. H2NOW will advance understanding of the factors influencing water quality as it relates to use of the river and share the data with the public with the goal of improving their perception of the river, enabling informed decisions on how to interact with the river, and encouraging related activities and investment. The goal is to develop a permanent, full-scale real-time water quality data collection network across the Chicago River system, and documenting and disseminating the platform so that it can be expanded to other urban river and lake communities across the U.S

  • Illinois Nutrient Trading Initiative (INTI)

    With funding from The McKnight Foundation, we partnered with the University of Chicago to explore a market-based approach to nutrient runoff reduction. For INTI, we're facilitating research on technologies to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural lands in Illinois, which is the largest state-contributor to the ever-growing hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico - toxic algal blooms are also becoming an increasing threat to the Great Lakes. This pilot seeks to improve nutrient stewardship through the identification and testing of new technologies that are critical to launching a future nutrient trading market in Illinois. It builds upon already-completed research on environmental trading programs and market-based approaches to nutrient reduction, which found that nutrient trading could be a viable and successful approach in Illinois, if designed correctly. One critical design need and consideration for adoption is in terms of technology: new technologies such as remote sensing provide opportunities for better verification and lower transaction / recordkeeping costs. As such, Current seeks to identify and pilot these technologies to assess their feasibility. Watch the two nutrient-themed Innovator Showcase events we hosted in 2020, here.

  • COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance

    We're developing and deploying COVID-19 wastewater surveillance in the City of Chicago, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health, MWRD, and Chicagoland research institutions. Current will prototype a precision Wastewater-based Epidemiology (pWBE) integrated with public health planning and response and design a full-scale operational implementation. Through collaboration with teams in partner cities -- Tel Aviv, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. -- and national SARS-CoV-2 WBE research coordination networks, this prototyping effort will contribute to national and global protocols necessary for pWBE implementation. It is essential to successful control of the COVID-19 pandemic from its current peak and enabling early detection of new outbreaks in 2021 and beyond. Improved pWBE capability will also enable early identification and tracking of future disease outbreaks, including new coronaviruses, other respiratory diseases (e.g., influenza), bacterial pathogens (e.g., Legionella), and pharmaceutical abuse (e.g., opiates).

  • Sewage Thermal Energy Use (STEU)

    For this project, our team is analyzing sewage thermal energy use (STEU) and other emerging water-energy-waste technologies and their potential integration into decentralized wastewater systems. This project will explore the potential extraction of energy from wastewater, an area ripe for innovation. Previous efforts around extracting energy have brought water resource recovery facilities close to achieving a net-zero-energy status – but studies suggest that energy recovery can go even further. Current is assessing STEU and other technologies through a techno-economic analysis and identifying knowledge gaps to guide further research in this area. The information provided as part of this work will help water and wastewater utilities identify options for incorporating STEU and other water-energy-waste technologies and discover ways to increase the economic viability of incorporating such systems.

  • Program Overview

    Technical Review

    And Analysis

    The Current Demonstration program rigorously evaluates the scientific, engineering and economic fundamentals of new water technologies. Current assess operational and financial performance to determine if technologies are likely to deliver the expected value to investors and customers (utilities, industrial water users).

    Pilot Testing And Demonstration

    Current pilots promising technologies with sound engineering and economic fundamentals through our technology test-bed network. The network includes utility and industrial sites that host technology pilots and demonstrations, including the world’s largest water filtration plant and wastewater treatment plant located in Chicago.



    Current Demonstration is open to both U.S. and international companies, including pre-revenue early-stage innovators as well as growth-stage and mature companies, seeking pilot and demo opportunities to assist with validation and commercialization.

  • Demonstration Partners

    Birdseye view of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago's wastewater treatment plant

    Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC)

    The District owns and operates the world’s largest water reclamation plant (Stickney), six additional plants and 22 pumping stations. MWRDGC runs a biosolids program, supports green stormwater infrastructure, generates its own energy and recovers other organic resources. Click here to see a full list of MWRD facilities.

    Birdseye view of the City of Chicago Department of Water Management's Jardine Water Treatment Plant

    City of Chicago Department of

    Water Management

    The City operates the world’s largest surface water treatment plant and purifies about a billion gallons of water per day. In addition to treatment needs, the City’s water distribution system and sewer collection system are also managed by the City's Department of Water Management.

    Image of EJ Water Coop's Gila Water Treatment Plant

    EJ Water Cooperative

    EJ Water is a top innovating water co-op dedicated to customer experience and growing small communities. Founded in 1989, EJ Water is now the fastest growing regional water system in rural Illinois. Since their humble beginnings, they have grown into a 13 county regional system and have over 3,000 miles of main. Their service area is over 2,500 square miles, serving a population of over 60,000 people.

  • Current Research Platform

    The Current Research Platform Site puts the latest research in water around the nation in one place. It’s a global center of excellence in water research and technology development comprised of research from world-class universities and utilities. Current partners can:

    • Find funding opportunities
    • Find researchers

    Visit the Current Research Platform here.

  • Current Research Capabilities

    Biology And Chemistry

    • Anaerobic digestion
    • Microbiome
    • Purification


    Design, synthesis, and integration for water-energy technologies

    • Membranes and Sorbents


    • Sensor and imaging - design and deployment
    • Food – energy –water systems
    • Nutrient recovery and management


    • High-performance computing – molecular to infrastructure
    • Systems analysis, optimization, and risk assessment
    • Urban sustainability and resilience – water reuse, stormwater, green infrastructure
    • Economics and life-cycle assessment
    • Energy-water nexus planning, including policy, economic, and societal impacts

  • Innovative Water Technology Database (WTD)

    Current keeps track of innovative market-ready and emerging technologies in its Innovative Water Technology Database. The technologies are characterized by their function, type, applications, benefits, and the challenges they address. All Current’s partners have access to the database.

  • Research Consortium Member Institutions

    Argonne National Laboratory logo
    City of Chicago Department of Water Management logo
    Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago logo
    Northwestern University logo
    University of Chicago logo
    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign logo
  • Scientific Leadership Committee

    Head shot of Brian Chaplin

    Dr. Brian Chaplin

    University of Illinois at Chicago

    Head shot of Marcelo Garcia

    Dr. Marcelo Garcia

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain

    Head shot of Aaron Packman

    Dr. Aaron Packman


    Head shot of May Wu

    Dr. May Wu

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Head shot of Heng Zhang

    Dr. Heng Zhang

    Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

    Head shot of Heng Zhang

    Dr. Andrea R. Holthouse Cheng

    City of Chicago Department of Water Management

  • Discover What's Next

    RFP's on Halo's Portal

    Current has partnered with Halo - a collaboration platform for scientific innovation - that connects companies directly with scientists from universities and startups to solve important business challenges. Learn more how a partnership with Current can yield discounted access to Halo's platform here.

    Image of Halo's water platform
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