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Water, Classical Jazz and Beer: Highlights from Current's Second Annual World Water Day Symposium

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We’d like to thank everyone who was able attend our second annual World Water Day symposium! For everyone else, we’ve got you covered with an event summary below.

Two hundred of the Chicagoland area’s most passionate and inspired water sector professionals enjoyed this year’s symposium. Representing more than 100 different organizations and companies, attendees enjoyed panel discussions that captured everything from innovations in water infrastructure finance, to new technologies to improve our urban waterways, and important considerations for protecting the region’s drinking water supplies.

Panel 1, Innovations in Water Infrastructure Finance, featured Lon Johnson, Founder and CEO of Water Works Fund; Chris Meister, Executive Director of the Illinois Finance Authority; Debra Shore, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; Bill Teichmiller, CEO of EJ Water Cooperative; and, was moderated by Andy Richardson, Chairman and CEO of Greeley and Hansen. Equity crowd funding, regionalization of smaller water utilities (to achieve operational and cost efficiencies), and using PACE financing to invest in water infrastructure upgrades, were just a few of the topics discussed.

Panel 2, Stewardship of Urban Waterways, featured Jack Pizzo, Owner and President of The Pizzo Group; Jennifer Wasik, Aquatic Biologist at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; Douglas Voigt, Partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Nick Wesley, Co-Founder of Urban Rivers; and was moderated by Danielle Gallet, Director of Water Resources at the Metropolitan Planning Council. Each of these thought leaders shared how Chicago could meet the aspirational goals of the region’s Our Great Rivers Vision. The panelists discussed revolutionary efforts to improve the Chicago River, including Urban Rivers’ Wild Mile floating eco-park project, as well as Current’s new H2NOW::Chicago project that will deploy real-time microbial pollution sensors. They also spoke about why it's so important that urban waterways are seen as vital resources to ensure the long-term success of cities.

Nick Wesley, Co-Founder of Urban Rivers, discusses The Wild Mile, while the rest of Panel 2, Stewardship of Urban Waterways, listens in.
From left to right: moderator, Danielle Gallet, Director of Water Resources at the Metropolitan Planning Council; Nick Wesley; Douglas Voigt, Partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Jack Pizzo, Owner and President of The Pizzo Group; and Jennifer Wasik, Aquatic Biologist at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

This year’s symposium also featured Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Founder and Artistic Director, Orbert Davis, who shared a ‘sneak-peek’ of two new music videos for compositions from the ensemble's newest album, The Chicago River. The videos included previously unpublished photographs of the Chicago River and the city from The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed its River and the Land Beyond.

The symposium’s final Panel, Source Water Protection, featured Randy Conner, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Management; Marcelo Garcia, Professor and Director of the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; David Lloyd, CEO of FREDsense; Allison Swisher, Director of Public Utilities at the City of Joliet, Illinois; and was moderated by Andy Martin, Principal and Managing Director of Midwest Operations at Greeley and Hansen. Panelists discussed how climate change and increased freshwater demand can strain local water resources. Even in water-rich areas, like Chicago, that have access to seemingly abundant resources, bodies of water, such as Lake Michigan, remain vulnerable to toxic pollution, combined sewer overflows and other threats. Panelists emphasized how real-time sensors and predictive computer models can help detect pollutants and estimate how they propagate. Additionally, these experts highlighted the little-known reality that nearby cities that currently depend on groundwater, such as Joliet (a city of 150,000 just southwest of Chicago), are running out of water and must find new, sustainable sources.

Current's second annual World Water Day Symposium saw a packed house with over 200 water sector professionals in attendance, representing more than 100 different organizations and companies.

Panelists also noted some of the most needed changes in Illinois’ plumbing code to allow for water reuse. Enabling water reuse would allow for recycling of wastewater, which would unlock innovation and decrease demand on freshwater resources. “Wise water reuse offers great potential to conserve this shared and essential resource, and create new locally-produced products and jobs,” said Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who attended the symposium.

MWRD Commissioner, Debra Shore and Aquatic Biologists, Tom Minarik and Jennifer Wasik, enjoy samples of Unreconciled Brewing Chicago's beer, which is the first-ever beer made from effluent from the Chicago River.

In continuing with the water reuse theme, the symposium concluded with a Chicago-first: a taste test of the first-ever beer made with treated effluent from the Chicago River’s North Channel. The beer, brewed by Unreconciled Brewing Chicago and Sustainable Systems, LLC., was sampled by public officials including: Congressman Garcia; State Representatives, Rob Martwick and Sonya Harper; MWRD Commissioners, Josina Morita, Debra Shore, and Mariyana Spyropoulos ; MWRD Executive Director, Brian Perkovich; and City of Chicago Department of Water Management Commissioner, Randy Conner.

 

“Effluent beer shows Chicagoans that we have the technology to safely treat and reclaim our water to the highest standards and drink it,” said Commissioner Morita. “As a city, we must appreciate our freshwater resources and do all we can to preserve them. By furthering Chicago’s ‘circular economy’, these beers show that our environment and our economy can benefit from treating water to fit its intended purpose and reusing it.”

 

With more than 30 members and partners from all over the globe, Current is continuing to establish itself as an organization that delivers solutions by connecting end-users with innovative technologies. By sourcing and de-risking solutions that can serve utilities, industries and investors, Current advances economic and environmental progress in the traditionally risk-averse water sector. Please reach out to gbrigandi@currentwater.org if you’d like to learn more about how Current can be your water innovation and business development partner.

Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia discusses the importance of water reuse in Chicago after sampling the first-ever beer made from effluent from the Chicago River.
From left to right: MWRD Commissioners Mariyana Spyropoulos and Debra Shore; State Representatives Rob Martwick and Sonya Harper; Congressman Garcia; and Executive Director of Current, Steve Frenkel.

Stay tuned for the following:
- Our event sizzle video
- Our new Podcast - the three symposium panels with be the first 3 episodes
- Upcoming events planned for Q2 of 2019

Thanks again to our event sponsors:

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