Overflow Action 101: How to Stop Flooding and Protect the Chicago River

oad-photoStormwater and water used on your lawns and in your house flow into the same pipes. Which can cause problems during periods of heavy rain says our partners at Friends of the Chicago River. Here’s how to address the issue.

When watering your lawn, do you ever wonder where it ends up?  Chicago and many older suburbs use combined sewer systems, which means that rainwater, domestic and industrial wastewater, and sewage travel through the same pipes.  Everything goes swimmingly when it’s dry outside, but heavy rains can push this untreated water into the Chicago River, and—in extreme cases—into Lake Michigan.  We call this a “combined sewer overflow”, or CSO.  As you might imagine, this is disastrous for the wildlife in the river and the people who kayak, canoe, and fish there! And it’s not just our waterways at risk…many homeowners worry about water backing up in their basements when the sewers overflow.

Scary stuff, right?!  But, good news…you can do something about it!  In fact, you can do A LOT.  Aside from using natural lawn care products (so pesticides won’t contaminate rainwater once it hits the ground and flows into our sewers), here are 3 simple ways you can take #OverflowAction to prevent CSOs:

  1. Timing is key: delay or reduce your water usage right before, during, and after a rain event. MPAC’s blog  has some helpful tips for when to water your lawn.
  2. Less is more:  shorten your shower time…install a low-flow showerhead…even tiny changes to your routine can make ripples!
  3. Keep it simple: don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and performing other chores.

You can also get the kids onboard with water conservation…check out our Overflow Action Kit for more ideas, as well as these fun and easy recipes for non-toxic natural cleaners.

Want a reminder?  Sign up for Overflow Action Days e-alerts for real-time updates.

Ready to go further?  Take our pledge and commit to keeping the Chicago River system safe, clean, and healthy for all of us!

~Your friends at Friends of the Chicago River


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