Nor any drop to drink?

C2STA couple of weeks back, I attended the C²ST – Chicago Council on Science & Technology’s program “Water: Chicago in the 21st Century and Beyond” over at Northwestern’s medical campus, part of their series on Climate & Energy (one of nine thematic series they run). I had brought along my video camera, hoping to get some material for the blog, but as you can get a sense of from the picture here, it was in a very large room (a tiered lecture hall), with nearly a full house in attendance, so I was disappointed in that. I noted that they were recording the program, but hadn’t been able to find that initially, and figured that I would just let it go … until I ran into an update email from them that had ended up in the (less frequently read) “Promotions” tab of my GMail pointing me to the video (see below).

The program featured three speakers, Debra Shore, a Commissioner on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Aaron Packman, a Northwestern Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Seth Snyder, of Argonne National Laboratory where he leads their new water initiative. Each spoke for about 20 minutes, followed by about a half hour of Q&A and discussion.

If you follow those links, you’ll see some of the amazing work being done by all three speakers. Obviously, this being Chicago, nestled up against the 7th largest reservoir of fresh water on the planet, we have a lot fewer “pressing” water issues than most other major urban centers, with our water being plentiful, high quality, and cheap (the figure of $3.50 for a thousand gallons ended up in my notes). However, that doesn’t mean that Chicago’s water situation is without challenges, but most of these are of the “solvable” type, just requiring the right science and infrastructure (such as the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, which “is the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world”, with a capacity of over a billion gallons a day, down on the city’s southwest side).

Since the video has the entire program (and my notes are a bit sketchy), rather than try to encapsulate each speaker’s info here, I suggest you block some time (it’s an hour and a half) to watch the following:

It really was a fascinating presentation, ranging from basic environmental science, to technology (such as the way the City is able to get “cellulose fuel credits” from the biogas produced in the water treatment process), to cutting-edge research, and the political issues involved with major projects of the sort required to address drinking/sanitary/industrial water needs for a major urban center. Things even got “silly” when attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions (some evidently having some very odd axes to grind). Hope you enjoy.

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