When I visited the new McCook Reservoir, I wasn’t exactly happy to be welcomed by rain pelting down in big summertime drops. I had brought my steel-toed boots but no jacket and no umbrella.
But the rain was appropriate, considering that rain is what this is all about: the 109 miles of deep tunnel, the 10-billion-gallon reservoir this hole in the rock will someday become part of; all so the water that falls from the sky can find its way into a treatment plant without first detouring through your basement, a task that is getting harder for two reasons: the soot we put into the sky and the pavement we slap over the ground.
“Forty percent of Cook County is nonpermeable surface, which means water can’t absorb where it falls,” said Mariyana T. Spyropoulos, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, who accompanied me on a tour of the site tucked between the Stevenson Expressway and the Sanitary and Ship Canal in Bedford Park.
Here I interrupted her, incredulous. I’ve heard a lot of stark statistics about Cook County. But 40 percent? How can that be?
“We have concrete,” she said. “We have asphalt. Rainwater cannot absorb into it. Yes, 40 percent. Combine that with the fact that we have climate change, we have more intense rainstorms. In the last 10 years we’ve had three hundred-year rainstorms.
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