What could be easier?
You turn the kitchen tap and fill a glass with water.
You take a shower. Or flush the toilet. Or water the lawn.
It is, however, not that easy. Our water arrives via a circuitous process that starts in Lake Michigan and ends in Homewood and Flossmoor. Along the way are many miles of pipes, pumping stations and water towers.
Water, so essential to our very existence, is often taken for granted. We are fortunate to live next to the Great Lakes, one of the world’s most extraordinary natural resources. We also live in a region that receives enormous amounts of moisture all throughout the year.
Delivering water that is safe and abundant is a municipal responsibility in our communities that requires constant maintenance so that the taps don’t run dry. Again, it’s not an easy process. Water mains can break. Sudden events like fire can affect water pressure.
We also know our water is not free. Between 2012 and 2015, Chicago mandated yearly water rate hikes between 15 and 25 percent. As our bills go up, many of us are looking for ways to cut back on our water usage.
Still, we are reminded every day that we have what appears to be unlimited access to one of the world’s most valuable resources. We are beneficiaries of an engineering marvel that is one of the great human achievements.
And to see it happen, we only need to turn on the faucet.
This series of stories focuses on how and why our local water system works the way it does, keeping clean water flowing reliably our way. These stories originally appeared in the August 2016 print edition of the Chronicle.