Municipal Water Leader
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Volume 2 Issue 8 September 2016 Leading Innovation

Mr. David St. Pierre, the executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), is a leader. His exuberance for the work and accomplishments of MWRD jumps from the pages of his interview. He is a great example of one of those water people whose job is so much more than job; it is his personal mission, purpose, and cause. It is clear he is well matched with MWRD. As Mr. St. Pierre enthusiastically explains, MWRD was formed in 1889 to protect the quality of Chicago’s water supply and has a rich history of innovation. “If I were to describe the district’s spirit since 1889, it has been big ideas,” Mr. St. Pierre explains. From installing the first sewers and wastewater treatment plants in the nation to envisioning and then creating the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP), MWRD has been, and is, a world leader in solving water problems. Initially purposed as a flood control project in 1968, TARP is now MWRD’s combined sewer overflow plan. With 109 miles of tunnels connecting two, and eventually three total, reservoirs, TARP has eliminated 85 percent of the runoff that would have gone to the Chicago area waterway system. While the photos in this issue give our readers an idea of the size and scale of TARP, the video on MWRD’s website of the Thornton Reservoir’s first major use is a must-see. The reservoir goes from empty to feet deep in runoff water in minutes. Most impressive is the district’s management of the construction costs for its ratepayers. “It always costs less up front if you are leading rather than following,” Mr. St. Pierre explains. As a result of its planning, MWRD has maintained rates that are 50 percent of the national average. Mr. St. Pierre best describes the philosophy of MWRD in his final interview answer, “We believe that as utility leaders, we should be engaged in the issues, not hiding from them, and we strive to be on the frontier and leading innovation.”

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com