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NARRATIVE: Since inception, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago 
(“MWRD”) has been improving the environment and protecting public health, but the way it views its 
work has evolved over 127 years. Sewage is no longer a waste product, but instead a collection of 
resources to be recovered and reused; similarly, it has become proactive instead of reactive, and works 
in partnership with its neighbors.  It was with this paradigm shift that the MWRD adopted a culture of 
excellence, collaboration, and innovation, which is enabling plans that are bold yet wholly achievable.   

The MWRD launched its second strategic plan with the vision of “Recovering Resources, Transforming 
Water.” Foundational to transformations is the quality of excellence. Proactive decisions by leadership 
point out a straight path to maintaining financial sustainability: the 2016 bond refunding will provide 
savings in excess of $120 million, and insurance coverage will protect $10.5 billion of assets and claims. 
Employees also are committed to exceeding expectations as individuals and as an organization, so 
despite the MWRD consistently being recognized as one of the best – serving the community at half the 
cost of other wastewater agencies in the region – its employees still seek additional excellence by 
meeting and even exceeding training requirements.   

For employee excellence, collaboration by the MWRD is a critical success factor. The MWRD works with 
employees to participate in leadership development, and each department engages in succession 
planning and cross-training to ensure knowledge continuity and perpetual excellence. Employees are 
also empowered to provide process improvement recommendations and take ownership of various 
plans and projects.  

Outside the MWRD, collaboration brings environmental, societal, and economic benefits. The MWRD 
works with Councils of Governments and 21 local and national organizations to improve water and 
nutrient management, enhance public space, improve waterways access, and enhance habitats. The 
MWRD also helped launch “Current,” a partnership of public and private leaders, to leverage the 
strength of the region’s water industry to drive research and generate economic impact through 
systems advancements, innovative technology, and industry investment and employment.   

A tangible result of these partnerships are green playgrounds from the “Space to Grow” program. With 
other Chicago organizations, expanses of asphalt in low-income schools are transformed with 
landscaping that absorbs rainwater, helping to address neighborhood flooding issues, providing an 
opportunity for the neighborhood to grow and reconnect with nature, and supporting student health 
and physical activity. The MWRD aims to transform 34 schoolyards by 2019.  

The MWRD engages residents directly through tours, open houses, and social media to educate and help 
its audience understand their role in protecting the environment. As a result, residents have deployed