Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy: Ever wonder where your water comes from? - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy: Ever wonder where your water comes from?

Throughout 2019, MPC partnered with local leaders and water industry experts to help local officials and community leaders better understand and proactively address their drinking water needs.

Image courtesy Lucas Policastro (CC)

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Turn on the faucet. Water comes out. Easy, right?

Yes! … Well, everything except the “easy” part. A complex system of infrastructure and trained system operators are involved in collecting, filtering, treating, and storing the water before it is delivered to the consumer. Water utilities—and the water industry, in general—are working on a multitude of challenges including:

  • We are currently in the replacement era of our water infrastructure;
  • New threats to water safety are emerging, such as PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) and other synthetic compounds;
  • The water workforce is aging, and there aren’t enough new workers to replace them;
  • Impacts related to climate change threaten the safety and security of the systems;
  • New state and federal regulations are coming down the metaphorical pipeline;
  • And somebody has to pay for all of this!

Participants at the Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy learned from local experts and their peers on how to better manage their drinking water systems.

Imagine if you were suddenly put in charge of your community’s water supply. Would you know what to do? This is a position many municipal mayors often find themselves in: they were elected to office and are now responsible for overseeing a drinking water utility but have no expertise or experience in doing so.

That’s why MPC partnered with water industry experts to create the Drinking Water 1-2-3 guide for local officials and community leaders. This useful resource was designed for elected officials and municipal staff to understand the key aspects of water management and ask critical questions.

“Many regions of the world are facing a crisis in their water supply. Northern Illinois is no exception. We need to answer the questions: Do we have enough? Is it clean? Will the system endure? We must begin educating and communicating with our residents in harmony with a single message. The message that can best lead to positive changes and results can be found in the Drinking Water 1-2-3 guide, produced by the Metropolitan Planning Council.”  - Dave Kaptain, Mayor of the City of Elgin

Following on the success of the guide, in 2019 MPC launched the Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy, a two-year series of convenings and pilot projects dedicated to best practices in water supply management.

Phase 1: Sub-regional events

A series of half-day events were held throughout the region, focused on best practices targeting local issues for decision-makers and the communities they serve. The audience for these events was elected officials, community leaders and top municipal staff—including mayors, municipal administrators, finance directors, planners, public works directors, water managers, and more. Guest speakers included community leaders and water experts with an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning and example case studies from the region.

The four events were held between April and September 2019 and were spread throughout northeastern Illinois, starting in Joliet and visiting Orland Park and Elgin before the final event in Barrington. The Academy attracted over 200 participants, including elected officials, administrators, public works staff, utility operators and planners from 50 municipalities representing 50% of the population of the seven-county region.

“The Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy sessions proved to be a valuable forum for bringing together community and municipal leaders in a collaborative effort to raise the conversation about critical water issues, and to learn from one another about implementing equitable and sustainable water management practices for their communities. It was extremely encouraging to see great turnouts at each event and Greeley and Hansen is proud to have been a part of the success of the Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy events with the Metropolitan Planning Council.” - Andy Martin, Managing Director of the Midwest Operating Group for the Academy’s Presenting Sponsor, Greeley and Hansen

Phase 2: Technical Assistance program

Municipal Representation at Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy Events [Download the full-resolution map here.]

As of autumn 2019, MPC is transitioning to the Technical Assistance program, through which we will coordinate expert services to help selected communities tackle their most pressing drinking water needs. Final Technical Assistance project selections will be made in late 2019, with projects taking place in 2020. Learn more about the Technical Assistance program here!

“I believe the Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy event I attended was one of the best programs I’ve ever sat in on. It really kept your attention, and it built upon itself. Drinking water management is an important aspect for all municipal officials to be paying attention to and taking proactive steps to ensure the communities they serve have safe and sustainable water infrastructure now and into the future.”  -Dan Podgorski, Village Manager (and former Mayor) of the Village of Lansing

Thank you to all of our Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy sponsors:

We recognize that community leaders are busy, so it was encouraging to see so many people commit so much of their day to learn more about this important topic. The Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy is off to a strong start, and it would not be possible without our partners, co-hosts, presenters and sponsors!

Presenting sponsor

Premier sponsors


Partner sponsors


Friend sponsor

MPC would also like to thank our co-hosts for Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy events:


Finally, MPC is grateful to the following Drinking Water 1-2-3 initiative partners:



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