Chicago/ Parks & Nature
AI Assisted Icon
Published on January 30, 2024
Chicago Secures $160M Federal Grant to Lead the Great Lakes in Water Purity and Economic RevivalSource: State of Illinois

Chicago's crusade for clean water took a $160 million leap forward thanks to a hefty federal grant awarded to the city's water innovation hub, Current, for its Great Lakes ReNEW initiative, Illinois officials announced Monday. Touted as a boon to the region's environmental and economic prospects, ReNEW will rally over fifty partners including Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, aiming to purge 'forever chemicals' such as PFAS from the water supply and convert pollutants into resources for American manufacturing.

Governor JB Pritzker praised the move, citing the Great Lakes' crucial role in national prosperity "The Great Lakes are a vital natural resource for the health, wealth, and security of our entire nation," he stated in the announcement, the funding is set to catapult the region into the heart of the green revolution with its top-tier workforce and expansive industrial capabilities. The ReNEW initiative promises not just cleaner water but an opportunity to repurpose waste into battery production and to boost regional materials-heavy businesses.

This chunk of federal cash isn't just pouring into infrastructure; it's also slated to infiltrate workforce development, bridging everything from community programs to advanced educational tracks for folks squaring off with unemployment and systemic roadblocks, as reported by the Illinois governor's office. It's a strategy that aligns with a trend in the Pritzker administration, which has consistently landed federal grants, including major scores to establish microelectronics hubs and propel economic revitalization projects.

Backed wholeheartedly by six Great Lakes states including Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan this program wrestled its way to victory from an initial pool of more than 700 hopefuls, becoming one of just 10 inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines as Mayor Brandon Johnson cheered, "This engine will be anchored in Chicago, which is becoming a national epicenter for clean water innovation.

According to an Illinois government release, Alaina Harkness, executive director of Current and principal investigator for the initiative, emphasized the transformative potential of the grant, "Waste has no place in this world of increasing water and resource scarcity," she asserted, outlining a vision where innovations will not only generate local economic opportunities but also bolster the nation's clean energy supply chain and tackle global water security issues. Junhong Chen, co-principal investigator, echoed this sentiment, predicting a robust water innovation superhighway rooted in the Great Lakes' ample research and commercialization strengths.