Ravaging and Revitalizing: The Story of the Northern Illinois Watershed – Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Moving Forward

The history of the Illinois watershed offers many lessons. When the health of the land takes a backseat to the growth of an area, problems are sure to follow. Rapid development can have damaging effects, especially when compounded by decisions that ignore environmental impacts. As Native people were forcibly and tragically removed from their homelands, replaced by rapid population growth and dizzying land development, the drastic change has had lasting effects on the watershed, effects only now being addressed through a more holistic approach. In short, with exponentially more people using more resources and producing more byproducts, a plan that doesn’t acknowledge and address all these human-made problems cannot be successful.

Decades of attempts have proven that simply managing stormwater once the storm is happening isn’t enough. With over-developed land, simply shifting the water downstream only pushes the issue elsewhere, causing damage to the environment along the way as the streams carry contaminants across the region. Instead, the key to effective management of stormwater runoff is to reduce the amount of stormwater generated in the first place by maintaining and working with the hydrology of a site and managing stormwater at the source.

Civil engineers and scientists from WBK Engineering, headquartered in St. Charles, Illinois, are working with municipalities, governmental agencies, and environmental organizations to develop a holistic approach to the problem. “By determining the amount of land that needs to remain natural to take advantage of its innate absorption and filtering qualities,” comments John Witte, WBK Civil Engineering Practice Lead, “we can better manage development and better understand how to mitigate the damage our society has done.” While we can’t undo the impact of a metropolitan area the size of Chicagoland overnight, we can move toward the honorable harvest approach for how we live and grow.

For centuries before European settlers arrived, Native tribes lived in unison with the land, honoring it and their part in the circle. With this as a guiding principle, WBK Engineering is honored to play a role alongside many as the Illinois watershed is undergoing a transformation. With cleaner water and more food sources for the surrounding ecosystem once again, the land itself is providing healthier resources back to its inhabitants, human, animal, and plant alike.

Resources for Environmental Sustainability and Conservation

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