Tisdahl joins area mayors at drinking water summit

Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl joined other officials Wednesday in calling for immediate action to ensure water in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River remains clean and safe for drinking.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the topic at a summit on drinking water Wednesday, held at the Shedd Aquarium. The event brought together mayors from the United States and Canada, in addition to leading experts in drinking water and environmental protection, to discuss the preservation of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, which provide drinking water to more than 40 million people.

The summit was hosted by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational coalition of mayors and other local leaders who work to protect these bodies of water. The summit was held after the recent water crisis in Toledo, in which residents were told not to drink tap water due to algae in Lake Erie.

“Lake Michigan is a precious resource to the residents of Evanston,” Tisdahl said in a news release. “I am happy to join my fellow Mayors in advocating for these important initiatives.”

Attendees discussed the necessity of working with private and nonprofit sectors to prevent water sources from becoming unsafe, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said in an email.

“Today, my fellow mayors and I stand united in our call for more, better and faster action to protect Great Lakes and St. Lawrence residents from the kind of threat that recently closed down Toledo’s drinking water system,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release. “This situation cannot and will not be tolerated as the new normal.”

At the event, the mayors called for a common limit across their areas for the toxin microcystin and an emergency response protocol to follow if it’s found in the water. They also expressed their desire to use more green infrastructure and pollution prevention measures to ensure clean water.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which Evanston joined in 2007, also released its 2014 Sustainable Municipal Water Management Public Evaluation Report for the city this month. The documents outline multiple topics including water conservation and efficiency and water pollution prevention.

The report documented several accomplishments the city has completed, such as promoting water conservation, installing water meters and minimizing water loss. It included information about how the city carried out these efforts and outlined new goals for the upcoming year.

“Not only do government services, such as recycling and stormwater management, provide a strong backbone of source water protection, but an engaged and active community also does its part to preserve and maintain the area’s natural habitats and waterways,” the report said. “This partnership of community and government working together is critical in Evanston providing sustainable water management now and for the generations to come.”

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