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Campaign Will Ask Chicagoans To Cut Water Use On 'Overflow Action Days'

(CBS) – You've heard of "ozone action" days. Well, get ready for "overflow action" days.

CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez explains why you soon will be asked to hold off on washing your clothes, showering for too long.

All along the picturesque Chicago River, there are something called "outfalls," or drains used when the sewers fill.

Normally, sewage runs through pipes underground and is diverted to wastewater treatment plants. But during heavy rains, when the volume overwhelms the system, the overflow runs right into the river.

Soon, it will flow to the McCook Reservoir, which is part of Chicago's "Deep Tunnel" system.

At the end of this year, when this reservoir opens, it will be able to hold 3.5 billion gallons of waste water and storm water that otherwise would end up in Chicago area waterways -- and basements.

A second section on the other side of that wall will bring the total to 10 billion gallons.

"It's going to be the biggest in the world so we're very excited when this will come online and help a lot of people in the area," says Mariyana  Spyropoulos, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Despite that massive project, it's still not enough to protect our waterways.

The group Friends of the Chicago River wants residents to their part by using less water. A campaign called Overflow Action Days -- launching on April 1 -- will alert people when sewers are overwhelmed and in jeopardy of flowing over into the river.

You will be asked to shorten your shower or hold off on washing clothes and dishes.

"Even though we live on the shores of Lake Michigan, there's a limited amount and we need to take care of it," says Margaret Frisbie of the Friends organization.

Frisbie also suggests saving rain water in barrels to use for watering your plants. Or, collect the water you run while the water is getting hot. It can be used to water plants, or even give to your pets.




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