Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s One Billion Gallon Challenge Announces First Research / Technology Demonstration Grants for Illinois

Four water research projects were announced Friday, May 30 – the first steps toward a goal of saving one billion gallons of water in Illinois.

American Water Corp., Carus Corp., Loyola University and the city of Urbana have been awarded grants through the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s (ISTC) Sponsored Research Grant Program.

ISTC, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, established a One Billion Gallon Water Challenge earlier this spring. One of the components is to fund projects with businesses, industries, colleges, and municipalities that are focused on methods for reducing water use, treatment of wastewater or other process water for reuse, or other significant water-saving measures. Funded projects will be used as case studies by ISTC so that these approaches and technologies can be duplicated across the state.

The safety and accessibility of water supplies has been cited as a major concern by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Academy of Engineering named the quality and quantity of water as one of the Grand Challenges for Engineering.

“Our efforts are a deliberate strategy to demonstrate sustainable technologies that we hope will bring widespread economic and environmental benefits to Illinois,” said ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien. “Water is quickly becoming the life-blood to driving and maintaining economic growth.”

  • Carus Group Inc., of LaSalle, IL, received $63,446 to utilize technology to reuse treated process water used by their crystallizer vacuum system as non-contact cooling water. By recycling water in their systems, Carus has the potential to reduce its water use by 47 million gallons per year. Carus is a manufacturer of products for water treatment, industrial pollution control, and environmental remediation.
  • American Water received $75,000 to investigate an advanced leak monitoring technique to reduce water waste in its water distribution system in a pilot study in Mt. Prospect, IL. Continuous acoustic monitoring technology will be implemented to alert the utility to water leaks in the community’s infrastructure as they form, long before they become evident above ground. The technology is aimed at the reduction of 15 million gallon non-revenue water loss over the nine-month study period. If successful, American Water hopes this will be a model for use in other communities in Illinois. Economic analysis will also include secondary benefits such as reduction of leak repair costs and leak damage.
  • Loyola University of Chicago received $50,999 to pilot and evaluate a series of water conservation measures focusing on behavior-change campaigns for students and employees on campus and conservation retrofits in residence halls and laboratories. The university predicts annual water savings of at least 2.5 million gallons. They will also produce a Resource Tool Kit to assist other universities and institutions to conserve water.
  • The City of Urbana was awarded $3,000 to pilot smart irrigation controls which can sense when landscaping irrigation is beneficial. The project will compare areas having simple irrigation timers with areas outfitted with evapotranspiration controls (rain and freeze sensors). Their results could be used as a template for communities statewide.

Grant recipients were selected, in part, for their ability to demonstrate real water savings during fiscal 2015. Additional One Billion Gallon Water Challenge projects may be announced later this year.

The Center also is encouraging Illinois citizens, businesses, organizations, communities, and schools to join the Challenge by making a pledge to conserve water at the Billion Gallon Water Challenge website:

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