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     Growing Water

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    That fresh water is the futuristic new oil and America's Great Lakes region the new Saudi Arabia is a parallel shared by two visionaries who take seriously the estimate from the United Nations that two out of every three people in the world will be facing water shortages by 2025.

    With their Growing Water project, Martin Felsen, a studio associate professor at IIT College of Architecture, and his partner, Sarah Dunn, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, have come up with the idea for a unique self-contained and sustainable water-cleansing system for Chicago. Through a series of eco-boulevards built into the city's existing street grid, 100 percent of wastewater and stormwater would be treated naturally and then returned to the Great Lakes Basin, source of 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.

    In 2007, Felsen and Dunn, cofounders of the Chicago architecture firm UrbanLab, won first place for Growing Water in the History Channel's "City of the Future" contest, which challenged select architects in three major U.S. cities to develop a lasting design concept for their city 100 years into the future.

    Two years later, the project earned the prestigious Latrobe Prize. The $100,000 award is presented every other year to an architect or group of architects for an innovative research proposal. And in 2010, Growing Water was one of six finalists in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a competition that awards $100,000 to support and implement a design solution that has promise to solve a complex issue facing the world today.

    "Buckminster Fuller once said that 'pollution is merely a resource in the wrong place,'" notes Felsen. "The fact that Chicagoans throw away more than a billion gallons of fresh water a day presents us with an incredible opportunity to innovatively re-imagine our waste as a resource that can make all of us healthier, wealthier, and wiser."

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