Tunnel and Reservoir Plan

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The Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (abbreviated TARP and more commonly known as the Deep Tunnel Project or the Chicago Deep Tunnel) is a large civil engineering project that aims to reduce flooding in the metropolitan Chicago area, and to reduce the harmful effects of flushing raw sewage into Lake Michigan by diverting storm water and sewage into temporary holding reservoirs. The megaproject is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in terms of scope, cost and timeframe. Commissioned in the mid-1970s, the project is managed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Completion of the system is not anticipated until 2029, [1] but substantial portions of the system have already opened and are currently operational. Across 30 years of construction, over $3 billion has been spent on the project. [2]

Civil engineering engineering discipline that deals with construction

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways. Civil engineering is traditionally broken into a number of sub-disciplines. It is considered the second-oldest engineering discipline after military engineering, and it is defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering. Civil engineering takes place in the public sector from municipal through to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States, and the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, which is often referred to as "Chicagoland." The Chicago metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States; the fifth largest in North America ; and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Sewage Wastewater that is produced by a community of people

Sewage is a type of wastewater that is produced by a community of people. It is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical and toxic constituents, and its bacteriologic status. It consists mostly of greywater, blackwater ; soaps and detergents; and toilet paper.



19th century

The Deep Tunnel Project is the latest in a series of civil engineering projects dating back to 1834. Many of the problems experienced by the city of Chicago are directly related to its low level topography and the fact that the city is largely built upon marsh or wet prairie. This combined with a temperate wet climate and the human development of open land leads to substantial water runoff. Lake Michigan was ineffective in carrying sewage away from the city, and in the event of a rainstorm, the water pumps that provided drinking water to Chicagoans became contaminated with sewage. Though no epidemics were caused by this system (see Chicago 1885 cholera epidemic myth), it soon became clear that the sewage system needed to be diverted to flow away from Lake Michigan in order to handle an increasing population's sanitation needs. [ dubious ]

Lake Michigan one of the Great Lakes of North America

Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. The other four Great Lakes are shared by the U.S. and Canada. It is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third-largest by surface area, after Lake Superior and Lake Huron. To the east, its basin is conjoined with that of Lake Huron through the wide Straits of Mackinac, giving it the same surface elevation as its easterly counterpart; the two are technically a single lake.

The Chicago 1885 cholera epidemic myth is a persistent urban legend, stating that 90,000 people in Chicago died of typhoid fever and cholera in 1885. Although the story is widely reported, these deaths did not occur.

Begun in 1836, and completed in 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built, diverting some sewage water from the Chicago River. In 1900, to improve general health standards, the flow of the main branch of the Chicago River was reversed to drain water from Lake Michigan, as opposed to having the river flow into Lake Michigan. This further improved the sanitation of Lake Michigan, and helped to prevent further waterborne epidemic scares.

Illinois and Michigan Canal canal

The Illinois and Michigan Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. In Illinois, it ran 96 miles (154 km) from the Chicago River in Bridgeport, Chicago to the Illinois River at LaSalle-Peru. The canal crossed the Chicago Portage, and helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the United States, before the railroad era. It was opened in 1848. Its function was largely replaced by the wider and shorter Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900, and it ceased transportation operations with the completion of the Illinois Waterway in 1933.

Between 1864 and 1867, under the leadership of Ellis S. Chesbrough, the city built the two-mile Chicago lake tunnel to a new water intake location further from the shore. Crews began from the intake location and the shore, tunneling in two shifts a day. Clay and earth were drawn away by mule-drawn railcars. Masons lined the five-foot-diameter tunnel with two layers of brick. The lake and shore crews met in November 1866, less than seven inches out of alignment. A second tunnel was added in 1874. [3]

Ellis Sylvester Chesbrough (1813–1886) was an engineer credited with the design of the Chicago sewer system, which are sometimes known as the 'Chesbrough sewers'. This was the first comprehensive sewer system in the United States. He is responsible for the plan to raise Chicago, construction of the first water crib in Chicago, and designing the Boston water distribution system. The water system he designed for Chicago is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a Historical Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Chicago Lake Tunnel was the first of several tunnels built from the city of Chicago's shore on Lake Michigan two miles out into the lake to access the fresh unpolluted fresh water far from the city's sewage.

20th century

The construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal (1892–1900), enlargements to the North Shore Channel (1907–1910), the construction of the Cal-Sag Channel (1911–1922) and the construction of locks at the mouth of the Chicago River (1933–1938) brought further improvements to the sanitary issues of the time. These projects blocked further amounts of sewage from draining into Lake Michigan. The projects also brought fresh lake water to inland waterways to further dilute sewage that was already in the waterways.

North Shore Channel Drainage canal in Illinois, US

The North Shore Channel is a drainage canal built between 1907 and 1910 to flush the sewage-filled North Branch of the Chicago River down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The sewage carrying duty has been largely taken over by the Chicago Deep Tunnel, but there are still occasional discharges due to heavy rains.

Surrounding farmland also engaged in flood control projects. The Illinois Farm Drainage Act of 1879 established drainage districts. These districts were generally named for the basin they drained—for example, the Fox River Drainage District. After World War II, suburban communities began to realize the benefits of separating stormwater from sewage water and began to construct separate sewer and storm drainage lines. The primary benefit of wastestream separation is that storm water requires less treatment than sewage before being returned to the environment.

Drainage districts occur in England and Wales, varying in size from a few hundred acres to over 100,000 acres (400 km2), all in low-lying areas of the country where flood risk management and land drainage are sensitive issues. Most drainage districts are administered by an internal drainage board (IDB), which are single purpose local drainage authorities, dealing with the drainage and water level management of clean water only. Each drainage district has a defined area, and the IDB only has powers to deal with matters affecting that area.

Fox River (Illinois River tributary) tributary of the Illinois River

The Fox River is a 202-mile-long (325 km) tributary of the Illinois River, flowing from southeastern Wisconsin to Ottawa, Illinois in the United States. The Wisconsin section was known as the Pishtaka River in the 19th century. There are two other "Fox Rivers" in southern Illinois: the Fox River and a smaller "Fox River" that joins the Wabash River near New Harmony, Indiana.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Flood damage grew markedly after 1938, when surrounding natural drainage areas were lost to development and human activity. Serious flooding has occurred in the Chicago metropolitan area in the years 1849, 1855, 1885, 1938, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1973, 1979, 1986, 1987, 1996, 2007 and 2008—but most record-setting crests have been set after 1948.

In the 1960s, the concept of Deep Tunnel was studied and recommended as a solution to continuing flooding issues.


Phase 1, the creation of 109.4 miles (176.1 km) of drainage tunnels ranging from 9 to 33 feet (2.7 to 10.1 m) in diameter, up to 350 feet (110 m) underground, was adopted in 1972, commenced in 1975, and completed and operational by 2006. Phase 2, reservoirs primarily intended for flood control, remains underway with an expected completion date of 2029. Currently, up to 2.3 billion US gallons (8.7×10^9 l) of sewage can be stored and held in the tunnels themselves while awaiting processing at sewage treatment plants, which release treated water into the Calumet and Des Plaines rivers.

Additional sewage is stored at the 7.9-billion-US-gallon (30×10^9 l) Thornton Composite Reservoir, and the 350-million-US-gallon (1,300×10^6 l) Gloria Alitto Majewski Reservoir near O'Hare International Airport. The 3.5-billion-US-gallon (13×10^9 l) McCook Reservoir was completed in 2017 and will be expanded to 10 billion US gallons (38×10^9 l) by 2029. [4] [5] Because the reservoirs are decommissioned quarries, construction has been delayed by decreased demand for the quarried gravel. Upon completion, the TARP system will have a capacity of 17.5 billion US gallons (66×10^9 l) of storage.


Severe weather events have forced water management agencies to pump excess wastewater into the lake and river in order to prevent flooding. These incidents have decreased in frequency as more of the Deep Tunnel system has become operational. Long considered an open sewer, the Chicago River now hosts more than 50 species of fish and increased wildlife along its shores. Substantial development is occurring along many portions of the riverfront. Canoeing is once again allowed on the waterway, but swimming is still prohibited due to high pollution levels.

On October 3, 1986, a heavy thunderstorm drenched the southern portion of the Deep Tunnel area with several inches of rain in a short period of time. While the Deep Tunnel system performed satisfactorily by absorbing excess water, water within the system itself rushed past the north side of Chicago and near the Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette. Geysers of over 65 feet (20 m) were reported in both locations for up to an hour as the water was redistributed more evenly through the system. A 30 ft (9 m) geyser erupted downtown at the corner of Jefferson and Monroe. [6] A system of watertight bulkheads has since been installed to prevent the event from occurring again.

During the Chicago Flood of 1992, the water from the Chicago River that leaked into the long-disused underground freight tunnel system was eventually drained into the Deep Tunnel network, which itself was still under construction.


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Chicago River Rivers and canals running through the city of Chicago

The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles (251 km) that runs through the city of Chicago, including its center. Though not especially long, the river is notable because it is one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance: the related Chicago Portage is a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

Calumet River river in the United States of America

The Calumet River is a system of heavily industrialized rivers and canals in the region between the neighborhood of South Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and the city of Gary, Indiana. Historically, the Little Calumet River and the Grand Calumet River were one, the former flowing west from Indiana into Illinois, then turning back east to its mouth at Lake Michigan at Marquette Park in Gary.

Storm drain Infrastructure for draining excess rain and ground water from impervious surfaces such as paved streets

A storm drain, storm sewer, surface water drain/sewer, or stormwater drain is infrastructure designed to drain excess rain and ground water from impervious surfaces such as paved streets, car parks, parking lots, footpaths, sidewalks, and roofs. Storm drains vary in design from small residential dry wells to large municipal systems.

Central Valley Project

The Central Valley Project (CVP) is a federal water management project in the U.S. state of California under the supervision of the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). It was devised in 1933 in order to provide irrigation and municipal water to much of California's Central Valley—by regulating and storing water in reservoirs in the northern half of the state, and transporting it to the water-poor San Joaquin Valley and its surroundings by means of a series of canals, aqueducts and pump plants, some shared with the California State Water Project (SWP). Many CVP water users are represented by the Central Valley Project Water Association.

London sewerage system sewerage system

The London sewerage system is part of the water infrastructure serving London, England. The modern system was developed during the late 19th century, and as London has grown the system has been expanded. It is currently owned and operated by Thames Water and serves almost all of Greater London.

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is a public authority in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that provides wholesale drinking water and sewage services to certain municipalities and industrial users in the state, primarily in the Boston area.

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, historically known as the Chicago Drainage Canal, is a 28-mile-long (45 km) canal system that connects the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River. It reverses the direction of the Main Stem and the South Branch of the Chicago River, which now flows out of Lake Michigan rather than into it. The related Calumet-Saganashkee Channel does the same for the Calumet River a short distance to the south, joining the Chicago canal about half way along its route to the Des Plaines. The two provide the only navigation for ships between the Great Lakes Waterway and the Mississippi River system.

Des Plaines River tributary of the Illinois River

The Des Plaines River is a river that flows southward for 133 miles (214 km) through southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois in the United States Midwest, eventually meeting the Kankakee River west of Channahon to form the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) is a state-chartered government agency which provides wastewater services for 28 municipalities within Milwaukee County and also portions of the surrounding counties. It treats, and also releases, the largest amount of water pollution of any agency or company in the State of Wisconsin.

The Brihanmumbai Stormwater Disposal System(BRIMSTOWAD) is a project planned to overhaul Mumbai's water drainage system. The estimated budget for implementing the project is Rs. 12 billion as of August 2005. Such a high-budget project would require funds from the Central Government. Mumbai has a drainage system, which in many places, are more than 100 years old, consisting of 2,000 km of open drains, 440 km of closed drains, 186 outfalls and more than 30,000 water entrances. The capacity of most of the drains is around 25 mm of rain per hour during low tide, which is exceeded routinely during the monsoon season in Mumbai, which witness more than 1400 mm during June and July. The drain system works with the aid of gravity, with no pumping stations to speed up the drainage.Most of the storm water drains are also choked due to the dumping of garbage by citizens. Portions of Mumbai like Bombay Central and Tardeo remain below sea level. Reclamation of ponds and obstructions in drains due to cables and gas pipe exacerbate the problem.

Water supply and sanitation in Singapore is characterised by a number of achievements in the challenging environment of a densely populated island. Access to water is universal, affordable, efficient and of high quality. Innovative integrated water management approaches such as the reuse of reclaimed water, the establishment of protected areas in urban rainwater catchments and the use of estuaries as freshwater reservoirs have been introduced along with seawater desalination in order to reduce the country's dependence on water imported from neighbouring country, Malaysia.

Thames Water

Thames Water Utilities Ltd, known as Thames Water, is the monopoly private utility company responsible for the public water supply and waste water treatment in large parts of Greater London, Luton, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Kent, and some other areas of the United Kingdom. Thames Water is the UK's largest water and wastewater services company, and supplies 2.6 billion litres of drinking water per day, and treats 4.4 billion litres of wastewater per day. Thames Water's 15 million customers comprise 27% of the UK population.

Thornton Quarry

Thornton Quarry is one of the largest aggregate quarries in the world, located in Thornton, Illinois just south of Chicago. The quarry is 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long, 0.5 miles (1 km) wide, and 450 feet deep at its deepest point. Gallagher Asphalt Corporation has been operating on the grounds of the quarry since 1928. A dryland dike carries Interstate 80/Interstate 294/Tri-State Tollway over the quarry.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), originally known as the Sanitary District of Chicago, is a special-purpose district chartered to operate in Cook County, Illinois since 1889. Although its name may imply otherwise, it is not a part of the City of Chicago's local government but is created by Illinois state government with an elected Board of Commissioners. The MWRD's main purposes are the reclamation and treatment of wastewater and flood water abatement in Cook County to protect the health and safety of citizens and of area waterways. In 1900, the District notably reversed the flow of the Chicago River, and it is currently involved in the large multi-decade construction of the "Deep Tunnel" and/or Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP).

Ware River

The Ware River is a 35.4-mile-long (57.0 km) river in central Massachusetts. It has two forks, the longer of which begins near Hubbardston, Massachusetts. The Ware River flows southwest through the middle of the state, joins the Quaboag River at Three Rivers, Massachusetts, to form the Chicopee River on its way to the Connecticut River.

Auburn Dam

Auburn Dam was a proposed concrete arch dam on the North Fork of the American River east of the town of Auburn, California in the United States, on the border of Placer and El Dorado Counties. Slated to be completed in the 1970s by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, it would have been the tallest concrete dam in California and one of the tallest in the United States, at a height of 680 feet (210 m) and storing 2,300,000 acre feet (2.8 km3) of water. Straddling a gorge downstream of the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River and upstream of Folsom Lake, it would have regulated water flow and provided flood control in the American River basin as part of Reclamation's immense Central Valley Project.

Croton Watershed

This page is about a component of the New York City water supply system. For the hydrological feature with a similar name, see Croton River watershed

Croton River watershed Drainage basin in New York State, USA

This page is about the Croton River watershed, a hydrological feature. For the component of the New York City water supply system with a similar name, see Croton Watershed


  1. Lydersen, Kari (2011-05-17). "Chicago River on National Endangered List". Chicago News Cooperative. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  2. Sanders, Steve (2005-10-10). "WGN-TV CoverStories: Deep Tunnel". WGN-TV. Archived from the original on 2005-11-05. Retrieved 2005-12-23.
  3. Chicago Department of Public Works. Chicago Public Works: A History. 1973.
  4. Hawthorne, Michael (December 4, 2017). "McCook Reservoir to open soon, holding sewage and runoff until storms pass". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  5. "McCook Reservoir to Greatly Boost Flood Storage Capacity". Tunnel Business Magazine. January 1, 2018. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  6. Karwath, Rob (1986-10-17). "Tunnel's Geyser Effect Still Puzzling". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-07-04.