Intention: My intention with the Backwards River is to raise awareness by writing an accessible digital story on the many functions of the Chicago River in different parts of the city. In the North branch of the Chicago River, you have high priced condos and river walks, but in the South branch of the river you have a canal where wastewater flows downstream through low income communities. Depending on where you live around the “river”, the Chicago River functions in a different way and takes on a different meaning. I am hoping my work will help bring light to the communities affected by the way public sanitation has historically been managed, change the current narrative of wastewater as waste to instead a resource that can be recycled, and contribute to a circular economy. Even more, due to Chicago’s outdated water infrastructure being ineffective in combating climate change, low income communities experience increased heavy rainfalls that result in backups and urban flooding. Now in a time of social change, the city of Chicago needs to shine light on these issues, and look ahead to develop new solutions that take into consideration public health, creating greener jobs, and an overall new way of life. I hope my contribution to the research behind the Chicago River and Sanitary Ship Canal will aid in improving the quality of life for all Chicago residents.
Bio: Citlalli Trujillo is a senior at University of Illinois at Chicago pursuing a Biochemistry Degree. In addition, she is an undergraduate researcher through a federally funded program called the L@S Ganas Research Fellowship. Living in Pilsen has brought her more in touch with major issues that affect lower income communities in the Chicago area. This motivates her to push further in making a community wide impact that will improve the quality of life for all citizens of the city. Through her role as assistant manager at Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure, Citlalli was able to coordinate a discussion on water policy, water infrastructure, and urban flooding.