Natural Solutions Tool

The Chicago-Calumet River Watershed Council has launched a process to co-create a multi-benefit green infrastructure project prioritization tool, called the Natural Solutions Tool, to help guide the work of the Watershed Council partnership. 

A video overview of this project and a demonstration of how it works can be viewed here.

The Natural Solutions Tool creation process is being administered by Friends of the Chicago River in partnership with The Trust for Public Land’s Climate-Smart Cities program. This type of tool has been successfully implemented in 14 other U.S. metro areas and has become a resource for decision makers to implement strategic green infrastructure projects. Examples of completed similar tools include Los Angeles, Boston, and Camden, NJ

More information about the tool creation process can be found here. 



Modeling Objectives: 

We convene a team of local experts and use a Geographic Information System (GIS) to analyze and display information that is geographically referenced, on multiple topics. 

(1) Healthy communities: Address existing environmental conditions, such as urban heat islands and air pollution, which cause or exacerbate human health inequities.

(2) Equitable: Guide investments to areas of the greatest need, including economically disconnected and Black and Brown communities where individuals disproportionately suffer from environmental stressors and are denied environmental benefits.

(3) Connected: Use trails and greenways to connect people between residential areas, parks, and natural areas.

(4) Resilient water systems: Promote the natural absorption of rainfall to increase resiliency, improve water quality, and reduce community flooding.

(5) Natural: Protect or restore living landscapes to expand biodiversity and support communities of native species, especially those that are threatened and endangered.

The tool, currently in development, will combine spatial data layers to pinpoint at the neighborhood and parcel scale where investments in green infrastructure and other nature-based solutions can achieve one or more of the above objectives. For example, the combination of criteria representing heat islands, tree canopy cover, and equity data can identify opportunities to plant shade trees and reduce residents' heat stress in areas of greatest need. 

Project Geographic Scope:

The tool will be using a watershed perspective, covering sub-watersheds in part of Cook County, Lake, Will, and DuPage Counties.


Photo: Caroline O’Boyle (right), Chicago Program Director for the Trust for Public Land, and Adam Flickinger from Friends staff launching the project with the Watershed Council in October of 2021.

In addition to the tool creation, the Watershed Council has identified a coinciding catalytic multi-benefit ecosystem restoration project at Indian Ridge Marsh-South in partnership with the Chicago Park District. Learn more about this Watershed Council pilot project here