Reimagining Great Lakes Water Systems – A Call for People, Ideas and Projects


The Great Lakes Protection Fund is looking for new ideas, new projects and new cohorts of people to catalyze a transition to a new era of water systems. Water systems are the built infrastructure, the natural landscapes, and the operating rules that govern how water moves, what moves in water and what moves on water. Improved water systems will better solve a range of problems that vex our current systems, including: reducing nutrient-driven harmful algae blooms, better handling of large rainstorms, being adaptable to changing economic and demographic conditions, and providing better value for the money we will invest in them.

In this new era, we envision water systems that will increasingly:

  • employ natural design principles, coupling built and natural systems seamlessly,
  • be valued as community assets by the people that pay for and benefit from them,
  • be smarter, enabled by technology to be integrated and interoperable, and
  • be future proof, attracting creative ideas and entrepreneurial talent to meet the needs of changing demographics, new uses, new users and new stresses.

The Fund has already invested in teams working to pilot strategies to drive some of these changes. We want to expand that portfolio, adding efforts that, for example, test new solutions to urban storm water and rural drainage, integrate water management, test watershed approaches, prototype new ways to manage coastal processes, and demonstrate other strategies to create the building blocks for the next generation of water systems in the basin. We want to find, and fund, people to lead the way. The Fund is interested in your best ideas, even if you feel they may not be preproposal ready.

We are looking for project teams that will try a new approach to managing water that, when successful, will cause others to change how they manage their water. Teams are encouraged to try something new, by people who have never teamed up before, to rework the system in a way that makes better sense to everyone. Showing how these strategies can be implemented, in real places, is more powerful than desktop research, policy analysis, or planning activities alone.


If you are interested in participating in a project, being an expert reviewer, or offering advice to the Fund, enter your information into our talent bank survey.

If you want to explore an idea or discuss a potential project, email us at or call David Rankin, Program Director, at 847-425-8150. Conversations are encouraged in advance of submitting preproposals.

Download the complete packet for this call for projects. It contains more details about:

  • background information
  • traits of desired projects
  • eligibility
  • content of preproposals
  • calendar

Visit our FAQ and Additional Resources page.


Download and complete the preproposal cover sheet. Include it as Page 1 of your submittal, followed by your project narrative and the project manager’s resume.

Preproposals are accepted any time and selected project teams will be invited to submit a more detailed full proposal. Fund staff and other technical experts will review these full proposals prior to a funding decision by the Fund’s board of directors.