Say wha? City launches ‘Chicagwa’ Chicago-branded water campaign with commemorative cans

The new initiative will feature a limited run of cans of Chicago drinking water featuring six different label designs.

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Specially labeled cans of “Chicagwa” water celebrate National Drinking Water Week in Chicago.

Specially labeled cans of “Chicagwa” water celebrate National Drinking Water Week in Chicago.

Quality Meats

City leaders are marking National Drinking Water Week with a “humorous” branding campaign to heighten awareness of the importance of Lake Michigan drinking water and the city’s history with the vital fresh water source.

A city initiative that highlights Chicago’s access to the water supply and the importance of water infrastructure in general was announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Water Commissioner Andrea Cheng on Tuesday at the Historic Water Tower building.

The new campaign, called “Chicagwa,” will feature a limited run of cans of Chicago drinking water featuring six different label designs by Chicago street artists Don’t Fret, Anthony Lewellen, Joey Depakakibo, Kate Lewis, Langston Allston and Elloo.

Starting Wednesday, a limited number of cans of Chicagwa will be available free at Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, Kuma’s Corner, The Wiener’s Circle, RealGood Stuff Co. and Dark Matter Coffee until they run out. You can also visit @Chicagwa on Instagram to learn about other locations and dates for distribution. (The cans will not be available in stores.)

In addition, a short film announcing Chicagwa narrated by Chicago historian and TikTok favorite Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is also being released as part of the campaign. Details can be found at DrinkChicagwa.com.

“It was important to show my appreciation for water and to illustrate the beauty of Lake Michigan,” artist Elloo said in a post on the campaign’s website. “My intention was to design one juicy drop of water that reflects life, beauty and movement. I also wanted to include in every can the words ‘thank you water’ to express my gratitude for the water coming from Lake Michigan. After sipping on delicious water your body and mind will thank you.”

“Branding” Chicago’s water is not a new concept.

In a 2010 Chicago Sun-Times story about bottling and selling the city’s “exceptional” tap water, then newly appointed Water Management Commissioner Tom Powers said it was a concept “worth exploring.” “The quality of the water that the department puts out is exceptional. In some cases, it’s better than bottled water,” he said then. Asked if the city would at some point down the road bottle and sell Lake Michigan water, Powers said: “As far as how you go about doing that — I don’t know how practical that is.”

According to the campaign’s website, Lake Michigan’s 1,184 cubic miles represent 4% of the world’s unfrozen surface freshwater.

The campaign comes in the wake of another initiative by the city to replace lead water supply lines throughout Chicago.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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