ICYMI: Infrastructure Week Recap + Water Woman Makes the Evening News

Starting with a look at the incredible growth of the Green City, Clean Waters program over the last five years and finishing with a Q&A that explores a storm flood relief project blending green and traditional infrastructure investments, we had an exciting (and busy) Infrastructure Week here at Philadelphia Water.

One of the core goals of Infrastructure Week is to start a conversation that gets people thinking about the ways in which things like water mains, highways, bridges and more don’t just “matter” in our everyday lives—they make our everyday lives possible.

We looked at the busy crews who clean close to 300 storm drains each day, working double shifts to make sure we’re getting the best drainage possible at our inlets every time it rains.

Cohocksink/Northern Liberties Storm Flood Relief: Big Investments to Help Our Neighborhoods

For our final Infrastructure Week post, we are looking at a massive, multi-year project that will help reduce flooding related to heavy rains in several neighborhoods. Like many other cities, Philadelphia is dealing with a sewer system designed for a time when there were far fewer hard surfaces like streets, parking lots and buildings.

Because those surfaces don’t absorb rain, the water becomes stormwater runoff, which can overwhelm sewers, leading to localized flooding and combined sewer overflows. While the City is relying on Green Stormwater Infrastructure investments made through the Green City, Clean Waters program to deal with this challenge, those green tools are more effective when we also improve our traditional sewer system.

A good example of an investment in our existing system that will enhance Green City, Clean Waters projects is the Cohocksink Storm Flood Relief project, also called the Northern Liberties SFR. The project is named after the Cohocksink Creek, which once flowed through Kensington and Northern Liberties and emptied into the Delaware River not far from where SugarHouse Casino stands today.

Like many small streams in Philadelphia, the Cohocksink was covered over and integrated into the sewer system in the mid to late 1800s.
Today, the Cohocksink sewer system must manage stormwater drainage from more than 1,000 acres of urban land. 

To get the inside scoop on the Cohocksink improvements, we put a few questions to project manager Bill Dobbins, an engineer who has worked with Philadelphia Water since 2001.

Belmont Raw Water Basin Project: Helping to Bring You Top-Quality Water

Construction of the cofferdam at the Belmont Raw Water Basin. Inset: Resident Engineer Kam Patel.
Above: Construction of the cofferdam at the Belmont River Water Basin. Inset: Resident Engineer Kam Patel. Credit: Philadelphia Water

In the public imagination, drinking water infrastructure usually comes down to two things: the drinking water treatment plants, and water mains that deliver the finished product to your tap.

In reality, the infrastructure it takes to treat hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day and get that top-quality water to 1.5 million people is far more complex, involving a variety of facilities along the way.

During Infrastructure Week 2016, we’ve been looking at some important infrastructure projects—all of which are funded solely by your water bill—that might get overlooked.

One such project is the renovated Belmont Raw Water Basin, which is in its final stages after years of work.

To give you an idea of how long this basin has been helping to provide Philadelphia with drinking water from the Schuylkill River, consider that Theodore Roosevelt became president the year construction began.

Check out amazing historic photographs of the original construction site here:

Infrastructure Week Throwback: Graff Collection Shines Light on Early Water Champion, Artist

“Design for Cast Iron Wheel by F. Graff” from the Frederick Graff Collection at the Franklin Institute. Credit: Philadelphia Water, the Franklin Institute and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
“Design for Cast Iron Wheel by F. Graff” from the Frederick Graff Collection at the Franklin Institute. Credit: Philadelphia Water, the Franklin Institute and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

This post explores the foundations of Philadelphia's water infrastructure as we continue to highlight the crucial systems that keep Philly running during Infrastructure Week 2016

Last year, Philadelphia Water historian Adam Levine joined department employees like long-time engineer Drew Brown on a tour of the Franklin Institute archives, which include a trove of 18th and 19th century drawings by Frederick Graff, an engineer himself with incredible artistic talent who helped to design and operate some of Philadelphia’s earliest water infrastructure. Included in the collection are a number of water-related works by other artists, engineers and cartographers. 

Graff’s collection—much of which incorporates watercolor and focuses on hydraulic systems and Philadelphia’s rivers and streams—showcases a fascinating blend of the technical and beautiful, capturing the most finite details of buildings, machines and natural terrain with breathtaking style.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Green City, Clean Waters Outreach Ambassador?

A member of the Philadelphia Water Public Engagement Team teaches Philadelphia Youth about Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Germantown/Mt. Airy. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
A member of the Philadelphia Water Public Engagement Team teaches Philadelphia Youth about Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Germantown/Mt. Airy. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Are you interested in helping communities learn more about protecting local watersheds through projects that make neighborhoods greener, more vibrant places to live, learn, work and play?

You could be our new Outreach Ambassador!

Innovative Infrastructure: New Stations Expand Drinking Water Access, Curb Plastic Waste

Infrastructure Week 2016: Drinking Water Stations

When people hear the word “infrastructure,” they think about roads, bridges and (if we’re lucky!) pipes.

But for Infrastructure Week 2016, we’re looking at elements of Philadelphia’s water system that might not come to mind when you think about infrastructure. (So far, we’ve looked at the thousands of new green tools created through the Green City, Clean Waters program and the 75,000+ storm drains found on city streets.)

Today, we’re looking at a brand-new kind of infrastructure that rethinks an old standard—the water fountain.

As Philadelphia celebrates the 90th Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the world's largest high school regatta, Philadelphia Water will unveil a new network of four eye-catching public water stations located along Kelly Drive.

Saving Ducklings and Protecting Watersheds: All In a Day's Work for Our Inlet Cleaning Crews!

Infrastructure Week 2016: Inlet Cleaning

While they may be easy to overlook, you can find at least one of our 75,000-plus storm drains on nearly every street in Philadelphia. Designed to take stormwater away from our streets, storm drains (or inlets) form a direct connection between our neighborhoods and the watersheds in which we live.

What does that connection mean? It means that, when people litter, leave pet waste behind, or let old cars leak oil in the street, that stuff washes down the storm drain and enters our water supply.

On the other hand, inlets blocked with trash, snow, leaves, construction debris and sediment can make local flooding worse when we have heavy rain and water can’t drain properly.

So, who takes care of our storm drains? And what can residents do to keep pollution out of our waterways and ensure the storm drains work properly?

Here to answer some of those questions during Infrastructure Week is William Shields, the head of our Inlet Cleaning Unit.

#InfrastructureMatters: Infrastructure Week Highlights Investments in Philly’s Water System

All this week, we’ll be taking a look at the broad range of water infrastructure that Philadelphia Water maintains to make sure people, businesses and City departments have constant access to clean, top-quality water.

This exploration of our ongoing work is a part of Infrastructure Week (May 16-23), a national movement highlighting the importance of infrastructure and infrastructure funding. This year’s focus: #InfrastructureMatters.

Most people know that clean water matters. Recent events have raised awareness about the importance of safe public drinking water, and people across America are thinking about their local water supply today in way that they haven’t in decades.

But too often, people don’t realize how valuable water—and the infrastructure needed to protect and deliver it—is until something goes wrong. Infrastructure Week is about recognizing that #InfrastructureMatters so that we take care of what we have and invest in the vast water system that has evolved in Philadelphia over the last 200 years.