Throwback Thursday: Hydrants Are for Fires, Not for Fun...

A 1985 video from Philadelphia Water uses an original rap to warn people about the dangers of using fire hydrants to cool off.
A 1986 video from Philadelphia Water uses an original rap to warn people about the dangers of using fire hydrants to cool off. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

...if you want to play smart, don't let them run! That's the message in this (now hilarious) public service announcement from 1986 featuring a punchy little beat, original rap lyrics, and some, uh, funky dancing and clothes/hair styles to match. Take 30 seconds and treat yourself to this gem from 1980s Philly:


Done laughing yet? OK, now for the serious part: Plenty has changed since we put that out 29 years ago, but the underlying message is still the same. Opening hydrants to cool off decreases water pressure and makes it difficult for firefighters to do their jobs, plus it can damage water mains. The water pressure alone from a hydrant can cause serious injury or even death, especially if there are little kids around.

From a waste perspective, the amount of water used in one hour by an open fire hydrant can be equivalent to a household's water usage for an entire year.
In 2008 alone, taxpayers had to pay $1 million for damage caused by residents who opened hydrant caps. Fire hydrants are used for the sole purpose of fire hazards. Please avoid uncapping them. (If you see an open hydrant and want to report it, we updated the number at the end of the video: 215 685 6300.)

Lucky for us, the city has invested in lots of safe options for cooling off, including spraygrounds, pools and official cooling centers (remember, rivers and creeks are not a safe option). You can find all of the city's hot weather resources by clicking here.

Now, can we hear that hot beat one more time?

H/T to YouTube user Allison Venezio for uploading the original video earlier today, it made our morning!

PS: Know anything about the performers in this video? Shoot us a line at with the subject "Hydrant PSA".

What Plumbers and Contractors Need to Know About GSI

We can't say it enough: Green City, Clean Waters represents a major shift in the way we think about and do infrastructure. That means the tools we use to effectively manage stormwater—collectively called Green Stormwater Infrastructure or GSI—look and work differently than the traditional pipes and sewers people are used to seeing.

One big difference is that these green tools have a much more noticeable presence in neighborhoods because they use things like trees, grasses, soil and stones on the surface to slow down water from storms that can overwhelm our sewers. In addition to managing stormwater, these green tools are also designed to have the same community benefits we get from having beautiful parks and gardens in our neighborhoods; in many cases, a stormwater tree trench or a rain garden can look pretty much just like your everyday street tree or landscaped garden.
That tendency to blend in can be misleading though, because GSI can be sort of like an iceberg: we see the green tip of it on the sidewalk, in a park or on the street, but the bulk of the infrastructure is spread out over a large area underground.
This diagram of typical street tree trench is a good example:

A diagram of a typical street tree designed by Philadelphia Water.
A diagram of a typical street tree designed by Philadelphia Water.

Because GSI is a relatively new concept, even plumbers and construction contractors aren't always aware of its presence or don't realize how much is going on below the surface. That can lead to costly mistakes that could damage Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure and hurt a neighborhood's ability to manage stormwater.

To avoid accidentally damaging these important tools, we put together a simple FAQ for plumbers and contractors to help them understand how GSI works, what it looks like, and what they should do if they're working with or near Philadelphia Water's green infrastructure. Click on the image below to get a full-size copy of the GSI FAQ for plumbers and contractors, which includes important phone numbers and contact information. If you're a resident and think you see construction that's damaging green infrastructure in your neighborhood, this FAQ sheet could be useful for you too:

GSI FAQ for Plumbers and Contractors

If you are involved with a community group that hosts zoning meetings or have other interactions with developers in your community, please feel free to share this helpful FAQ with them, especially if you know a project could impact nearby green infrastructure. With Green City, Clean Waters set to increase its footprint dramatically over the next two decades, it's more important than ever for the development community to understand how green tools work so we can all meet the goal of improving our water quality!

UPDATE: Almost 10K Pounds of Trash Removed; Can You Help Too?

A crew of volunteers celebrates after hauling an impressive load of trash from the Delaware River. Credit: Living Lands and Waters.
A crew of volunteers celebrates after hauling an impressive load of trash from the Delaware River. Credit: Living Lands and Waters.

Philadelphia Water is sponsoring a big clean up on the Delaware River with Living Lands and Waters and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and we're still looking for some fresh volunteers out on the water. In the first few clean up days, members of the community who care about the health of the Delaware have already collected nearly 10,000 pounds of trash!

That's almost five tons of litter and other pollution that would otherwise be hurting wildlife habitats and damaging a major Philadelphia drinking water source.
So don't just imagine what we could accomplish with a few more volunteer crewsput an exclamation point on the end of your summer and join us!

Clean ups will be held this week and weekend, and continue through Tuesday, September 1. Designated work days will include two shifts, one from 9 a.m. to noon and one from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. In order to coordinate sites, all volunteers must RSVP by clicking here and filling out the form a the bottom of the page. Supplies and free food will be provided.

Cleaning crews will be based out of the following locations:

Penn’s Landing – 101 S Columbus Blvd Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Walnut East parking lot, closest to the Seaport Museum and Marina)

Ridley Park Marina- 401 S Swarthmore Ave Ridley Park, PA 19078

Delair Boat Ramp – 17 Derousse Avenue Pennsauken, NJ 08110

More details will be emailed to volunteers prior to event.

Living Lands & Waters is an Illinois-based environmental organization established by Chad Pregracke in 1998. Read more about the fascinating story behind Living Lands and Waters on their website. Questions? Contact Living Lands and Waters at 563.505.8321 or

From the Living Lands and Waters Instagram account:

Almost 10,000lbs of trash removed from the #DelawareRiver in just three #rivercleanups! #Philadelphia

A photo posted by Living Lands & Waters (@livinglandsandwaters) on

See What a Healthier River Looks Like at INVISIBLE RIVER

Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.
Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.

We have lots of ways to measure the improving quality of Philadelphia's two rivers, but one of our favorite is simply seeing more and more people think of the Schuylkill and Delaware as beautiful, natural places to visit for recreation and relaxation. Since everything we do comes back to protecting and enchancing water quality, we see the change in the way people think about our rivers as a real metric of success.

But, as much as our rivers have improved, not everyone knows about it, and many people are still physically cut off from accessing these urban treasures.
Helping to nudge people to the scenic and natural beauty of the Schuylkill River is INVISIBLE RIVER, a nonprofit whose mission is "to use art, outdoor activities and dynamic programming to build wise stewardship of our rivers and waterways, to create unique and otherworldly artistic celebrations and to engage the public in art and environmental education."

We can get behind that!

Over the last few years, INVISIBLE RIVER has created a lot of buzz with stunning acrobatic performances featuring dancers suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with the river acting as a breathtaking backdrop.
This year's big event will take place Saturday, August 29th from 2 to 8 p.m. and incorporates what Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich calls "a more open format than previous events."

Rather than just one big performance, this year will be more like a festival on the river that kicks off with an opening performance followed by lots of cool activities, with their trademark acrobatics as the grand finale.
A processional led by Positive Movement & Ecstatic Drill Team starts things off at Mander Recreation Center at 2140 N 33rd St. and Diamond Drive at 2 p.m., and a full day of activities will center around the festival area in the parking lot next to the St. Joseph’s University Boathouse, 2200 Kelly Drive. Participants are encourgaged to park at Mander take a walk to the river from there.

As one of the event sponsors, Philadelphia Water will be there too, partnering with Mural Arts to host some activities showing people how the green tools that make up Green City, Clean Waters are making the Schuylkill River even healthier. We'll also have members of our education team from the Fairmount Water Works there to provide some family fun.

Other INVISIBLE RIVER activities include free boating and paddling lessons, fishing lessons for kids, food trucks and vendors, and a beer garden.
Those who want to catch the Strawberry Mansion Bridge performance should be there at 5:30 p.m. There are lots of cool options for watching the performance, including "Bring Your Own Boat" and  a "Front Row Seats" program that lets people rent boats from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Check out the INVISIBLE RIVER website for more details, including transportation options like bike rentals and a special Phlash shuttle to help people get to the river.

"We have seen a change in the way people view the river, especially with the artists who interact with the river and the anglers who fish in the Schuylkill," says Vidich. "But for some people, there's still this cloud of past pollution hanging over the river, and we hope events like this can help change that."  

Student Street Art Spreads Important Message

Juliette Kang, a 4th grader from Germantown Friends who took one of the top prizes, installs her art at Penn's Landing with family and friends.
Juliette Kang, a 4th grader from Germantown Friends who took one of the top awards, installs her art at Penn's Landing with family and friends. Credit: PDE.

Our Green City, Clean Waters 2015 Art Contest is a gift that keeps on giving.

Throughout August, we’ve been working with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary to turn hand-drawn art submitted by local students into street art that's being placed near stormdrains in select locations across the city.
These fun, eye-catching installations, which originated from 1,300 student submissions, help spread an important message: only rain should go down the drain.

It might seem obvious to many of us, but for a long time, people thought of stormdrains as just another place to get rid of trash and, worse, unwanted household chemicals like motor oil from at-home oil changes, old paint and cleaning fluids. Because these sewers empty directly into the rivers and streams that provide wildlife habitats and our drinking water, that kind of dumping can be very harmful.
With their art, these students are helping to turn the tide on that kind of behavior and reminding all of us to make sure our street inlets are treated like what they are—direct links between our neighborhoods and waterways—and not like Dumpsters.

You can already find student art near Penn's Landing (in the Walnut Street Plaza, near the parking lot); at our Saylor Grove wetland installation in Fairmount Park; at Gifford Park (by the main park entrance) in the Far Northeast; at Picariello Playground (inside the playground) in the Morrell Park neighborhood; and at Lanier Park at 30th Street and Tasker in South Philly.
Over the next week, the creative output of these students will be affixed to the streets, sidewalks or other hard surface near drains in the following places:

• Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center, Catharine Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway
• 30th Street Station, Market Street and 30th Street
• Ralph Brooks Park, Fernon Street and 20th Street
• McPherson Square, E Street and E. Indiana Avenue
• Philadelphia Protestant House, Tabor Avenue and Martins Mill Road
• Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, West Chelton Avenue and North 18th Street
• Max Myers Playground, Hellerman Street
• Lanier Park, Tasker and 30th Street
• Guerin Recreation Center, 16th and Jackson
• Moss Park, 5700 Torresdale Avenue

 If you see some, take a photo and share it on social media with the hashtags #PhillyWaterArt and #CleanWaterArt and help spread this important message! As we do the installations, we’ll take photos and share them, so be sure to follow along on Twitter at @PhillyH2O and @DelawareEstuary

Q&A Shines Light on Philly's Green Infrastructure Story

Our very own fearless leader, Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug, sat down with the chief editor of Water Online, Kevin Westerling, for an extensive Q&A that shines light our internationally recognized green solution to Philadelphia's stormwater challenges - Green City, Clean Waters. And, we have to say, it's a flattering and fascinating read. Titled "'Super' Advice From Philadelphia's Water Commissioner," Westerling opens his piece by saying "It's not often that you have the opportunity to talk to a 'superhero' of sustainability," and goes on to cite our favorite magazine cover ever:

(Grid Magazine, December 2013.)

Here's a quick excerpt from the Water Online story's introduction:

Nationally, Neukrug's work is lauded and emulated. Philadelphia's Green City, Clean Waters program is a model of stormwater management, and also a template for urban beautification and revitalization. In addition to receiving numerous accolades for water management and pollution prevention — Green City, Clean Waters was started in 2011 to reduce Philadelphia's combined sewer overflows (CSOs) — Neukrug was recently granted the 2015 Arbor Day Award for PWD’s greening of Philadelphia.

Click here to read on as they discus topics like how Green City, Clean Waters could be reproduced in other cities, increased investment in drinking water infrastructure and what we're doing to reduce water main breaks, climate change, funding for green tools, how green infrastructure fits into the bigger picture of maintaining traditional infrastructure, and how tools like our biogas power generation at a Water Pollution Control Plant can tie everything together.

Water Online describes their site as "the leading source of technical information and thought leadership for the drinking water and wastewater treatment community."

Good (Green) News for a Riverwards Gem

Above: A map showing the planned location of four new green stormwater tools in Harrowgate Park. Click for a larger image. Source: Philadelphia Water.

Harrowgate’s green jewel—a public square located at Kensington Avenue and E. Tioga Street—is about to get a little greener thanks to a new project from Green City, Clean Waters.

Given Harrowgate Park was (according to Wikipedia lore, at any rate) named after an English spa resort in the 1780s as a tribute to the area’s healthy spring waters, it’s fitting that the coming improvements for this Riverwards greenspace will once again make this a place where water flows more naturally.

About 50 residents at a meeting of the newly formed Harrowgate Civic Association learned about plans for four new rain gardens, which will use plants and natural landscapes to slow and filter stormwater from nearby streets, during a presentation from Philadelphia Water earlier this month. The goal of the green tools is to reduce excess rainwater from entering sewers, where overflows end up putting harmful sewage into our rivers.

The current Harrowgate Park schedule calls for construction of the rain garden infrastructure to begin this winter, followed by plant installations in the spring. Shrubs and flowers selected for the site include red twig dogwood, Japanese holly, black-eyed susan and echinacea. Work should wrap up in summer 2016.

The project, which will also include tree pruning and removal of a dead tree near the northwest edge of the park, was first selected for Green City, Clean Waters’ Green Parks program in 2012 and has been made possible by working alongside Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.

Related: What’s a Rain Garden, and How Do They Work?

Throwback Thursday: Our Infrastructure Foundations

In this week's throwback post, we see some large mains under construction
August 4th, 1904— almost exactly 111 years ago.
As the three large, cast iron mains are laid in a Northeast neighborhood, some residents have gathered to watch the construction activity.

We couldn't help but take a closer look at the awesome facial hair on the guy on the right side of the photo (see the close-up of him below). Maybe this is really Fishtown, circa 2015?