Green Infrastructure on the Evening News?! Yes Please.

As advocates for green solutions to stormwater challenges, we always love to see the conversation about green infrastructure taking place outside of the usual planning and engineering circles.

So, we were naturally thrilled when 6ABC ran a short clip about the new “living wall” project on 3rd Street in Independence Park! Since this project is designed to inspire others to think about green infrastructure as something that can be beautiful AND good for the environment, we certainly think this stunning billboard for green tools deserves its (at least!) 15 seconds of fame.

Check out the segment 6ABC aired on Friday below, and read more about the living wall and the partners that made it possible by clicking here.

Join Us: Updates on E. Poplar and Point Breeze Green Infrastructure Improvements

We have two community meetings coming up this week to update residents on plans for green infrastructure improvements in their neighborhoods. These meetings are designed to provide important information about upcoming construction and to get feedback from neighbors, so if you live near one of these projects, please come out to learn more!

First up: East Poplar Playground and Field improvements

This map shows the location of proposed green infrastructure investments near the East Poplar neighborhood. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

This map shows the location of proposed green infrastructure investments near the East Poplar neighborhood. Click the map for a larger image in a new window. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Philadelphia Water first started discussions in 2014 with Parks and Recreation, the West Poplar Community Development Corporation, members of the Teens 4 Good farm at 8th and Poplar and others to see how Green City, Clean Waters investments could improve the area and help manage stormwater in a green way.

Since then, we've used their feedback to inform plans for green stormwater infrastructure around the East Poplar Playground and nearby athletic field. In addition, we’ve planned several projects for nearby streets in the same neighborhood.

Our goal is to reduce the volume of polluted stormwater entering local sewers that connect to the Delaware River with green tools that beautify the area – but we’re working with neighbors to make sure that doesn’t impact community gardens or people playing sports on the field.
We’ll be hosting a meeting to update residents on the progress of stormwater management plans for the East Poplar neighborhood on Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 6-7 p.m. at the John F. Street Community Center, 1100 Poplar St.
Please click here to view a full size version of the meeting flyer.

Thursday, Oct. 15: Wharton Square Community Meeting

This map shows the location of proposed green infrastructure investments near the Point Breeze neighborhood. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
This map shows the location of proposed green infrastructure investments near the Point Breeze neighborhood. Click the map for a larger image in a new window. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Talks about Green City, Clean Waters improvements around Wharton Square in the Point Breeze neighborhood are just getting started, so this is a great meeting for those who want to provide feedback and learn more about what this investment can bring to the neighborhood.

In addition to a project at Wharton Square, Philadelphia Water is also working on two vacant lots and several streets in the area. View the map above to see the locations of upcoming and completed projects. Please click here for a full size version of our meeting flyer and bring your neighbors to the Wharton Square Recreation Center, 23rd and Wharton streets, on Oct. 15 from 6-7 p.m.!

New Bill Encourages Green Roofs, Density

Water industry representives from across North America check out the Paseo Verde green roof in North Phila. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water.
Water industry representatives from across North America check out the Paseo Verde green roof in North Phila. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water.

Green City, Clean Waters is the biggest plan in the U.S. designed to manage stormwater with green infrastructure, and that means Philadelphia Water will take all the help it can get from developers who want to add value to their properties while also lessening the negative environmental impacts with green stormwater tools.

On October 8th, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Chair of the Council Committee on the Environment, introduced a bill that would give the development community a new incentive to include one of the most talked about green infrastructure tools out there – green roofs.

Brown’s bill would allow for density zoning bonuses for developers who incorporate approved green roofs into building designs.

"As a City, we have been steadily increasing incentives to build green roofs, and it is working. Philadelphia is now the number three City in North America when it comes to green roof square footage, trailing only Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada; that is huge," Councilwoman Reynolds Brown said in statement released by her office.

Green roofs would have to meet Philadelphia Water's design standards to qualify for the density bonus, and Commissioner Howard Neukrug offered support for the new bill.

"We thank Councilwoman Reynolds Brown for helping to provide this added incentive that will create more green roofs in Philadelphia," said Neukrug. "Green roofs help to manage stormwater, keeping it from overwhelming our sewer system and polluting our rivers. This legislation will also help make green roofs more affordable and help create more jobs for our local green business community."

Under the current code, a 10,000 square foot lot in a Residential Multi Family Zoning District (RM-1) would be zoned for twenty dwelling units. If the developer added an approved green roof to the design, the same lot would be zoned for 27 units.

In a Neighborhood Commercial Mixed Zoning District (CMX-2 and CMX-2.5) a 10,000 square foot building is currently zoned for 19 dwelling units and under the new law, would be zoned for 27 units, provided they install an approved green roof.

A green roof is defined by the ordinance as “a treatment to a rooftop that supports living vegetation and includes a synthetic, high quality waterproof membrane, drainage layer, root barrier, soil layer, and vegetation layer.”

Philadelphia would join a small but growing number of cities offering density bonuses for green roofs including San Diego, Portland, Ore., Chicago, and Austin. The bill will be referred to the Committee on the Rules, Chaired by Councilman Bill Greenlee, who expects a fall 2015 hearing.

To see a full copy of the bill, please click here.

City Council Imagined a Day Without Water - And They Didn't Like It

This graphic, produced by Value of Water, shows we aren't alone in dealing with main breaks. Over the last 5 years, Philadelphia Water averaged 823 water main breaks per year, a fairly typcial number for similar cities. Credit: Philadelphia Water/Value of Water.
This graphic, produced by Value of Water, shows we aren't alone in dealing with main breaks. Over the last 5 years, Philadelphia Water averaged 823 water main breaks per year, a fairly typical number for similar cities. Credit: Philadelphia Water/Value of Water.

As a part of the national "Imagine a Day Without Water" campaign, City Council backed a resolution recognizing the importance of our water infrastructure and the need for both local and federal investment to maintain the pipes and systems that deliver, remove and treat our water.

We're thrilled that Philly's elected officials (officially) get just how important it is to keep our water flowing! In the Tuesday, Oct. 1 session, City Council overwhelmingly approved the resolution. You can view the document here, and we've included the full text below.

MORE: Read Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug's Inquirer Op-Ed Here

Since there are roughly 2,000 employees at Philadelphia Water working 24/7/365 to make sure you always have clean, safe drinking water and that our rivers are protected and healthy, we know the importance of having water. And even just one day without water would more than inconvenient—it could be catastrophic.

It's more than brushing your teeth, having a cup of coffee and, of course, staying hydrated. So much—from the food we grow to our power plants and life-saving fire hydrants—depends on the nation's water infrastructure. And yet, we often take it for granted until something breaks because so much of this crucial system is hidden beneath our feet. In Philadelphia alone, there are enough pipes and sewers to stretch from here to California and back again, and much of that system is aging.
We've budgeted $767 million in 2016 to keep Philadelphia's water infrastructure running, but the system is still aging, and costs will rise.

That's why we're part of the "Imagine a Day Without Water" campaign, organized by the national Value of Water Coalition, to raise awareness about the need for infrastructure investment.
Learn more about this important issue at the Value of Water website, check out City Council's resolution below, and be sure to keep read an important message from Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug and former Pa. Governor Ed Rendell (now co-chair at Building America's Future) on the Philadelphia Inquirer's opinion page.

City Council’s Imagine a Day Without Water Resolution -  Full Text:

Recognizing the Philadelphia Water Department and the “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign being held October 6-8 2015 which is geared toward recognizing the importance of clean water in our lives and the investment in infrastructure that is necessary to protect this valuable resource.

Whereas, the infrastructure that brings water to and from homes and businesses is essential to the quality of life and economic vitality of the city of Philadelphia; and

Whereas, Philadelphia residents on average utilize 87 gallons of water per person, per day; and

Whereas, Philadelphia has almost 3,200 miles of water mains with an average age of 70 years; and treats over 250 million gallons of drinking water per day and over 471 million gallons of wastewater and stormwater per day, providing reliable and clean water to over 2 million people; and

Whereas, while utilities nationwide are grappling with aging infrastructure, Philadelphia Water is making prudent and sustainable investments guided by a 10-year capital plan; and

Whereas, Philadelphia Water has been a model for innovation, delivering notable projects such as the Contaminant Warning System and the Biogas Cogeneration facility; and

Whereas, Philadelphia will invest $2 billion over 25 years in its Green Cities, Clean Water program to ensure clean water and an ever-greener Philadelphia for present and future generations; and

Whereas, green stormwater infrastructure will not only ease the burden on our sewers but will provide a maximum return in benefits to the public, the economy and the environment; and

Whereas, one-fifth of the U.S. economy would grind to a halt without a reliable and clean source of water; and

Whereas, for every one job created in the water sector, another 3.68 jobs are added in the national economy. And for every $1 spent on infrastructure improvements, the U.S .generates $6 in returns; now; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, that the City of Philadelphia recognizes that water is essential to the quality of life and economic competitiveness and acknowledges the importance of educating the public about the value of water through the “Imagine A Day Without Water” campaign.

FURTHER RESOLVED , that the City of Philadelphia is dedicated to investing in the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure and calls on our federal partners to bring much-needed funding to Philadelphia to protect and restore our critical water infrastructure.

Come Celebrate the New Independence Park Living Wall

We're inviting everyone to check out the new "living wall" installation at 3rd and Walnut streets during a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m. You can learn more about this amazing billboard for green stormwater solutions by clicking here.  Details on Friday's event can be found on the invite below (click the image for a larger copy). We hope you'll come out and learn more from Philadelphia Water our partners in this exciting project!


Can a Vacant Lot Be Beautiful AND Work for Our Rivers and Streams? We Say Yes.

This map provides an overview of planned improvements at 55th and Hunter. Click the image for a larger version. Credit: Philadelphia Water. 

On Tuesday, we broke ground on a new project—our first official vacant lot site—that truly speaks to what the Green City, Clean Waters program is all about.

At its core, Green City, Clean Waters is about improving the water quality in our rivers and streams. But it’s also about improving our neighborhoods with green stormwater infrastructure that greens and beautifies communities. And it’s about forging partnerships with officials, other departments and government agencies, community groups, and non-profit organizations so that we can bring the benefits of Green City, Clean Waters to a diverse range of community improvement projects—from stormwater tree trenches added to routine sidewalk repairs to rain gardens that enhance schoolyard makeovers.

Our Heston Lot and Baker Playground project has all of those elements. Located in the in the city’s Hestonville neighborhood, the playground and adjacent vacant lot at 55th and Hunter streets has long been in the care of dedicated groups like the Hestonville Civic Association and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), which has maintained the lot through the LandCare program. But, three years ago, City Councilman Curtis Jones approached Philadelphia Water to see if we wanted to get involved in efforts to revamp Baker and make Heston Lot a more inviting, park-like space for the neighborhood.

Because we’re always looking for ways to expand the Green City, Clean Waters footprint, we jumped at the chance and set to work in designing green tools for the two sites. That was in 2012. Now, construction is underway, and we’re inviting the community to an Oct. 7 ground breaking celebration to learn more about what’s in store. Click Here For Event Details.

Councilman Jones is in the process of implementing Heston Lot improvements that include fresh sidewalks, a new gazebo with benches and a wheel chair access path. The City’s Department of Public Property, which owns the lot, helped raise funds for the gazebo. Across the street at Baker, Jones is working with and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to bring improvements that include sidewalk upgrades, a Mural Arts installation and new heater. PHS is also donating a post-and-rail fence for Heston Lot. In all, Jones’ office contributed $140,000 for the projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also generously kicked in funding to help us with these projects and another nearby vacant land site.

To enhance those improvements and meet the stormwater management goals of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia Water is building rain gardens and subsurface storage trenches at both sites. While the rain gardens will provide landscaped green space for the neighborhood, we’re upping the community beautification aspects of the project by working with Mural Arts to install a water-themed mural at Heston Lot. Designed by artists Eurhi Jones and Michael Reali, the colorful piece highlights neighborhood connections to the Schuylkill River and includes aquatic wildlife such as American shad, river otters and a heron. Reali will add textural dimension to Jones’ design, making some of the water elements sparkle and shine through the use of mosaic materials.

From an environmental perspective, the Heston Lot rain garden and storage trench will soak up and filter water from surrounding streets, and can hold 3,638 cubic feet of water. That’s equivalent to filling one SEPTA bus, 389 bathtubs, or leaving the faucet running for nearly 9.5 days! Across the street at Baker, that rain garden and storage trench will manage stormwater from 11,269 square feet of nearby impervious surfaces. The playground’s green tools have a stormwater storage capacity of 1,417 cubic feet, which is equivalent to 151 bathtubs of water or leaving a faucet running for over 88 hours. Combined, these sites provide the city with an additional 2.27 “greened acres”— that’s acres of impervious surface whose stormwater is now managed by Green City, Clean Waters tools.

While the actual green tools currently being built in Hestonville are pretty typical for Green City, Clean Waters, we’re excited about the potential to bring more green infrastructure projects like this to other vacant land sites in the city. The negative impact of vacant lots on communities is well documented. If we can work with partners to tackle the challenges of vacant lots through Green City, Clean Waters, we’re effectively delivering a one-two punch that knocks out blighted areas and turns them into valuable community green spaces that also help improve our rivers and streams.

Healthier rivers and streams. Greener, more beautiful neighborhoods. That’s what Green City, Clean Waters is all about, and the work underway at Heston Lot is shining example of what the program can achieve.

We’re Preparing for Heavy Rains – You Should Too

Flooding seen along Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park during Hurricane Irene in 2011. In that storm, the Schuylkill River hit a high water mark not seen since 1869. Photo Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Flooding seen along Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park during Hurricane Irene in 2011. In that storm, the Schuylkill River hit a high water mark not seen since 1869. Photo Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Whether Joaquin is a hurricane, tropical storm, or something else by the time that system reaches us, chances are we’ll see some intense rain. Philadelphia Water has been preparing for the upcoming heavy rain events by clearing inlets in low lying areas and inspecting other inlets to make sure they are clean.

We’re also working to make sure any intersections we know may typically flood will be closely monitored in case they need to be closed off due to high water levels. Our staff will monitor river levels for any tidal flooding that may occur, and have crews working to maintain our systems during these intense rain events.

Here are several tips to help ensure our customers (that’s you) are prepared for the storm too:

• Make sure if you live in a flood-prone area that you remove all valuables and electronic equipment from your basement floors. If you have had basement flooding in the past, you’ll want to make sure that items are placed on a shelf at least higher than the last high water mark, or bring it to a higher floor.

• Do not enter your basement if there is standing water, as the risk of electrocution exists. You should always wait until the water subsides.

• Do your best to seal any floor drains, as the water from the sewer would typically back up through the lowest point in your home.

• If you have sewer backups into your basement, you’d want to make sure you sanitize your basement properly. One quarter cup of bleach per gallon of water is recommended to clean all surfaces that any water touches. Make sure you properly dry the basement as well to help reduce the risk of mold buildups.

• You should always have bottled water in your home as well as flashlights and batteries in case of a loss of power.

Philadelphia Water always asks our customers to be our eyes on the ground, and you can assist us in spotting any trouble areas we may not be aware of. Should you see a flooded intersection, or if you're receiving water in the basement from plumbing fixtures, call us at 215-685-6300. This information is vital to keep records of flood locations and how these storms impact our systems. We would also be able to monitor those inlets should they be part of the reason for any street flooding, not necessarily sewer backups.

If you’re a customer and you experience any basement flooding through your fixtures, you may be eligible for our Basement Backup Protection Program. Call our hotline to get more information on this free program at 215-685-6300.

And remember, above all, be safe and take flood and weather warnings seriously!

What About All the Thirsty Papal Pilgrims? We’ve Got Them (and You) Covered


Watch this short video to learn more about how we make your water safe. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, there’s still plenty of speculation about just how many people will be in town for World Meeting of Families events. The most recent reported projections range anywhere between 300,000 and 1 million visitors and event organizers are prepared for as many as 1.5 to 2 million people.

To be on the safe side, Philadelphia Water used the upper end of that estimate in calculations aimed at ensuring our drinking water system will be able to handle whatever the Pope crowds can throw at it.

The short answer is that, yes, our system can provide plenty of safe drinking water for the city and any additional visitors this weekend.

To get to that conclusion, our Water Planning Team looked at factors like the level of demand recorded between Sept. 22-28 over the last six years, as well as the level of demand during other big events like recent Welcome America celebrations. Predictably, higher temperatures were the most consistent factor in increased demand. Most large events, however, didn’t create a significantly higher demand for water.

That said, it’s worth noting that temperatures during the Papal visit should top out in the mid-70s—a nice cool weekend for outdoor events.

Philadelphia Water typically delivers an average of 225 million gallons per day to the distribution system. The potential water demand during the Papal Visit may increase up to 278 million, according to our analysis. But, even if demand increased by 53 million gallons, Philadelphia Water would still be able to keep up. That’s because our water treatment facilities are designed to cumulatively produce up to 623 million gallons per day under optimal and fully functioning conditions. On top of that, the storage capacity for treated and untreated water in the combined drinking water plant and distribution system provides a substantial quantity— 1.065 billion gallons—to meet demand increases.

What does all that mean? It means that Philadelphia Water’s advanced and robust drinking water system is designed to make sure we all have 24/7 access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water, even during big events like this.

And, just in case you’re wondering what happens with all the waste from the Papal Port-a-Potties, we’ll be treating it at our Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant.

More: How Do We Make Water Drinkable? This Graphic Shows It All.