Submersible Science: Philly Students Launch Underwater Drone with PWD

Submersible Science: Philly Students Launch Underwater Drone with PWD

While most Philadelphia students were heading home early due a heat wave this past Tuesday, four 11th grade students from Mariana Bracetti Academy were busy suiting up in full-body chest waders, a necessary piece of gear for the mission at hand: launching a submersible, camera-equipped drone in Frankford Creek.

Undaunted by the steamy temps, the students’ maiden voyage was the culmination of five weekly afterschool sessions they had spent assembling the drone through a program called greenSTEM. An effort of the Philadelphia Water Department, the educational program shows local students how jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields support the department’s watershed protection work.

Built using a kit greenSTEM instructors Matthew Fritch and Maria Horowitz obtained with the Fairmount Water Works through a CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership) grant, the propeller-driven rover fits in a suitcase and resembles a mashup of the original R2-D2 and a tabletop video projector.

Clearly eager to give it a spin, students Manuela Duran, Angel Cruz, Luz Gonzalez-Mateo and Candy Lucero-Sanchez were joined along Juniata Golf Club section of the stream by their teacher, Lauren DeHart.

Start a Conversation About Protecting Water: Add Wildlife Markers to Your Block

Adding our storm drain markers—each with a unique type of aquatic wildlife depending on your watershed—to your block can start a conversation with neighbors about how communities can protect local waterways.

Many people don't realize that what goes down storm drains can harm local animals like otters, turtles, herons, endangered fish and more.

The truth is, cleaner neighborhoods and cleaner streets mean cleaner Philly rivers and creeks!

Find out what watershed you live in here and then sign up for a free wildlife marker kit featuring your local watershed!

Below: Check out our PhillyH2O Instagram series exploring the wildlife on each watershed's marker:

Poquessing Watershed: Bog Turtle

Happy #WorldTurtleDay #Philly! Did you know that the bog turtle—the smallest North American turtle, rarely exceeding 4 inches!—is featured on our #Poquessing Watershed storm drain markers? Sadly, these cute little guys are threatened in #Pennsylvania due to the loss of habitat. They need clean wetlands with saturated soil that's deep and mucky. You can protect their home by keeping our streets and parks clean and free of harmful chemicals like spilled motor oil. Use our profile link to find out what critter is featured in your watershed and sign up for a free marking kit to do a cool #volunteer activity in your neighborhood! #PHL #CleanWatersPHL #KeepItCleanPhilly #Stormdrains #PoquessingWatershed #threatenedspecies #wildPA #urbanwildlife #bogturtle #ProtectTheSchuylkill #ProtectTheDelaware #EstuaryPeople #SchuylkillRiver #DelawareRiver

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Wissahickon Watershed: Red Salamander

We had so much fun sharing yesterday’s bog turtle storm drain marker for the Poquessing Watershed, we’re going to share each of Philly’s watershed markers + a fun fact about the featured critter over the next six days. Today: the Wissahickon Watershed’s marker, which features the brilliant northern red salamander, known as Pseudotriton ruber. The temperate forests found along the #WissahickonCreek/@wissahickonwatershed provide ideal habitat for this amphibian, which can be as long as 7 inches. They like to eat bugs, worms, spiders, snails, small crustaceans and even smaller salamanders. Female red salamanders don’t mature until they are around five years old. Fun fact: As a member of the Plethodontidae family these bright red salamanders lack lungs and breathe through their skin! While abundant in #Pennsylvania and found throughout much of the Eastern U.S., they are considered endangered in Indiana. Think you might live in the Wissahickon Watershed? Use our profile link to find out + sign up for free storm drain marking kits so your neighbors know they can help protect the red salamander by keeping our streets and storm drains free of litter and harmful chemicals. You can also help protect their habitat by volunteering with groups like the @fowissahickon In this gallery: A great photo of #PseudotritonRuber from @kyleshikes + a map of the Wissahickon (black lines are #Philly limits) Watershed’s boundaries from our watershed locator, available in the profile link. - - - - #reptilesandamphibians #paherps #whyilovephilly #CleanWatersPHL #PaWildlife #phillyh2o #urbanwildlife

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Tookany/Tacony-Frankford: Great Blue Heron

Next in our series exploring our watershed storm drain markers: the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford’s Great Blue Heron. Swipe through this gallery to see a photo of a #TaconyCreek #blueheron pic from @ttfwatershed’s Robin Irizarry & a map of the watershed. (Use profile link to see if you live in the the watershed/get a free kit with this marker) N. America’s largest + most widespread heron, they stand tall on thin, lanky legs & have a stunning wingspan of up to 6.6 feet—way taller than the average person in America! Their striking appearance makes them seem much heavier than they actually are; they typically only weigh 5 to 6 pounds. Blue Herons are excellent hunters. If you hike quietly on the #TaconyCreekTrail, there’s a chance you’ll get to watch one of these birds as they stalk prey in the water, standing motionless for long periods until their next snack reveals itself. Places like #TaconyCreekPark provide an excellent place to hunt their favorite meal: fish. Healthy creeks also contain smaller creatures heron love to munch on, including salamanders, frogs, snakes & small rodents. The #AudubonSociety even reports birds seen stalking gophers in fields! Fun fact: If you visit the @audubonsociety profile on blue heron at Audubon.org, you can hear some of the wild noises they make, such as the croaks given upon landing, alarm croaks, their calls, the clattering of their nestlings and other sounds from blue heron colonies. We don’t know what dinosaurs sounded like, but we sure can imagine them sounding like these guys! Live in the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed? Use our profile link to sign up for free storm drain marking kits so your neighbors know they can help protect the Great Blue Heron by keeping our streets and storm drains free of litter and harmful chemicals. @ttfwatershed also offers lots of volunteer and #birding activities. H/T to #phillyartist @louis_a_cook for designing this series with PWD! #igers_philly #phillygram #pabirding #BirdPhilly #NEPhilly #tacony #taconycreek #FrankfordCreek #cleanWatersPHL #watershedstewardsPHL #Phillywatersheds #pawildlife #urbanwildlife #phillynature #circuittrails #whyilovephilly #onthecircuit

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Delaware Direct Watershed: American Shad

We are extremely excited to share #4 in our #PhillyWatersheds storm drain marker wildlife series because 2017 has been a huge migration year for the Delaware River Watershed’s species—the American shad! Use our profile link to see if you live in the watershed & order free sidewalk marking kits featuring this native fish. (Swipe through this gallery to see PWD scientist Joe Perillo w/ an American shad, shad migration up the #FairmountFishway + a map of the Delaware Direct Watershed.) A member of the herring family that spawns in the #DelawareRiver and #SchuylkillRiver but spends most of its life in saltwater, Alosa sapidissima have a rich history in #Philly. Pulitzer-winning environmental writer #JohnMcPhee dubbed them the “founding fish” because they’re credited with saving George Washington’s troops from starvation following the infamous winter encampment at #ValleyForge. Shad populations have been recovering from a devastating drop during the 20th century thanks to improving #waterquality, fishing regulations and other efforts, and this spring has seen a truly stunning migration as the #foundingfish returns to spawn in Philadelphia’s rivers. Many experts and fisherman are saying this has been the greatest spring spawning run in their lifetimes, and our own biologists have been documenting over 100 fish per minute while conducting #electrofishing sampling. We hope to share official estimates once the spring run concludes. Fun fact: Thanks to fish ladders like the one PWD maintains at the #FairmountDam (located across the river from @FairmountWW/@philamuseum), these returning fish can access upper reaches of rivers like the #Schuylkill. Swipe right to see a video of shad swimming up the ladder. If you live in the #DelawareWatershed use our profile link to sign up for free #stormdrainmarking kits so your neighbors know they can help protect the American shad by keeping our streets and storm drains free of litter and harmful chemicals. You can also help protect the Delaware by getting involved with groups like the @delawareestuary _ _ _ _ #estuaryscience #estuarypeople #science #cleanwatersphl #fieldwork #estuarycollaboration #shadfishing #sh

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Pennypack Watershed: Damselfly

We hope you had a good Memorial Day, #Philly! We’re continuing our #PhillyWatersheds storm drain marker wildlife series by diving into the #Pennypack Watershed. Featured on these markers is an insect that was flying around before dinosaurs even existed—the damselfly. Swipe through the gallery to see a Seepage Dancer damselfly from Pa.’s @northbranchlandtrust, a map of the #PennypackWatershed and the often-unseen damselfly nymph. Use profile link to get your free marker kits. These brightly colored creatures inhabit small bodies of water and feast on aquatic insects that live close to the surface. While they are predators, their smaller size compared to their relatives, the dragonfly, also makes them prey. With four wings that can beat 20-45 times per minute, damselflies can make quick, sudden getaways. While most people only see them as flying adults, they spend the first part of their lives under water as nymphs, sometimes living and hunting in the water for years. This fact makes them a favorite food for fish like trout, and storm drain marker artist @louis_a_cook cook selected them to represent Philadelphia’s aquatic insects because the Pennypack Creek is a favorite local trout stream where fly fishermen often imitate both nymph-stage and adult damselflies. Fun Fact: #Damselflies have massive eyes that give them nearly 360-degree vision. Because their young are sensitive to water pollution, the presence of damselflies is often the sign of a healthy ecosystem and great water quality. Thanks to improved watershed protection and organizations like @fopennypackpark, @pennypackfarm, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust and other groups that help keep the watershed clean, #PennypackCreek is an ideal place for damselflies to reside. Live in the Pennypack Watershed? Use our profile link to sign up for free storm drain marking kits so your neighbors know they can help protect the #damselfly by keeping our streets and storm drains free of litter and harmful chemicals. _ _ #igers_philly #phillygram #cleanWatersPHL #pawildlife #urbanwildlife #phillynature #circuittrails #whyilovephilly #entomology #bioindicators #patrout #pennypack #pennypacktrust #pennypackpark

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Schuylkill River Watershed: N. American River Otter

No. 6 in our #PhillyWatersheds storm drain marker wildlife series = practically a #Philly celebrity—the #Schuylkill’s N. American River Otter! Use our profile link find out if you live in this cute guy’s watershed and we’ll send you free kits to mark your street. Swipe for: #SchuylkillWatershed map + video of an otter passing through our #fishladder across from the @FairmountWW Why they’re popular: They’re cute & more people are seeing these very shy animals in the river near the @PhilaMuseum & @boathouse_row. Water pollution and over-trapping made otters scarce until recently. #CleanWaterAct & #wastewater control have helped bring them back. #SchuylkillOtters eat: Mostly fish, frogs & crustaceans like crayfish—all found in good numbers in the watershed. They live for up to 13 years in the wild, and typically have 1-3 #otterpups at a time. Fun Fact: River otters can close their ears & nostrils to keep water out, dive up to 60 ft. deep, & stay underwater for up to 8 minutes! Litter that gets washed into our rivers and streams can harm otters, as trash like plastic bags can entangle them. Chemicals like motor oil spilled in streets hurt their water too. Sign up for a free otter marking kit NOW to help your neighborhood learn that cleaner streets = cleaner rivers and creeks for our aquatic wildlife! You can also get involved with groups like @schuylkillwaters! _ _ _ #igers_philly #whyilovephilly #CleanWatersPHL #SchuylkillWaters #SchuylkillSoJourn #phillygram #fairmountpark #schuylkillriver #schuylkillrivertrail #ProtectTheSchuylkill #paWildlife #urbanwildlife #otters #LontraCanadensis #phillycares #zerowastephilly #PickItUpPhilly #SchuylkillRiver #SchuylkillBanks #GreenCityCleanWaters #schuylkillrivertrail

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Darby-Cobbs Watershed: Shortnose Sturgeon

Today we look at our final #PhillyWatersheds storm drain wildlife marker: #CobbsCreek’s shortnose sturgeon. Use our profile link to get free kits & mark your street! These endangered fish are often called “living fossils” for a reason: they’re among the oldest of a prehistoric type of bony fish that—resembling swimming dinosaurs—feature armored, boney plates called “scutes.” Swipe through to see an adult fish from the @ noaafisheries site + video of adult shortnose shared by the Delaware River Basin Commission. While they can be over 4 ft. long, they’re the smallest sturgeon species. Philadelphia is an important area for this fish, as they migrate to spawning areas above the city and return to our urban Delaware River habitat afterward in the spring. What they eat: According @wildlifenj to these unusual fish feel along the bottom with sensory “barbell” organs and vacuum up crustaceans, bugs, freshwater clams and mussels, snails, marine worms, crustaceans, small flounder, and a variety of other organisms. Fun Fact: Males can live to be 32 … but the ladies? They can be as old as 67! In just one spawning event, females produce anywhere from 40,000 to 200,000 eggs. Like several others species in featured in our marker series, a combination of overharvesting (their eggs were highly prized as caviar) and poor water quality wiped out shortnose sturgeon. Today, there are an estimated 12,000 of these #EndangeredSpeciesAct-protected fish in the #DelawareEstuary. PWD aquatic biologist Joe Perillo says that they’re a “big river fish” and not likely to be found in the #DarbyCobbsCreek. So why feature them on our Cobbs marker? Because keeping our tributaries healthy is a key part of keeping the larger Delaware River Watershed healthy! Use our profile link now to see if you live in the #CobbsWatershed and get FREE shortnose sturgeon kits to start a conversation with your @cobbscreekneighbor (s) on your block about protecting water! _ #CleanWatersPHL #igers_philly #whyilovephilly #phillygram #paWildlife #urbanwildlife #phillycares #zerowastephilly #PickItUpPhilly #shortnosesturgeon #watershedstewardsphl #sturgeon #cobbs #wildlifenj #wildlnj #PAWildlife #cleanwater #darbycreek

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Can You Decode Street Paint?

Beneath your feet, there’s an invisible universe of infrastructure.

This world is hidden from view, but painted lines on the surface reveal exactly what’s there—if you know what to look for. Swipe through this gallery featured on our Instagram account to find out what commonly seen paint colors on the street mean:

Philadelphia Water Department Customers Can Win $100, Improve Services with New Survey

Any customer over 18 is eligible to take the Philadelphia Water survey available by texting @WATER to 39242. Participants will automatically enter a raffle to win one of many $100 gift cards.

As part of ongoing efforts to improve our work and better understand the needs of customers, the Philadelphia Water Department is conducting a comprehensive survey intended collect feedback on a wide range of services.

The 2017 Customer Feedback Survey, made possible through a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, measures public opinion and allows the department to gauge what people in Philadelphia think about PWD and the services we provide.

Any customer over 18 is eligible to take the surveyParticipants will automatically enter a raffle to win one of many $100 gift cards. Survey instructions have been included in a flyer sent along with May 2017 water bills.

The survey can be accessed online here or by texting @WATER to 39242.

Just One Water Main Replacement Project = 4X the Comcast Center, And Some

This blog is part of our Infrastructure Week 2017 campaign. See our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for exclusive content not available on the blog. We’ll be talking about a variety of projects and topics May 15-19. Learn more about the infrastructure that keeps our city running and help us make the case for smart investments in our nation’s water, roads, bridges, airports and more.

If you follow local news at all, you’ve probably seen some of the dramatic footage showing major water main breaks that have left the stores of Bakers Centre in East Falls flooded three times in just three years:

Breaks like those at Bakers Centre are unusual for a few reasons, not least of which is amount of water that spilled. In Philadelphia over the last five years, we’ve average a little over two main breaks per day—a rate that is actually less than the national average. Most of our breaks involve mains that are under two inches in diameter and don’t make the news because the impacts are, in comparison, minor.

Infrastructure Week 2017: Our Time to Build

Infrastructure Week 2017

May 15-19 is Infrastructure Week 2017, and the Philadelphia Water Department is joining fellow utilities, cities, organizations and businesses around the country to highlight the importance of investing in infrastructure.

Infrastructure is what makes our communities work. It’s the investments we make together to make life better.
Generations before us had the vision to build roads, bridges, water mains and sewers, treatment plants, airports and more—all for a more prosperous future where people can count on basics like access to clean water.

Now, it’s our time to build and to take care of what those generations built for us.

Follow our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for exclusive content not available on the blog and check back for posts about big projects, innovative "living infrastructure" and more. You can also visit the Infrastructure Week site to get tools for your own infrastructure advocacy. 

To kick the week off, we’re sharing a piece Mayor Jim Kenney authored for the influential Brookings Institution think tank about the role Green City, Clean Waters can play in growing our city’s green workforce:

Here's a short video about our work that was posted to Facebook:

Love Your Park: Celebrate the Green Spaces Protecting Your Water

From the very beginning, the Fairmount Park system has been an important tool for protecting Philadelphia’s rivers and streams, and to read the history of our park system is to read a story of city planners striving to create natural buffers to protect rivers and streams from industry and development.

Rather than evolving away from that original purpose, our parks are today actually becoming more and more important for protecting the city’s seven watersheds.

As Philadelphians gather for Love Your Park Week—a celebration of our green spaces involving more than 80 volunteer service days and 40-plus special events in parks across Philadelphia from May 13-21—many of them will be tending to Parks and Recreation facilities that now feature special green tools created through the Green City, Clean Waters program.

The Philadelphia Water Department’s partnership with Parks and Recreation has been essential in achieving the ambitious goals of Green City, Clean Waters: drastically reducing pollution from runoff and sewer overflows through the creation of green infrastructure systems that soak up water from storms while creating new green spaces in our neighborhoods.

In 2016, Philadelphia celebrated the program’s fifth year and the fact that we’re exceeding greening and water quality targets set back when PWD proposed the nation’s first large-scale green stormwater infrastructure program.

Without the robust support of Parks and Recreation, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and groups like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Trust for Public Land, that might not be the case.

Resident Helps Spot—and Preserve—Some of Philly’s Oldest Water Infrastructure

In a city as old as Philadelphia, there’s a chance you’ll come across something historic pretty much any time you put a shovel into the ground.

That was the case on Wednesday, May 3 as workers replaced a water line along the 900 block of Spruce Street. During their excavation, they came across what looked like old logs:

Spruce Street Wooden Water Mains Uncovered

How old?