runoff

Schuylkill River Restoration Fund: Eight New Investments in River’s Health Announced

David Rice tells members of the Philadelphia Water Dept. that, without grant support, his farm wouldn’t have built special buildings, manure pits and surfaces that keep agricultural runoff out of a nearby Schuylkill River tributary.
David Rice tells members of the Philadelphia Water Dept. that, without grant support, his farm wouldn’t have built special buildings, manure pits and surfaces that keep agricultural runoff out of a nearby Schuylkill River tributary.

The Philadelphia Water Department works hard to protect the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers here in Philly, but an essential fact about water is that it’s a shared resource. Our watersheds don’t just provide drinking water for the 1.5 million people in Philadelphia—many millions more depend on these same waters at their kitchen taps, for agriculture, tourism and recreation, and more.

And what happens in the watersheds above Philadelphia matters for the huge number of people living downstream.

For perspective, consider that less than two percent of the watershed providing our source water falls within Philadelphia. When you look at our rivers that way, it becomes clear why a strong partnership approach is such a critical part of the effort to ensure top-quality drinking water.

That’s why we work with organizations like the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, which advocates for the health of one of our main drinking water sources and manages important programs like the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund (SRRF).

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, PWD joined fellow partners in announcing nearly $279,000 in SRRF grants that will help protect the Schuylkill through eight investments in places ranging from the rural headwaters to the North Light Community Center in urban Manayunk. (Full list of SRRF contributors here).

Out to Pasture: Philly Tours Farms Protecting Our Source Water

 Philadelphia Water toured Berks Co. farms on Friday, November 7 with Berks Nature. Credit: Brian Rademaekers/Philadelphia Water

KEMPTON, PA Pointing to a towering, soggy heap of what he calls "slop," Larry Lloyd traces with his finger a stream of water running from the base of a manure pile to a small drainage pipe that connects to an adjacent creek.

Nearby, rows of cows and calves calmly and mechanically chew hay. Without much noticing it, they are simultaneously creating what seems to be an endless supply of fresh manure for farmers to stack into yet more heaps. It’s hay in one end, water-polluting manure out the other.

And it never stops.

"This is what we’re up against," says Lloyd, a lanky, weather-tanned man in his 60s who sports a baseball cap and a pair of boots well-suited for his manure-rich job— getting local farmers to adopt smart runoff management practices.

Fightin' Phils: A Caddis Comeback?

The Philopotamid caddisfly larvae. Credit: Philadelphia Water
The Philopotamid caddisfly larvae. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Uh, not those Phils. With 62 losses already in the season and the All-Star break just behind us, we're talking about the comeback of a different kind of “Phils,” the aquatic insects of the family Philopotamidae.

The larvae of these tiny invertebrates, also known as fingernet spinning caddisflies, live under rocks in well-oxygenated areas of streams.
Philadelphia Water scientists have been surveying insects and other forms of aquatic life in Philadelphia area streams for more than 15 years now to assess water quality and habitat conditions. You’d be surprised what you can learn from bugs—they’re a big part of what scientists call “bioindicators.”

The last few years, we've noticed a bit of an uptick in the number of Phils in our samples—a good thing because these little guys are somewhat more sensitive to pollution than many other aquatic insects we usually find in urban streams.

Here's a look at what we've found since 2000:

Above: Percent Philopotamide caddisflies in Philadelphia Water stream survey samples 2000-2014. Note: No samples were taken in 2009-10. Each dot represents a specific sample location. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Above: Percent Philopotamide caddisflies in Philadelphia Water stream survey samples 2000-2014. Note: No samples were taken in 2009-10. Each dot represents a specific sample location.

It's too early to speculate on what might be responsible for the increase. Maybe intense storms in 2004 and 2005 depressed the numbers of Phils and we're just seeing a return to normal conditions. Maybe we're seeing more Phils because we've begun to spread our sampling stations around the various city streams a little more—nobody knows.

But it is, nevertheless, a good sign to see increased numbers of slightly more pollution-sensitive insects. We hope the trend keeps up as more stringent stormwater regulations, introduced July 1, are implemented and Green City, Clean Waters continues to grow. Those efforts will improve dissolved oxygen levels (good news for the Phils) in our waterways by reducing the amount of stormwater pollution entering our rivers and streams.

Read more about what you can do to give these Phils a fightin' chance on the Rain Check page.

Guest blogger Jason Cruz is an aquatic biologist at Philadelphia Water.

Wanted: A Few Good Spokesdogs for Healthy Water

Above: Last year’s Juniata Spokesdog, Gracie, after winning the crown. Credit: PDE and Philadelphia Water.
Above: Last year’s Juniata Spokesdog, Gracie, after winning the crown. Credit: PDE and Philadelphia Water.

It’s that time of year again, and two new neighborhoods are about to crown Philadelphia Water Spokesdogs.

For 2015, Fishtown and Washington Square West were selected as competing locales for the contest, which has been selecting a special pooch to spread the word about poo-lution since 2011. We’ll be accepting nominations for dogs from those neighborhoods through July 15. Guidelines and submission forms are available here. The Spokesdog program is held annually with the help of our friends at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

As always, the goal is to raise awareness about keeping dog waste out of our waterways by getting it off sidewalks, streets and grass right away with proper disposal techniques. We all know it’s pretty gross (and rude!) when pet owners don’t clean up after their furry friends, but many people don’t think about the health consequences, especially as they relate to water.

When pet waste is left on the sidewalks, streets or other surfaces, it gets washed into street-level sewer intakes by rain and ends up in our creeks and rivers completely untreated. That can lead to the presence of dangerous germs and excess nutrients that make water unsafe for recreation and more expensive to treat.

Here's what the Environmental Protection Agency has to say about the impact of waste left behind by careless pet owners:

Decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can threaten the health of humans and wildlife.  Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication).  Cloudy and green, eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.

As you can see, the environmental and public health threat is serious, and that's why we need a top-notch doggie to help show others the importance of bagging waste and putting it in a proper receptacle.

Typically, 30-80 dogs register in each neighborhood every year, so the competition is no joke. Of those, about a dozen dogs get selected for the doggie pageant, and best in show (determined with online votes in August) becomes Spokesdog.
With the crown come some real responsibilities—and some cool goodies.

Winning spokesdogs and their caretakers will attend at least three community events in 2015, distributing information on living the eco-friendly dog life. Small bag dispensers that clip to leashes and educational tipcards will be provided to hand out at these events. The educational tipcard explains how dog waste left on the ground breaks down and washes into local stormdrains every time it rains.

So, how about those prizes?

The 1st Place Spokesdog—“Philly Water’s Best Friend”—gets the following:

• $200 prize from a local business

• Image used in promotional pieces

• Toy & cookie prize pack

For the Runner Up (picked in case the 1st Place Spokesdog is unable to fulfill their duties):

• $50 prize from a local business

• Toy & cookie prize pack

All finalists in attendance at the awards ceremony will also receive a toy and cookie prize.
If you know of a worthy pup from Washington Square West or Fishtown, send in your application now and vote for them to become Philly famous!

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