Source Water Protection Program

10 Days Left to Apply for Schuylkill River Restoration Fund Grants

Kelly Anderson of PWD's Source Water Protection Program addresses a group at the 2016 event annoucing last year's grant winners.
Kelly Anderson of PWD's Source Water Protection Program addresses a group at the 2016 event annoucing last year's grant winners.

The 2017 Schuylkill River Restoration Fund Grant Round is now open! Letters of Intent must be submitted to the Schuylkill River Heritage Area by February 16.

Source Water Protection Catches Industry Spotlight

The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA
The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA

Our Source Water Protection Program is getting more recognition, this time from a leading industry publication, the Journal - American Water Works Association (JAWWA).  

Their April 2015 edition featured an in-depth look at Philadelphia Water’s source water protection efforts in an article titled “Philadelphia’s One-Water Approach Starts With Source Water Protection.”

The piece explores the far-reaching efforts of the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP), which works with a number of partners to maintain the health of the Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds, from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the furthest reaches of the rivers and their tributaries.

The Philadelphia Water employees who authored the report include Elizabeth Couillard, an engineer for SWPP since 2012; Molly D. Hesson, an engineer with the SWPP team since 2006; Kelly Anderson, Program Manager for the SWPP; Mary Ellen McCarty, the Watershed Information Program Manager in PWD’s Office of Watersheds; and Chris Crockett, the Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Environmental Services at PWD and the founder of the SWPP.

Described on the AWWA website as “the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water,” the 50,000-member association has been around since 1881 (which means PWD has them beat by a mere 80 years!).

Getting an article printed in a journal with such a large membership provides PWD with an opportunity to share our successful source water protection efforts with other industry experts, and puts a spotlight on the work behind programs like our Early Warning System Partnership, which just took home a big Environmental Excellence award.

“At a time when we hear so many stories of the impact of human activity on drinking water supplies in the news, understanding and promoting the concept of ‘one water’ is increasingly important. This article was a great opportunity to share PWD's unique perspective as an integrated utility, providing multiple water-related services—drinking water supply, wastewater collection and stormwater management—to customers in Philadelphia,” says Couillard. “PWD’s Source Water Protection Program is charged with protecting Philadelphia’s water supply from upstream threats and is in a unique position to use department experience in each of these services here in the city and then apply them to protection strategies upstream.”

Philadelphia Water thanks the authors of the JAWWA article and all the people who make up the SWPP team for getting the word out about all the hard work we do to make sure Philly always has safe, clean water on tap.
Want to know more about the Source Water Protection Program? Click here.

Philadelphia Water's Early Warning System Getting Praise from High Places

Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.
Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.

Our Source Water Protection Program at Philadelphia Water does all kinds of important work to ensure the water we drink is safe and protected, from far-off springs in the Catskill and Pocono mountains all the way down to the intakes at our drinking water treatment plants.  However, one of the most critical jobs is overseeing the Delaware Valley Early Warning System–a complex network that stretches from the Delaware Water Gap all the way to Wilmington, Del. and provides a way to sound the alarm when incidents like spills and flooding events occur. 

In recognition of the hard work the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP) does to make sure this crucial web-based system is constantly updated to provide the fastest possible warning and response during emergency situations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection selected the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) for the 2015 Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.  Our EWS will be among 15 other programs honored during a special dinner on April 28 in Harrisburg. The award recognizes “the development of a project that promotes environmental stewardship and economic development in the state,” according to the Pa. DEP website.

At its core, the EWS has a simple goal: to notify drinking water suppliers and other water consumers along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers of spills and accidents that occur upstream as quickly as possible. Doing that requires a sophisticated network of over 300 users representing 50 organizations that make up what’s called the EWS Partnership.  Groups within the Partnership can access the system via the EWS telephone hotline or website to alert the network about spills and other incidents, and high-tech features like real-time water quality monitoring and computer models showing how quickly contaminants are moving downstream provide additional information for quick and smart decision making.

Last year, the Source Water team made the EWS even better by implementing a new computer model that predicts the tidal movement of water–critical information during a spill or flood scenario–in the lower Delaware River, where tides play a role in where water goes. This greatly enhanced detail on tidal flows in the Delaware Estuary is of tremendous value to places like PWD’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant, which supplies approximately 60 percent of the city with drinking water.

Given Philadelphia’s location along two rivers at the very bottom of a watershed with plenty of industrial activity, incidents requiring the use of the EWS are inevitable.  This reality makes the work of the SWPP team–and especially maintenance of the warning system–incredibly important, so we are particularly proud of this award from the Pa. DEP. Keep on keeping us safe!

Raise a glass to celebrate 40 Years of the Safe Drinking Water Act!

Photo by Bill Kelly

Happy Birthday, Safe Water Drinking Act!
You truly are getting better with age!


On December 16, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed Washington Democratic Senator Warren Magnuson’s Senate Bill 433 into law creating Public Law 93-523: the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The law went into effect the next day and authorized the EPA “to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.”

The law has been amended twice (1986 and 1996) to include many actions that protect drinking water and the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and wells that supply it. As part of our compliance with the EPA’s regulations, PWD produces an annual Drinking Water Quality Report  and maintains a Source Water Protection Program that has made our Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds cleaner now than they have been in over a century! Of course we still face many challenges to keeping our rivers and drinking water clean, but, hey, it’s what we love to do!

Most of us don’t give a second thought when we put our glass under our tap and fill it with water. And that’s true whether we’re taking that drink here in Philadelphia or in a hotel in Hawaii or a campground in Alaska. Aside from very rare instances (and for PWD customers, so rare to be virtually non-existent), the water from our tap can be trusted to be clean and safe, in part, because of compliance with the SDWA and the billions of dollars of infrastructure investment that keeping in compliance has required. That we can take our tap for granted is even more amazing when you consider how many parts of the world—for lack of funding, dysfunctional governments, or natural shortages—spend a major part of their daily lives finding drinkable water.

To hear PWD Commissioner Neukrug's interview on WHYY's RadioTimes about the Safe Drinking Water Act, click here.

Did you know....

  • In Philadelphia the cost of 50 glasses of water is less than a penny!
  • PWD monitors Philadelphia's water 24/7 at three treatment and at checkpoints throughout our delivery system.
  • It's estimated that 25% to 40% of all bottled water is taken from the municpal water supply. 
  • There is more fresh water in the atmosphere than in all of the rivers on the planet combined.
  • 75% of a chicken, 80% of a pineapple, and 95% of a tomato is water.
  • It is possible for people today to drink water that was part of the dinosaur era!

To celebrate, raise a glass of cool, delicious (and safe) tap water (or eight ten-ounce glasses if you want to get the 2.5 quarts the EPA recommends you drink to “maintain health”) and read up on what YOU can do as an individual to help US keep your drinking water clean and safe.

Photo credit: Bill Kelly
sources: Philadelphia Water Department, EPA water trivia page, EPA's Drinking Water Facts and Figures

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