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1,000 Greened Acres (So Far): It Took a City

1,000 (Green) Thank Yous from Mayor Kenney + PWD

While the Philadelphia Water Department designed the Green City, Clean Waters program, its scope has grown far beyond PWD since being approved by state and federal environmental agencies in 2011.

As we've seen over the last six years, to really transform Philadelphia's landscape on a scale that's big enough to have a real impact on our rivers, it takes more than just Water Department crews and contractors building rain gardens.

In fact, it takes a whole city working together, not to mention supportive partners on the state and federal level.

That’s why PWD, Mayor Kenney and our partners across City government put the spotlight on community groups, nonprofits, businesses, organizations and residents when we celebrated the 1,000th Greened Acre created under Green City, Clean Waters.

The diverse group of people and organizations at the City Hall 1,000 (Green) Thank Yous celebration was a real tribute to the dedicated coalition that’s working to protect Philadelphia’s water.

Much more than a number, the 1,000 Greened Acres you helped us build represent a true transformation of our urban landscape, one that’s having a positive impact on our waterways.

Today, green tools can keep nearly 28 million gallons of polluted runoff out of our rivers during just one inch of rain—an amount that can add up to a billion gallons of stormwater and sewer overflows not going into our waterways annually.

Without residents attending community meetings about projects or civic groups caring for local green tools through the Soak It Up adoption program, we would not be where we are today.

The same goes for businesses, large and small, using our grant programs to invest in green stormwater improvements on their properties…

…And for the schools across the city making rain gardens, permeable pavement and other green tools a central part of revitalizing schoolyards…

…And for the developers embracing the shared imperative of protecting our waterways by incorporating smart stormwater design into new projects

…And for our partners in departments throughout the City of Philadelphia, like Parks and Recreation and Streets, who work alongside us to bring landscaped green features to recreation centers, sidewalks, transit stations and more…

It would take up your whole day to actually list all 1,000 of the “thank yous” we owe, but you get the idea—it takes a whole city working together to achieve the big vision that is Green City, Clean Waters.

We still have nearly two decades to go before we reach our final goal—9,564 Greened Acres by 2036—and PWD looks forward to growing and strengthening the partnerships it will take to achieve rivers and creeks that are cleaner than they’ve been in generations.

Extra: How do Green Tools Work?

New Video: Philly Water Art Strengthens River Connections

A girl checks out the Waterways art at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.
Waterways art at the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

Before we started our trailblazing Waterways collaboration with Mural Arts, we hit the streets for an informal survey looking at what people in Manayunk know about our efforts to improve the health of the Schuylkill River and whether that’s something they care about.

Since the dozens of colorful vinyl pieces created by artist Eurhi Jones for Waterways were designed to act as steppingstones linking Pretzel Park to a vastly improved Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center with tons of important stormwater features, we wanted to know how many people knew about those improvements.

In that survey, a striking 90% of the people we spoke to weren't aware of all that Venice Island's stormwater features are doing to improve Schuylkill River water quality. The number was way out of whack with the percent of people—a full 100%—who support improving the health of our waterways. In other words, everyone wants healthy rivers, but not many people know how money is being spent to achieve that goal.

So, five months after the Waterways debut, we went back out to the streets of Manayunk to see if people had a better sense of how features like the green roof  and 4 million gallon stormwater basin at Venice Island are helping to make the Schuylkill better. And, we’re pleased to say that 30.6% of respondents said they knew about Philadelphia Water’s Venice Island improvements. It might not be the 100% we all want, but it’s a start!

To further highlight Waterways and other infrastructure-enhancing public art projects, we put together a cool video about Philly Water Art projects. You can find out all about Philly Water Art while getting a unique drone’s-eye-view of Venice Island and Manayunk here:

While Waterways was designed to be a temporary street art project, the Mural Arts team has been doing weekly check-ups on the integrity of the installation, and so far it’s still looking great. Philadelphia Water has also been monitoring the effectiveness of our stormwater basin, and it’s also doing its job of keeping dirty water out of the river. If you haven’t seen Waterways in person yet, we encourage you to take a stroll and soak in the art while checking out amazing Manayunk green spaces like Pretzel Park, the Manayunk Canal and Venice Island.

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 StreetGreening@gmail.com with the subject "Hydrant PSA".

Resolve to know our rivers better in 2015

A River Runs Through It: Philadelphia Water Skiing + Skateboarding from Jon Graham on Vimeo.

With just a few more hours in 2014, it’s time to reflect back a little on all of the great things that we’ve experienced over the past year and make our plans for 2015. A few days ago we stumbled upon the video above created by local filmmaker Jon Graham and it’s so cool that we had to share! Seeing people enjoy the Schuylkill River—strolling on the new 2,000 foot long Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, skating at Paine’s Park, waterskiing, boating, kayaking and more—is very gratifying. At PWD, we’re proud of the role we played in helping to make 2014 such a successful year for our rivers, our water and our city.  

Whether it’s our own Schuylkill River being named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year or seeing the endangered shortnose sturgeon return to the Schuylkill, 2014 was a tremendously successful year for the health of our rivers. 

We were fortunate to be a part of a great collaboration with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Manayunk community that resulted in the opening of the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. This project showed how green storm water infrastructure and a PWD stormwater storage basin unit can be seamlessly interwoven into a great neighborhood and citywide amenity. We also named our first Stormwater Pioneer and gave $8.25 million to businesses for green stormwater management practices on private property through our SMIP and GARP programs. 

And we’re especially proud of award after award after award being brought home by many of PWD’s staff. And we have to give a shout out to our 2014 Philadelphia Water Department Spokesdog Winners who help us reduce the amount of pet waste that ends up in our rivers! 

As we look ahead to 2015 (here’s our spin on the common resolutions to eat better and exercise more), we suggest you resolve to: 

1. Get outside and experience every single one of the city’s waterways and the great things to do on their banks. Whether it’s waterskiing or kayaking on the Schuylkill or running and biking alongside it; taking in another pop-up park along the Delaware; or hiking along the Wissahickon, Pennypack, Poquessing, Cobbs, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford, you’ll get exercise and relieve stress by being near the water.  

2. Drink tap water! Philadelphia’s drinking water continues to be among the nation’s cleanest, safest and most reliable. We resolve to continue that in 2015 so you can resolve to get your 8 glasses (at least!) per day and at an affordable cost. The cost of 50 glasses of water here in Philadelphia is less than a penny!

3. Do your part to keep pollution out of Philadelphia's rivers and streams.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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