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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.

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