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Giving Tuesday: Support Watershed Stewardship in Philly!

These Philly kids are learning to be Delaware River stewards through the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory RiverGuides program. Credit: Alan Brian Nilsen/ABN photography

We believe that people who have an intimate connection to their local watershed are more likely to get involved in efforts to guard and improve that watershed.

Spend a day canoeing on the Schuylkill River, fishing for striped bass on the Delaware, seeding freshwater mussels on the Tacony Creek or birding along the Wissahickon, and you’ll come away with a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to protecting these invaluable resources.

Across the city and region, there are dedicated organizations and institutions working to build those connections through increased recreational access to our riverfronts, through environmental education that underscores the vital role healthy watersheds play in vibrant ecosystems, through scientific research, and more.

With “Giving Tuesday” upon us, today is a great day to support those protecting and improving Philadelphia’s waterways.
If you recognize the value of our watersheds, consider supporting those who share your appreciation on Giving Tuesday and help further their efforts.

Below are a few partners that rely on contributions to keep up the good work of watershed stewardship.
What group or organization works to protect and support a local waterway you care about? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook!

Get the Facts on Lead and Water: Invite Philadelphia Water to Your Next Community Meeting

Philadelphia's water is lead free, but we cannot control the plumbing in every home. That's why we need customers to get the facts about lead plumbing. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Philadelphia's water is lead free, but we cannot control the plumbing in every home. We want customers to have the facts on lead plumbing so that they are empowered to remove lead pipes and can take daily steps to reduce exposure risks. Credit: Philadelphia Water

The danger of lead in drinking water continues to be a hot topic in the news, and we know many people have seen or heard recent features addressing the issue. Because we know that even small amounts of lead may be harmful to infants, young children and pregnant women, we understand why people are concerned.

Although the drinking water provided by Philadelphia Water is lead free—our treatment facilities and water mains do not contain lead materials—homes built prior to 1950 may have water distribution pipes/service lines (the small pipe that connects a home’s internal plumbing to the water main) made of lead. Copper pipes inside homes may also be joined by lead-containing solders, and some homes may have brass pipes, faucets, fittings and valves that contain lead.

Have a Sec? Help Make Our Freshwater Mussel Hatchery More Awesome!

Photo: Spencer Roberts of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is shown holding an eastern elliptio mussel. Credit: PDE
Photo: Spencer Roberts of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is shown holding an eastern elliptio mussel. Credit: PDE

Last summer, we broke the news about an exciting project that’s coming to our historic Fairmount Water Works museum and learning center this fall: an educational freshwater mussel hatchery that will shine new light on these secret river heroes.

As the project continues to develop, the Water Works and the artists helping to shape the space are hoping you can help by taking this short survey to tell us what you know (or don’t know) about freshwater mussels.

Will you take a few minutes to tell them what you know about freshwater mussels with this quick online survey? (Think of it as a fun quiz followed by some surprising facts about these amazing creatures!)

Student Artists: Do You Have the Vision to Make Philly Care About Clean Water?

Erika Shrayer of Baldi Middle School won 1st place for the 6th Grade age group last year. Credit: PWD/PDE
Erika Shrayer of Baldi Middle School won 1st place for the 6th Grade age group last year. Credit: PWD/PDE

When Philly kids understand what it takes to be a good watershed steward from an early age, it can lead to lifelong habits that help to keep trash and other pollution out of our stormwater system and waterways.

That’s one reason we hold our annual Green City, Clean Waters student art contest with Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

Another reason? Our local schools happen to be packed with creative minds, and these kids seem to be especially good at communicating the basics of good watershed stewardship with art that’s both direct and fun.

Year after year, we’re pleasantly surprised at the quality of the art that comes in, and last year we had over 1,300 submissions. The deadline for 2016 is Friday, February 26.

Artists: Help Us Highlight the Schuylkill River for Art in the Open 2016

Work by artist Sandy Sorlien in the South Garden fountain, AiO 2014 Family Day (Photo: Karen Jenkins)
Work by artist Sandy Sorlien in the South Garden fountain at AiO 2014's Family Day. Photo credit: Karen Jenkins.

This spring, the banks of the Schuylkill River will be buzzing with the creative work of artists selected for the sixth year of “Art in the Open,” or AiO, a three-day event that gives the public an intimate look at the processes behind art.

Our iconic Fairmount Water Works facility will act as the starting point for the AiO installations, which will populate the riverbanks moving south toward Bartram’s Garden.

Coast Day: Free Boat Rides, LEGO Boats and New Storm Drain Mascots!

Kayakers enjoy a free trip on the Delaware during the 2014 Pa. Coast Day Celebration. Credit: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.
Kayakers enjoy a free trip on the Delaware during the 2014 Pa. Coast Day Celebration. Credit: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

It's once again time for Pennsylvania Coast Day, and that means over 550 people will enjoy a free boat ride on Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Penn’s Landing.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) will give away over 350 tickets for the RiverLink Ferry and 150 tickets for the Patriot during the event, which Philadelphia Water helps to sponsor. Both tours will be narrated, and guests can also enjoy free kayaking and pedal boating in Penn’s Landing Marina.

“Many people don’t realize the Delaware River is something they can experience and enjoy,” said Lisa Wool, program director at PDE. “This festival changes that by getting people on the water with their families, many for the first time.”

Philadelphia Water will also use Coast Day to roll out our new storm drain markers, which are now  customized to represent aquatic creatures from each of our city's seven watersheds. Here are two we made for storm drains that feed into the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers:
New storm drain markers for the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.We'll be spreading the word about the new markers and giving out kits community groups can use to mark drains in their neighborhoods. To learn more and order a marking kit for your area, visit this page

Other attractions include free face painting, free arts and crafts, free prizes, exhibits and more. A shuttle will also take you to our Fairmount Water Works museum site, where programs showcasing the city’s other coast, the tidal Schuylkill River, are always free.

Visitors can also venture inside the Independence Seaport Museum, where admission ranges from $10 to $15. This will get them up close with TEACH FLEET, the world’s largest collection of LEGO model ships. Its centerpiece is the new RV Hugh Sharp, modeled after a research vessel owned by the University of Delaware.
The Philadelphia Ship Model Society will also race motorized models in Penn’s Landing Marina. And the oil-spill boat DELBAY will be open for tours.

Other sponsors for Pennsylvania Coast Day include the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Fairmount Water Works, and Independence Seaport Museum.
More information is available at and by calling (800) 445-4935, extension 112.

Investing in Our Brand: Investing in Our Customers

The second installation in a series of stories examining the foundations of our new brand

Our new look in action: Philadelphia Water's 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report, our revamped bill, and the new Stormwater Regulations website. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Our new look in action: Philadelphia Water's 2015 Drinking Water Quality Report, our revamped bill, and the new Stormwater Regulations website. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Our new logo and brand, which hasn’t been updated since 1987, is a very visible piece of our efforts to communicate with the 2.2 million customers and other stakeholders we serve and work with every day.

We don’t just have a new logo. We have a new way of doing things that is redefining what a water utility can be and do.

We are a different department than we were 30 years ago. You can see the change through our innovative, trendsetting programs like Green City, Clean Waters or in our new Stormwater Plan Review and Regulations website, which makes complex information for developers and commercial customers more accessible and easier to understand than ever.

Because what we do and how we do it has changed so dramatically, we needed to change the very thing that says who we are: our brand.

The logo people see every day is part of the face we put on the immense amount of work Philadelphia Water does to make sure our customers know what we offer and how we are using their fees.

And, while the funds invested in our new look represent an extremely small slice of our budget, it’s a powerful and cost effective way to send a clear message about all the important new work we’re doing and to call attention to significant changes in the way we operate.

Our new brand does a number of important things, giving us a big bang for our buck:

• Being Philadelphia Water instead of “PWD” clears up widespread confusion about who we are. Experience and research revealed many customers mistakenly associated us with “PGW,” our sister agency, the Philadelphia Gas Works.

• Updating our look to express our massive modernization efforts sends a signal to businesses and people thinking about moving to or working with Philadelphia.

• Investing in a new brand is an easy and cost effective way to start a conversation about what Philadelphia Water is today.

• "Established 1801." The new look strives to foster civic pride in Philadelphia’s history as a leader in water technology, reinforcing our position as industry leaders—we have been at the forefront of protecting and delivering water for over two centuries. It also reminds people that much of our infrastructure is a gift we inherited from previous generations, and that now is our time to preserve and expand on that investment.

We take a big investment like this seriously, and we want to get this once-in-a-generation opportunity right. It’s why we devoted significant resources and time to becoming Philadelphia Water—a name and look that truly reflects the new department we’ve become as well as the department we’re working to be.

Beyond customer service and communications improvements, we're also reducing water main breaks, using smart meters, making big strides in river water quality improvements, and investing in renewable energy at our treatment plants — so stay tuned for more news.

We’ll miss “PWD,” but our new brand is your invitation to discover who we are in 2015. Philadelphia Water is a whole new department, one that’s serving you better and offering more to customers and the city than ever before.

Pew Center Gives $300K to Shine Light on Secret River Heroes

Families check out how freshwater mussels filter water at temporary exhibit by the PDE. Soon, the Water Works will have a 530-square-foot mussel hatchery.
Families check out how freshwater mussels filter water at temporary exhibit by the PDE. Soon, the Water Works will have a 530-square-foot mussel hatchery. Photo Credit: PDE.

Some of the most intriguing animals in our rivers also happen to be some of the most inconspicuous creatures out there. In fact, these little guys can be nearly invisible if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

But the reality is that freshwater mussels live extraordinary lives burrowed into the beds of our local creeks and rivers.

Now, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is bringing their secret lives to the surface with a $300,000 grant that will fund the creation of a mussel hatchery right at the Fairmount Water Works.

Celebrating their 10th year of grant making in Philadelphia, the Center announced its 2015 recipients on June 16. We at Philadelphia Water are thrilled to see the Water Works counted among our region’s exemplary artists and cultural institutions and  look forward to the expanded environmental education efforts made possible through this grant.

 The Rivers Restoration Project: A Freshwater Mussel Hatchery will be an interpretive, multi-media installation that will combine science, history, and design in the creation of a site-specific, 530-square-foot living freshwater mussel enclave that will inspire visitors to discover and connect with the Schuylkill River’s rich habitat while developing an appreciation for the importance of environmental protection.

 The two-year grant process is expected to allow the Water Works to open the hatchery in late 2016.

If you’re wondering why the Center and the Water Works are investing in a mussel hatchery, read on.

To the untrained eye, these little shellfish—ranked among the most imperiled animals in the United States—may look just like a leaf lying on the sandy bottom of the Schuylkill or Delaware. But tucked inside that shell is an organism that can live for a century, providing our waterways with decades of invaluable filtration and stream/riverbed stabilization that makes water healthier for both wildlife and humans.

The lifespan and habitat of our native mussels varies depending on the species, but they can live by the millions in vast colonies along riverbeds. With each one filtering up to 20 gallons of water every day, these organisms collectively form nature’s equivalent of water treatment plants, removing pollution and harmful pathogens.

Sadly, these amazing little workhorses have suffered in a big way due to a number of human factors, including unmitigated stormwater runoff and dams, which block their reproductive cycle. This widespread habitat degradation has left many stretches of local waterways without mussel beds, which can lead to destabilized banks and streambeds and water that takes much longer to clear up after disturbance from storms and other heavy sediment events.

In recent years, Philadelphia Water has partnered with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) to survey our local waters for mussel populations. With additional help from groups like the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, PDE even began “reseeding” some Philly creeks with mussels, bringing them back to those areas for the first time in decades.  

The Water Works hatchery is the first project of its kind in the region, and could help fuel interest in a much larger commercial hatchery that would work to filter our water (reducing the workload at treatment plants) while providing young mussels for future regional reseeding efforts, said PDE's Danielle Kreeger.  

With this extremely generous $300,000 Pew grant, the Water Works will begin working on the hatchery with PDE and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University next month, bringing visitors a unique exhibit that will enrich the already impressive mix of education opportunities.

“Our 2015 grantees exemplify the diverse and dynamic cultural life of our region,” said Paula Marincola, the Center’s executive director. “As we reflect on the past 10 years of grantmaking in this vibrant community, we also look forward to the extraordinary cultural experiences this talented and ambitious group of artists and organizations will bring to Greater Philadelphia’s audiences.”

For more on educational opportunities at the Fairmount Water Works, which is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, check out their website.
You can see the full list of the amazing projects awarded 2015 grants from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage here.

Coming to a ‘Hood Near You: Get Schooled on Green Tools

A sign at the Big Green Block in East Kensignton explains how some of the local green tools work. Credit: Brian Rademaekers, Philadelphia Water
A sign at the Big Green Block in East Kensignton explains how some of the local green tools work. Credit: Brian Rademaekers, Philadelphia Water
Philly is about to soak up some serious green IQ.
Patches of green all over the city – we’re talking 36 locations in 18 neighborhoods – will soon be home to vibrant, colorful signs distilling the concepts behind Philadelphia Water’s green tools with attention-grabbing diagrams and simple descriptions. The signs, the first in the U.S. to explain a city’s green infrastructure system, give the inside scoop on seven types of green infrastructure we commonly use and will be in places ranging from high profile spots like the Philadelphia Zoo to stormwater tree trenches that seamlessly blend into city blocks.
These colorful new neighborhood features tell the curious some important things about Green City, Clean Waters, America’s biggest green stormwater initiative:
Why We Need Green Tools. Our sewer and stormwater system struggles to handle wastewater and rain during heavy storms, when we can have too much of both. An overwhelmed system can put polluted water into our rivers and streams. Green tools provide a smart, cost-effective solution to this problem.
How Green Tools Work. Green tools combat pollution by using plants, soil and stone to filter out bad stuff (up to 80 percent of pollutants!) and keep too much stormwater from overwhelming the sewer system. Just like they do in nature, these living landscapes capture excess water and use it to sustain plants before slowly filtering it into the ground.
What Am I Seeing? Terms like “bumpout,” “tree trench” and “porous pavement” aren’t exactly part of our everyday language (yet!) and many of the tools we use have important features hidden from view. These signs explain the type of green tool in front of you and use diagrams to visually cut below the earth. Now, you get a peek at the important things you normally can’t see below the surface.
You Can Help, Too. Each sign has important info and tips for those who care about our water, with suggestions about car care, planting street trees, and what types of products are better choices for the environment.
Learning More Is Easy. Signs have basic web addresses as well as special “QR Codes” using smartphone tech to let people snap a picture and access videos with in-depth explanations of the specific green tool in front of them.
The signs will be going up at the following locations in June, with more to follow next month: 
800 Block of Percy Street, Bella Vista
27th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Logan Square
Trenton Avenue and Norris Street, East Kensington
Julian Abele Park, 22nd St. at Montrose, SW Center City
Nebinger School, 601 Carpenter St., Bella Vista
Greenfield School, 2200 Chestnut St., Rittenhouse
Herron Playground, 250 Reed St., Pennsport
Queen Lane, between Fox Street and Henry Avenue, East Falls 
Shepard Rec Center, 5700 Haverford Ave., Haddington
Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Ave., East Parkside
Bodine High School, 1101 N. 4th St., Northern Liberties
Longstreth William School, 5700 Willows Ave., Kingsessing
6000-6134 Lancaster Ave., Overbrook
Daroff Samuel School, 5630 Vine St., Haddington
Venice Island, Lock and Main streets, Manayunk
If you’re out in the neighborhood or spending some time downtown, keep an eye out for these new signs. They’re hard to miss, and we guarantee you’ll walk away with a few extra points added to your green IQ!
Want a sneak peek? Check out photos from Northern Liberties and The Big Green Block here
Green City, Clean Waters Signage

Want to keep up on Green City, Clean Waters news and events and learn more about sustainability at Philadelphia Water? Click here and sign up for our monthly newsletter now!   

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