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Green Stormwater Infrastructure

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Call for Artists to Shine Light on Green Stormwater Infrastructure!

Request for Qualifications Deadline: April 15
We’re looking for art that can help people understand how Green City, Clean Waters tools work and how they connect to a complex world of infrastructure beneath our feet.

Philadelphia Water is collaborating with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for Uncover the Green 2016, a new citywide design initiative celebrating the innovative tools and systems that make up Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia’s revolutionary green stormwater management program.

Calling landscapers and home contractors! Join our Rain Check Team

A rain garden installed by Rain Check contractors. We're looking for qualified contractors to install these stormwater tools. Credit: Philadelphia Water
A rain garden installed by Rain Check contractors. We're looking for qualified contractors to install these stormwater tools. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Philadelphia Water, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Sustainable Business Network are looking for qualified contractors to work with the Rain Check program. Through Rain Check, Philadelphia Water provides free rain barrels  and helps residents pay for landscaping tools that manage stormwater and can beautify their properties.

We need qualified contractors to install stormwater tools such as rain gardens, permeable pavers, downspout planters and rain barrels.
Installation contractors may be landscapers, hardscapers, general home contractors, and professionals from related fields.

Benefits include: free or reduced-cost training, affiliation with our innovative Green City, Clean Waters program, paid consultations, and new customer leads without the cost of advertising. Rain Check work is not intended to be full time, and pairs well with an existing workload.

Depending on participant demand, active contractors can expect to earn $10,000-$35,000 per year. Work will begin in July for qualified contractors.
To be considered for Rain Check, any interested contractors should join us for an upcoming information session to learn more about the program and meet current contractors.

Date: February 12, 2016


  • Info Session: 8 – 8:45 a.m.
  • Contractor Meeting: 9-11 a.m.

Meeting Location:
PHS Board Room
100 N 20th Street- 5th Floor

RSVP by February 10th at

More Detailed Information on the Positions:

Rain Garden and Permeable Paver Position Description

Rain Barrel and Downspout Planter Position Description

Freakishly Warm Philly Weather Has Climate Change on Our Minds

Day of First Freeze 1948-2015 Philadelphia Int'l Airport

At the start of the month, we talked about the Paris climate change conference and what we're doing to prepare for global warming. Record high temperatures were set over the weekend and more highs are likely this week. But it’s another warm weather-related event that has us concerned: Last Sunday, December 6, was the first time in fall 2015 that the official temperature at Philadelphia International Airport was at or below 32º F.

This is about a month later than the average date of the first freeze, and it's the first time we've gone without a freeze through November. In fact, when looking at the period of record from 1948-2015, it's the latest the first freeze of the year has happened, beating the previous record of November 28, set in 2010, by eight days. And while weather is not climate, the date of the first freeze has been getting later over the last few decades. 

Think Green Tools Can Better Public Space? Enter the 'Play Space' Competition!

A rain garden and porous pavement enhanced this schoolyard in South Philadelphia. Credit: Philadelphia Water
A rain garden and porous pavement enhanced this schoolyard in South Philadelphia. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Earlier this year, we released Transforming Philadelphia’s Schoolyards, a guide to enhancing school play spaces with green stormwater infrastructure, made with the help of the non-profit Community Design Collaborative (CDC).

The CDC folks are once again working to show how green stormwater tools can be a valuable addition to public spaces—and especially to spaces geared toward Philadelphia’s children.

What Plumbers and Contractors Need to Know About GSI

We can't say it enough: Green City, Clean Waters represents a major shift in the way we think about and do infrastructure. That means the tools we use to effectively manage stormwater—collectively called Green Stormwater Infrastructure or GSI—look and work differently than the traditional pipes and sewers people are used to seeing.

One big difference is that these green tools have a much more noticeable presence in neighborhoods because they use things like trees, grasses, soil and stones on the surface to slow down water from storms that can overwhelm our sewers. In addition to managing stormwater, these green tools are also designed to have the same community benefits we get from having beautiful parks and gardens in our neighborhoods; in many cases, a stormwater tree trench or a rain garden can look pretty much just like your everyday street tree or landscaped garden.
That tendency to blend in can be misleading though, because GSI can be sort of like an iceberg: we see the green tip of it on the sidewalk, in a park or on the street, but the bulk of the infrastructure is spread out over a large area underground.
This diagram of typical street tree trench is a good example:

A diagram of a typical street tree designed by Philadelphia Water.
A diagram of a typical street tree designed by Philadelphia Water.

Because GSI is a relatively new concept, even plumbers and construction contractors aren't always aware of its presence or don't realize how much is going on below the surface. That can lead to costly mistakes that could damage Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure and hurt a neighborhood's ability to manage stormwater.

To avoid accidentally damaging these important tools, we put together a simple FAQ for plumbers and contractors to help them understand how GSI works, what it looks like, and what they should do if they're working with or near Philadelphia Water's green infrastructure. Click on the image below to get a full-size copy of the GSI FAQ for plumbers and contractors, which includes important phone numbers and contact information. If you're a resident and think you see construction that's damaging green infrastructure in your neighborhood, this FAQ sheet could be useful for you too:

GSI FAQ for Plumbers and Contractors

If you are involved with a community group that hosts zoning meetings or have other interactions with developers in your community, please feel free to share this helpful FAQ with them, especially if you know a project could impact nearby green infrastructure. With Green City, Clean Waters set to increase its footprint dramatically over the next two decades, it's more important than ever for the development community to understand how green tools work so we can all meet the goal of improving our water quality!

GSI Partners Offer Green Jobs Training Opportunity

A rain garden at the Philadelphia Zoo represents one of the hundreds of privately operated green stormwater management sites in the city. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Creating a green economy—jobs and services rooted in environmental sustainability—isn’t just a nice side effect resulting from Green City, Clean Waters. Green jobs and their economic benefits were a driving force in Philadelphia Water’s decision to develop a green infrastructure solution to our stormwater management challenges.

Helping to meet the demand for green jobs created by our 25-year green infrastructure plan is the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia’s (SBN) Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Partners group, an independent non-profit “network of industry professionals working to advance the local green stormwater infrastructure industry and innovation in the Greater Philadelphia region.”

GSI Partners is currently accepting applications for a three-day course designed to provide training for professionals interested in learning about how to take care of the ever-growing stock of green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia.

With over 1,100 green tools already in place to support Green City, Clean Waters, there’s a real demand for landscape contractors with the skills needed to perform crucial operations and maintenance tasks. That demand will grow considerably as our multi-billion dollar plan expands over the next two decades.

This course will provide valuable training to help meet that demand. Here’s a description of the curriculum from GSI Partners:

This three-day course is for landscape professionals seeking to strengthen or develop their service portfolio in operations and maintenance of public and private green stormwater infrastructure projects. The course features two classroom days and one field day, and will provide landscape contractors with an understanding of the importance of operations and maintenance (O+M) of vegetated stormwater management practices, as well as of the tasks involved. The course will cover 16 sections in total, including: Regulatory context for O+M; Identification and understanding of the components of SMP’s; Diagnosis of and response to performance and safety issues; Adaptive and prescriptive management activities.

Space is limited, and the course will take place on three separate days (August 21, 28 and September 4) at the Navy Yard. The cost is $350 per person.

GSI Partners’ Continuing Education Grants will be available to eligible GSI Partners and SBN members interested in taking the course.
To sign up for the course and apply for a grant, please visit the GSI Partners site by clicking here.

Improvements to Address Northern Liberties Flooding

Northern Liberties flooding that occured after a July 9 downpour. Credit: Northern Liberties Neighbors Association.
Northern Liberties flooding that occurred after a July 9 downpour. Credit: Northern Liberties Neighbors Association.

After yet another heavy rainstorm last week, a section of Northern Liberties experienced localized flooding as result of an overwhelmed stormwater system.

This area contains the historic Cohocksink Creek and is the focus of a long-term infrastructure improvement project. Traditional sewer expansion and green stormwater tools will improve the capacity of the local system while reducing the amount of water entering sewers.

Philadelphia Water is aware of last week's flooding and on-going issues, and we're working with the community to address immediate concerns as we implement a plan to improve conditions in the long haul.
You can see a summary of plans to address flooding in the vicinity of Wildey and N. American streets here and here.

Impacted residents are also encouraged to attend a community meeting on the Northern Liberties Storm Flood Relief Program. Philadelphia Water representatives will discuss flood reduction efforts at the South Kensington Neighborhood Association,1301 N. 2nd St., on Tuesday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Stress on the Sewers: Is June Philly's New Monsoon?

The July 9 storm dumped nearly an inch of rain in just under 10 minutes—the heaviest of the month so far—and came at a time when the Delaware River was at its highest tide level.

It’s been a rather wet summer so far, and that means additional stress for stormwater infrastructure. After a historically dry May, June made up for it with a vengeance. Only two years have seen a wetter June in the city, according to records dating to 1872.

The wettest June ever was in 2013, followed by 1938 and 2015 with 8.88 inches. The National Weather Service lists June’s rain average as 3.43 inches.

It’s all part of a trend that has seen six of the rainiest Junes EVER occur in the city in just the last dozen years:

June 2013: 10.36 (1st)

June 2015: 8.88 (3rd)

June 2003: 8.08 (4th)

June 2006: 7.95 (6th)

Starting Today: New Stormwater Regulations Bring Healthier Rivers

Philadelphia's new website for Stormwater Regulations planning and review. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Philadelphia's new website for Stormwater Regulations planning and review. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

For two years, we’ve been working to update our Stormwater Regulations and Plan Review Program.

Now, the changes are finally here.

From July 1, 2015 forward, development in the city is required to follow updated Stormwater Regulations.

These updates represent the most substantial changes to the regulations in nearly a decade. They ensure new development works alongside Philadelphia Water’s Green City, Clean Waters plan by requiring new sites to handle more water, slow stormwater more effectively, and release cleaner water into our sewers.

In doing all of that, the new regulations also encourage more robust use of green infrastructure across the city.

While we were working to create modernized regulations, we also went to great lengths to make the Plan Review process easier from start to finish by listening to the business community and other stakeholders.

The result is an improved, faster process for submitting and reviewing stormwater plans and a new website that makes our Stormwater Regulations Guidance Manual more accessible. At, users will find a fully searchable, shareable guide and other helpful tools for making sure stormwater plans reflect the new regulations and align with Philadelphia’s vision for a modern stormwater system.

Together, Philadelphia Water and the development community are working to make sure we all have a future defined by smart growth and healthier rivers and streams.

Want to learn more? Public information sessions will be held July 9th and 23rd from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Blvd. Click here to register.

Stormwater Regulations Update: Learn About Some Important Changes

A green roof on the Granary Building that was built in part to meet Philadelphia Water's Stormwater Regulations. Changes to the regulations are designed to encourage even more private green infrastructure projects. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Every time something new gets built in Philadelphia, it presents an opportunity to improve the way we deal with stormwater runoff—a big source of pollution that hurts our waterways, but often gets overlooked as “just rain.”

In order to make sure new development contributes to Philadelphia’s vision for a modern stormwater system that protects our rivers and creeks, we have a set of standards—collectively called Stormwater Regulations—that let developers know how their property should handle the water that comes from rainstorms and other wet weather events.

It’s been nearly a decade since we established our Stormwater Regulations in 2006, and starting July 1, 2015, new construction projects will have updated rules for managing stormwater. These changes reflect evolving agreements between Philadelphia and the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection, (the state agency that regulates our local waterways), and the EPA.

In order to make sure the development community and the public are fully aware of our updated Stormwater Regulations, we’re holding a series of public information sessions. If you’re interested in learning more—especially if you’ll be working on a new construction project—you should click here and register to hear more details about the changes.

The information sessions are scheduled for June 23rd and 30th and July 9th and 23rd from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and will be held in the Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Blvd.

Stormwater management on development sites is critical to the success of Green City, Clean Waters. Since 2011, private developers have built over 900 green stormwater management tools in the city, and the new regulations will provide incentives for even more.

Quick Read: What the Changes Mean

Water Quality Improvements

Manage more water. The Water Quality Volume will increase from 1 inch to 1.5 inches. This will help reduce combined sewer overflows and local flooding, with minimal impact to site design. Applies to all development sites.

Slow water entering sewers. The peak release rate will decrease from 0.24 to 0.05 cubic feet per second per acre of non-infiltrating impervious area. This will make the rate at which water leaves a site and enters the sewer system equal to the rate at which treatment plants can clean the water. Applies to about 23 percent of projects each year.

Clean water entering sewers. Philadelphia Water will require 100 percent of surface runoff that can’t infiltrate the ground to go through a pollutant reducing practice. This requirement will remove pollution from the dirtiest stormwater on a property. Applies to about 23 percent of projects each year.

Business-Friendly Improvements:

Faster project approvals. Philadelphia Water is introducing “Surface Green Review,” a new expedited review process for sites that use surface practices to manage stormwater.

Simpler application resources. Simplified technical worksheets and Plan Review application resources will improve the quality of submissions and reduce review times. By using these resources, designers will know before submitting that their projects meet regulations.

Accessible information. The new digital Stormwater Management Guidance Manual and Plan Review website will provide better information in a user-friendly format.




Fresh Tools for a Greener City: Retrofit Guide, New App

A look at our new Credits Explorer tool, which lets anyone explore the benefits of GSI.
A look at our new Credits Explorer tool, which lets anyone explore the benefits of GSI.

In response to rapidly growing interest from non-residential customers, Philadelphia Water is proud to present the Stormwater Retrofit Guidance Manual. The 186-page manual is designed for those customers poised to benefit the most from adding cost-saving green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) to their buildings and grounds. Bringing this customer base into Philadelphia’s green movement is a key part of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia Water’s 25-year plan to protect and enhance our watersheds by managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure. 

The start-to-finish guide to GSI retrofits includes a detailed breakdown of credits and incentives offered through Philadelphia Water’s Green Acres Retrofit Program (GARP) and Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP), instructions for picking the best GSI tools by property, ongoing GSI maintenance requirements, and much more.    

As a digital complement to the Stormwater Retrofit Guidance Manual, Philadelphia Water is also releasing Credits Explorer, a groundbreaking new app that allows anyone to virtually add GSI tools to non-residential properties and instantly see potential savings. A variety of stakeholders informed the 18-month effort behind Credits Explorer, resulting in a user-friendly web-based tool making it easier than ever to see the financial benefits of GSI features like green roofs and permeable pavement. The manual and Credits Explorer can be accessed here

These tools work in conjunction with Philadelphia Water’s innovative Stormwater Billing program, which bills non-residential customers based on the amount of impermeable surface on their property.  Implemented in 2010, Philadelphia’s stormwater charges more accurately reflect the true infrastructure and environmental costs associated with impermeable surfaces and provide Philadelphia Water with capital to fund improvements required by state and federal regulations.

Any property is eligible to pursue and install retrofits; however, only non-residential, condominium, and multi-family properties with more than four units are eligible to receive stormwater credits.

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