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Private Pennies Financing GSI

Opportunity for GSI

Commercial sites like this one have many incentives to use GSI to help manage stormwater.

It looks like 2013 will be a big year for private financing of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI)! According to the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, the private sector will likely step up financing of GSI this year for three reasons: 1) increased interest in GSI by cities across the country, 2) recent severe weather patterns, and 3) the recommendations of the high-profile NY State 2100 Commission in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In Philadelphia we have several opportunities to work with the private sector to leverage public investment in green stormwater infrastructure. The Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) parcel-based stormwater billing for commercial customers provides a financial incentive to manage stormwater on  properties through green infrastructure. In addition, non-residential property owners are eligible to apply for grants to help finance these improvements through PWD’s Stormwater Management Incentives Program. Finally, through the City’s stormwater regulations, new construction or renovations that disturb 15,000 square feet or more must manage the first inch of stormwater runoff on-site.

Visit the NRDC blog to read more about why the private sector has reasons to increase financial support for green stormwater infrastructure, and to get a sneak preview of their upcoming 2013 report on this topic.

Stormwater Voyeurs, Check out this Exhibition!

Shoemaker Green

Shoemaker Green, at the University of Pennsylvania, is one example of the projects featured in the Soak it Up! Exhibition. Photo Credit: PlanPhilly Flickr

Have you heard about the Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! initiative? Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!  is a partnership between the Philadelphia Water DepartmentCommunity Design Collaborative (CDC),  and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to explore how green stormwater infrastructure can revitalize urban neighborhoods. The kick-off party in October featured an exhibition of designs for managing stormwater in sustainable and innovative ways. The event was sold out, but the CDC has put together this online portfolio that documents the exhibition.Check out the document and see what progressive stormwater management can look like.

So far, the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!  initiative has hosted other events including two design charrettes; one focused on transforming urban schoolyards, the other on Transit Oriented Development. Still to come are the design competition presentations where finalists will present their solutions for three different urban stormwater challenges in the exciting PechaKucha style, a fast and dynamic lightning round presentation format that is sure to be entertaining and inspiring. This event will be held at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University on March 7, 2013. Find out how you can purchase tickets or get involved by visiting the CDC’s Infill: Soak it Up page

Keeping the Bargain - Investing in Infrastructure Part 4


Water Pollution Control Plant

Energy costs are on the rise at PWD facilities, just like they are for homeowners and individuals.

Let’s wrap up our blog posts about the big-ticket items that have made our rate changes necessary with a frank discussion about something that every household has been dealing with.

The cost of every input we use to clean the drinking water and treat the sewage and stormwater has increased significantly over the last several years. As energy costs continue to rise rapidly, so do the products and services we purchase.  The costs of chemicals and replacement equipment have risen faster than the rate of inflation. We at PWD understand that these are issues faced by all of our customers and that increasing rates in the context of all these other costs is not ideal. We are all ratepayers ourselves and feel the effects as well. Please know that we’re doing everything in our power to shield our customers from as many of PWD’s increased costs as possible.

Stay tuned for more information about the investments and expense-cutting measures we are doing to help us in this effort, and feel free to get in touch with us anytime on our Facebook page

Keeping the Bargain – Investing in Infrastructure Part 3


PWD Skimmer Vessel

A Water Department Vessel skims trash off the Schuylkill River. Trash can be picked off the river, but other pollutants require specialized detection and treatment.

As we spend the week talking about the big-ticket items that made this month’s rate changes necessary, we can't forget the work PWD does to maintain the health and safety of our ratepayers.

Today’s Water Department customers rely on us to protect them from pollutants that past generations didn’t have to worry about. We are already taking steps to keep our drinking water safe and improve the detection of Iodine 131, an element used to treat thyroid disease, and pollutants from Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

PWD takes its role as the protector of our region’s drinking water very seriously. For us, the rivers aren’t just the source of our product; they’re a major environmental, recreational and tourism asset. The revenue we receive from our ratepayers is used in large part to help us protect our drinking water supply both for our current customers and future generations of Philadelphians.

Do you have questions about any of these issues? Feel free to get in touch with us on our Facebook page. You can also go to our website to read more about Iodine 131 or Marcellus Shale drilling in the Delaware River basin. 

Keeping the Bargain - Investing in Infrastructure Part II

PWD Repairs a Water Main

PWD Repairs a Water Main 

If you’ve been reading the news over the past several months, you may have noticed a bit of a pattern with the weather we’ve been having. Whether it was Hurricane Irene in 2011 or Super Storm Sandy in 2012, some pretty intense weather events have been walloping us lately.

The flooding that comes as a result of these increasingly intense rainstorms adds to the strain on Philadelphia’s combined storm and wastewater system. These storms can overwhelm many of the older pipes and tunnels in the City and add significant costs to repair and replacement. While our Green City, Clean Waters program aims to relieve a great deal of that stress, we are still faced with the necessity of repairing and replacing pipes that have been around for a century. Given that one of the effects of global climate change is an overall increase in the frequency and intensity of these storms, we are trying to prepare the system by keeping our traditional infrastructure in good repair and building new green infrastructure.

We’d love to continue this discussion about global climate change and its effects on our local infrastructure. Chat us up at PWD's Facebook page, to share any relevant links or stories.

Keeping the Bargain - Investing in Infrastructure

Skyline, by Randy Calderone

We've mentioned in previous blogs that we've got better priced water than our suburban friends. Our infrastructure has to stay ahead of the curve to keep it that way.  Photo- Randy Calderone.

Now that we’re into the New Year, most of our customers have probably gotten their first water bills of the year. As we explained at the beginning of the month, rate changes that were approved as a part of our public hearing process this summer and fall went into effect starting January 1st. While rate increases are always difficult, we don’t take them lightly and turn to them only to cover the costs of “big-ticket” items that occur in the process of providing the same clean, safe, reliable drinking water our ratepayers have come to depend on.

For the next few days, we’re going to outline some of these big-ticket items so we can be as transparent as possible about what our recent rate changes are going toward.

To start off... for all of those who have seen the newly released theatrical version of Les Misérables and were curious about the sewers through which Jean Valjean carries a wounded Marius Pontmercy, let us explain a little about Philadelphia’s sewer system which bears some striking resemblance to those of mid-1800s Paris.

Our combined sewer system sends wastewater from the home into the same pipes as storm water from the rain. While the generations before us were doing the best they could with the information and resources they had at the time, it turns out that connecting the pipes that come from our drains and toilets to the same tunnels that carry the storm water can bring some problems. As little as a tenth of an inch of rain is enough to overwhelm our sewage treatment plants and cause overflows of storm water and raw sewage to spill into our waterways. So PWD is solving this with our state-of-the-art and yet fiscally conservative $2 billion Green City Clean Waters Plan. This is as little as a quarter of what other cities have planned on spending to fix the same kind of problem, but it will still add to our costs over the next several years.

Our goal is to use green infrastructure to keep storm water from ever reaching the sewer system, directing it instead where it naturally wants to go: back into the ground. “Green” infrastructure refers to street trees or planters, as opposed to “gray” infrastructure like pipes. By the time all of the Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure improvements are put in place, Philadelphia will have the nation’s greenest, most innovative and naturalistic solution for storm water management. It’s an investment that will pay off for our children, grandchildren and beyond.

Check out our Green City, Clean Waters Year in Review 
to see how far we’ve come already and learn more about where we’re going.

Have you noticed Green City, Clean Waters projects in your neighborhood?
Share with us at our Facebook page!

Rain Barrel Art Contest: Vote for your favorite design!


The Philadelphia Water Department is dressing up our big blue rain barrels! Visit the voting page before February 13th to pick your favorite design.
Students between the ages of 11 and 21 from Laura W. Waring School and YESPHilly participated in a design workshop with artists from the Mural Arts Program and educators from Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and the Philadelphia Water Department to create exciting original artwork that we hope to eventually wrap around the rain barrels distributed by PWD.Using the same technology you might have seen on colorful trash cans or painted garbage trucks, these designs will be shrink-wrapped around the barrels, completely covering them - as if they were painted.

We've picked our favorite eight illustrations and now we look to you - our partners and the citizens of Philadelphia - to vote for your favorite design. The final three designs will brighten select neighborhood corners, stoops and other community landscapes in Philadelphia. Rain barrels collect rainwater from our properties' downspouts and hold it until we use it (i.e., for watering lawns or window boxes).

The on-line poll is open now through February 13. Cast your vote for your favorite design and then look at PWD's rain barrel program to learn more about how you can help manage stormwater! 

Vote for the Schuylkill River for 2013 River of the Year!

In case you didn't hear, the Schuylkill River is a nominee for the 2013 River of the Year- an honor bestowed upon a Commonwealth river to elevate public awareness about that resource and recognize important conservation needs and achievements. The winning waterway undergoes a year of activities and events celebrating the river, including a special extended paddling trip known as a sojourn. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers.   The winning river will be selected by votes from the public, so don't forget to cast your vote today!!! Voting ends on January 18th.

The Schuylkill River flows through both rural and urban communities starting in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region and passing to the City of Philadelphia.  Over 1.5 million people receive their drinking water from the Schuylkill River and its tributaries. Improved water treatment systems, watershed education programs, and other cleanup measures have transformed the river from a dead river in the mid-1900s to a healthy habitat for a vast amount of fish and other wildlife. The Schuylkill River provides an ideal spot for recreation with its vast network of trails leading to the Schuylkill Banks greenway in the heart of Philadelphia.

Read more blog posts about fish improved fish habitat in the Schuylkill:
Fair Catch: Fishing on the Schuylkill
Upstream Battle: Shad Ascend Schuylkill Pas Phoenixville for First Time in Almost 200 Years
Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up the Schuylkill

To learn more about the contest and to cast your vote, just visit the website below.  Happy Voting!
Cast your vote here:

New Year, New Rates

posted in

As the calendar turns over to 2013, the Philadelphia Water Department enters the final phase of the rates process – enacting the rate changes that were settled on by an agreement between the Water Commissioner and Community Legal Services at the end of the public comment period during the summer. The new rates, which went into effect on January 1, 2013, will result in a typical household using 600 cubic feet (about 4500 gallons) paying about $3.31 more per month.

Over the next three years, rates will increase an average of 5.5% per year for a total overall increase of 17.6% over three years. This is significantly lower than the 28.5% increase over four years originally proposed by PWD.The rate change schedule for the next three years is outlined in the chart below:

Typical Residential Customer Monthly Billing  

Fiscal Year Additional Monthly
Water & Sewer Charge
Total Monthly Bill % Increase
1/1/13 to 6/30/13
$3.31  $60.74 5.8
7/1/13 to 6/30/14
$3.50 $64.24 5.8
7/1/14 to 6/30/15
$3.19 $67.43 6.0


This compromise is the result of a months-long, open, public process that began last February and included multiple public hearings held throughout the city and attended by hundreds of people. After taking into consideration the public’s input, the Hearing Officer recommended a smaller increase than the original proposal resulting in what we have today.

Manage Stormwater, Save Money: PWD Announces Second Round of SMIP Grants

posted in

This past June, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) announced that it had awarded $3.2 million in grants to facilitate the design and construction of innovative and sustainable stormwater management infrastructure on non-residential properties, such as business, non-profit and school properties. The success of the program has ushered in a second round of grants with a submission deadline of February 1, 2013.

The City of Philadelphia, through the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD)and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), created the Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) to  help reduce the volume of stormwater runoff entering the City's sewer system and to simultaneously help beautify communities. Stormwater management tools, such as green roofs, porous paving, rain gardens,stormwatertree trenches, and detention and retention basins reduce a property’s impervious surface, also resulting in lower monthly stormwater charges.

Our city is covered with large amounts of impervious cover— hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, which prevent rainfall from soaking into the ground. When it rains, this stormwater runoff picks up chemicals and toxins from the impervious surfaces and enters our sewer system, where it can overflow into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, our sources of drinking water.

Applications for the grant must be submitted electronically by February 1, 2013. Applicants will be notified by July 1, 2013 if their applications have been accepted. Those selected will be eligible to receive credits toward their stormwater charges when their stormwater project has been constructed.
For more information, check out our SMIP Grant page!

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