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Philadelphia Inquirer: Love Your River

The Schuylkill is a vital part of Philadelphia's social and physical landscape, and the once-mistreated river is on its way back. An article in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer—part editorial, part love letter to the river—details the inspiring comeback of one of our city's major waterways. Beth Kephart focuses on the increased hospitality to fish in the river and the development of the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, where plans are underway to improve upon the historic site's appearance and expand its educational capabilities. Kephart took part in a design charrette, in which ideas for the Water Works were discussed:

There were schemes that focused on connections among other area institutions. There were ideas designed to elevate the FWWIC's visibility, via exterior lighting and outdoor sculptures, say, or by the creation of a reflecting pool in the parking lot. There was talk about snaking the river's timeline across the old Water Works floors - a trickle of water, a tale. There was an early sketch of a kinetic waterfall.

The Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center is free and open to the public: Visitor Information

Giving Thanks


In the spirit of the season, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) would like to extend its warmest thanks to its staff and multitude of partners that have officially launched Green City, Clean Waters this past year.  It has been a year full of excitement and major successes for the City of Philadelphia.  To commemorate our achievements, PWD is proud to share with you the2012 Green City, Clean Waters Year in Review .  We hope you enjoy the photojournalistic glimpse into the highlights of the past year, which have only been realized as a result of the countless hours of hard work and dedication of staff and our wonderful partners! We are grateful and thankful to you! Happy Turkey Day

Dive In Before the Deadline!

Designers! Take the plunge and help make our communities green, clean and beautiful with your expertise and innovation. Oh – and win $10K while you’re at it!

Design teams from around the country are invited to embrace the challenge of designing next generation Green Stormwater Infrastructure by joining the Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! Design Competition. The Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Community Design Collaborative invite architects, landscape architects, engineers, and other professionals to share their plans and ideas for managing our nation’s stormwater in creative, environmentally friendly ways.

Teams will be able to design systems for managing stormwater in three different urban areas: Industrial, Neighborhood and Commercial districts. Nine finalists will be selected to present their designs in Philadelphia on March 7th, 2013 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. One design from each of the three competition sites will be awarded a cash prize of $10,000. Registration closes November 30th, and submissions will be collected through January 22th, 2013.

Register at the Community Design Collaborative's registration page.

Going With the Flow: PWD and Hurricane Sandy

This time last Monday, communities all along the East Coast braced for Hurricane Sandy, a ferocious event pushing tropical storm conditions into a cold front directly over the Northeast, all during the high tides of a full moon. The massive storm had widespread impacts and images from NY and NJ show significant damage and a long road to recovery.  From power outages, to blocked roads, to flooding, few events turn our collective attention to infrastructure with as much force as big storms.

Philadelphia Water Department staff worked from Thursday through Tuesday to prepare for the storm, clearing over 3,000 stormwater inlets in low-lying areas, and removing 155 tons of debris throughout the city. Clear inlets allow runoff to flow into the sewer system unimpeded by leaves or trash, which helps prevent localized flooding. In addition, PWD monitored both waste water and drinking water plants to ensure proper function during the hurricane.

After the storm passed, the Philadelphia Water Department worked closely with the Department of Parks & Recreation to remove trees and debris and lent equipment such as stingers, dumps and backhoes to help with the cleanup. Although trees were down, and power out for some, Philadelphia fared well during Hurricane Sandy, in part due to proper preparation, and in large part due to the luck of geography that protected the City from the devastating ocean flood waters that caused havoc in NY and NJ.  Look at these articles to read (and listen) more about how Philadelphia’s infrastructure worked during Hurricane Sandy:

“Hurricane Sandy, Day 2: Jersey Shore, Philly water, Delaware”
Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug speaks to Marty Moss-Coane on Radio Times
NPR, October 30th
The interview with the Water Commissioner begins at 15:00.

A post-Sandy look at how Philadelphia streets flood
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, November 4th
Adam Levine

Flooding In Sight
Hidden City Philadelphia, October 29th
Adam Levine

Fortunately for Philadelphia (and the whole eastern seaboard), storms like Hurricane Sandy don’t happen too frequently. Ninety percent of storms are much smaller and  drop an inch or less of rain on the Philadelphia area. This is an important inch! The first rain that falls on the ground picks up all the dirt and grime of our city streets. In many parts of Philadelphia, this water combines with sewage from homes and businesses in the same sewer pipe that transports water to one of three Philadelphia treatment plants. During heavy rainfall, the system is designed to overflow without treatment, to keep the water moving and avoid sewer backups. This design leads to combined sewer overflows, and increases pollution in our streams. These frequent, smaller storms are the target for Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia’s 25-year plan to manage wet weather through green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).  

What about Green Stormwater Infrastructure during a Hurricane?

DesignPhiladelphia Sustainable Streets Scavenger Hunt

Grab a pencil, round up some friends and head to South Philadelphia this Saturday for a Sustainable Streets Scavenger Hunt! As part of Design Philadelphia, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation (MOTU) and Utilities and the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) are offering up one free bike rack and one free rain barrel to the team that completes the hunt and has the most number of correct answers to questions about the design of our city streets. The 8th annual DesignPhiladelphia Festival will showcase all aspects of design from architecture to fashion, interior design to graphic arts this Wednesday through Sunday. The Sustainable Street Scavenger Hunt will celebrate the development of the Complete Streets Design Handbook and the Green City, Clean Waters plan, both of which are pushing designers, planners, engineers and citizens to re-imagine Philadelphia streets in whole new ways. Check out stormwater planters, look for some street furniture and think about those curb cuts!

Register online today at:

Get Off Your Lawn

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Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum has One Great Idea for Philadelphia: Plant native shrubs and trees where possible on your lawn to absorb and filter stormwater runoff that can erode and damage creeks and streams. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Thursday Night! Soak It Up, Party Down!

An exciting partnership between the Philadelphia Water Department, US Environmental Protection Agency and Community Design Collaborative has led to Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up!, a design initiative that explores how green stormwater infrastructure plays an important role in revitalizing urban neighborhoods and in improving the health of the City's waterways. Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! is comprised of exhibitions, workshops, talks and design charrettes, culminating with a national design competition to celebrate and promote the next generation of innovative designs and investments in green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia.

You are invited to join us for the Soak It Up! Launch Party on Thursday, October 4, from 6-8 p.m. at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street. The event takes place in a gallery setting with an exhibition that displays over 40 green projects to inspire Soak It Up competition participants and stakeholders to think about designs that can help our neighborhoods and improve the health of our waterways.

Cocktails will be served at the party, remarks will be made by EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin and Philadelphia Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug, the exhibit will be on display, and it will be lots of fun! Please join us. RSVP for the Launch Party and please visit the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! site for more information. The exhibition will remain  on display now through Friday, October 19.

Soak It Up Cafe: Now Accepting Reservations

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Join the Philadelphia Water Department at the Soak it Up Café for this year’s Park(ing) Day on Friday, September 21st from 9:30-5:00. Park(ing) Day is an annual, international event where metered parking spaces are converted into temporary public parks for the day. This year PWD is collaborating with the Community Design Collaborative to celebrate innovative designs for managing stormwater through green infrastructure. The parking space is at the intersection of 12th and Filbert, right across from the Reading Terminal Market. Our signature rain barrel tables will serve as a perfect spot for lunch, where you can read about green tools on our Soak It Up Café menu and enjoy a glass of Schuylkill or Delaware Champagne – some of the country’s finest tap water!

If you build a space, or visit ours, you are welcome to the Park(ing) Day after party hosted by the Community Design Collaborative, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. RSVP here.
Finally, if you want to learn more about this worldwide event check out the Philadelphia Parking Day site.

This Saturday: The Original Live Tweet

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Check out the Cradle of Birding Wildlife & Conservation Festival at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday, September 15 from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is an important partner to the Philadelphia Water Department in helping to protect our water resources. This free festival is perfect way for the entire family to learn more about birds and the wildlife refuge, as well as a great opportunity to enjoy one of Philadelphia’s unique natural areas. John Heinz has packed a full schedule of workshops on birdwatching, identification, and birding by ear for youngsters and advanced birders alike. Don’t miss the other workshops on fly tying, nature photography and live animal demonstrations including critters from the Philadelphia Zoo and the Raptor Show featuring hawks, owls, and eagles. Live music and free food will be provided. 

Shad State of Affairs, Part Two: Swimming With Mackerel

Image: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Here's some advice for American shad (who are not a huge part of this blog's readership, but nonetheless): Beware of the striped bass, and stop hanging around mackerel. This week's excellent article by Sandy Bauers in the Philadelphia Inquirer"Where Are The Delaware River Basin's Once-Legendary Shad?"—expands the conversation about shad and examines some reasons why the native fish aren't yet ascending the fish ladder at the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill by the hundreds of thousands each year (more than 3,000 passed through in 2011, part of an upward trend in recent years). It turns out there are other fish in the sea:

As a whole, the East Coast population of American shad is considered "depleted."

Scientists working to restore the shad are finding that everything is connected. Among the reams of charts and data sets is one showing that as striped bass numbers have increased, the population of shad - their juveniles often prey of striped bass - has fallen. The lines on the chart look like a big X.

In recent years, attention widened to what was happening offshore, where shad spend four to six years growing to maturity. It turned out that they school with Atlantic mackerel, then wind up snared in the nets of fishing trawlers.

If and when the shad return in great numbers, the fish will find improved water quality in the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, dams removed and fish ladders built, including the one operated by the Philadelphia Water Department and the Army Corps of Engineers at Fairmount Dam.


Life Aquatic: American Shad

We've Been Shad

Northwest Passage: Fairmount Fish Ladder Helps Shad Swim Up The Schuylkill

A Shad State of Affairs

Upstream Battle: Shad Ascend Schuylkill Past Phoenixville for First Time in Almost 200 Years

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