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Why customer satisfaction is important and what we’re doing to improve it

A collaborative effort of various associations representing the U.S. water and wastewater sector called WaterEUM cuts to the core of why high customer satisfaction is the most important goal for utilities like PWD:

Customer satisfaction is important to water utilities to minimize customer complaints and associated costs, maintain customer goodwill, and increase customer support for utility improvement initiatives.

But most importantly, improving customer satisfaction is just the right thing to do. PWD’s employees are also customers, ratepayers and residents of Philadelphia so we know how important it is to get this right. In our budget testimony to City Council this week we shared some results from changes we put in place in the past year to improve customer service.

By adding cloud technology to the PWD call center in 2013 we significantly increased the number of calls taken each business day. We can now track all calls and use a customer call back system to ensure that every customer gets the chance to speak directly with a representative. The centers are showing significantly fewer abandoned calls and shorter customer hold times: an average wait time of 39 seconds—30% shorter than the average among call centers across all industries (56 seconds). And we continue to work to make that wait time even shorter.

Uncover the Green Winner Announced!

Tyler School of Art professor Kelly Holohan and Uncover the Green Winner Lauren Hoover

Congratulations to Lauren Hoover, a Tyler School of Art undergraduate, who won the top prize for the medallion design competition! Lauren’s Uncover the Green design recognizes the history and integrity of the City’s existing infrastructure (our sewer pipes) and acknowledges our urban setting with a nod to the green path that we’re on to clean up our creeks and rivers. If you look closely at Lauren’s beautiful design, you’ll see that she cleverly spelled “WATER” in the medallion. Design professionals, outreach experts and various government agency representatives participated in the selection process. Lauren also won the People’s Choice Award, voted on by the participants’ of Friday’s Uncover the Green award ceremony at the Fairmount Water Works.

PWD’s goal is to place the medallions next to green stormwater tools to help brand the new environmentally friendly stormwater management infrastructure in neighborhoods across the city. PWD also hopes that Lauren’s design will influence future manhole covers.

Special thanks to our partner – Mural Arts Program – in addition to our major sponsors, NextFab and Fleisher Art Memorial.

Thank you, also, to our expert judges at Maskar Design, Cloud Gehshan Associates, Community Design Collaborative, The Public Workshop, Partnership for Delaware Estuary, Office of Arts, Culture & Creative Economy, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Fairmount Water Works and the Philadelphia Water Department staff.

PWD Year-In-Review: Two Rivers, One Water, 12 Exciting Months

Every spring, each department of the city government testifies in front of City Council during the hearings about the budget for the next fiscal year. (Quick point: Philadelphia’s fiscal year ends on June 30. Fiscal Years correspond to their end dates. So right now we’re in the middle of hearings for fiscal year 2015 which begins on July 1, 2014.)

For the departments, it’s a chance to reflect back on the previous year and look ahead at the short- and long-term plans of the department. Tomorrow, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) will have its turn in the spotlight as Commissioner Howard Neukrug delivers his testimony to City Council. Since much of what is said during this testimony doesn’t get reported out to the general public, we thought we’d share some of these reflections of the past yearand plans for the coming year directly with you. Over the next few days we will post quick reads about what we think are some exciting developments and particularly interesting challenges. As always, to respond to anything you’ve read here or ask questions through our Twitter accountor by emailing

Wednesday we’ll kick things off with a quick review of our mission and share with you the major short- and long-term goals we identified in a recently completed Strategic Plan.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Celebrating the Daylighting of the West Branch of Indian Creek


On Friday, April 25th, the Water Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District joined the Overbrook community for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the daylighting of the West Branch of Indian Creek. Daylighting, is the process of bringing a buried stream back above ground. Like many of Philadelphia’s historic waterways, the West Branch of Indian Creek was culverted and burried underground, becoming part of the City’s sewer network. Now, for the first time since 1928, the creek is flowing naturally and available once again for the community to enjoy.

To complete the project, 750 feet of new stream bed and 1,300 feet of reconfigured stream channel, were constructed. Additionally, the old sewer culvert, which once contained the creek, was converted to hold stormwater. As a result of these efforts an estimated 1.7 million gallons of stormwater will be kept out of our waterways, reducing one of the largest sources of water pollution in our region.

Dozens of community members joined PWD and the Army Corps for the event. Special guests included: U.S. Congressman Robert Brady, Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., State Senator Vincent Hughes and State Representative Louise Bishop.  After the opening ceremony and cutting of the ribbon, PWD engineers, Erik Haniman and Rick Howley, gave a tour of the surrounding areas associated with the Indian Creek. To brighten the sunny day even more, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society provided trees for a ceremonial tree planting.

The restoration of Indian Creek was made possible by the collaboration of U.S. Representative Robert Brady, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Philadelphia Water Department and most importantly the support and patience of the Overbrook Community.

In other news, the Philadelphia Parks Alliance is excited to announce that, with support from the William Penn Foundation, the Alliance is researching park and public open space programming in Philadelphia and programming best practices from around the country.Please take a few minutes to complete the Parks Alliance's Program Survey for your chance to to win a $100 gift certificate to historic Valley Green Inn, in the Wissahickon!

EarthFest Celebration

Friday, April 25th marked the 12th anniversary of Temple University, Ambler’s EarthFest Celebration.This campus-wide celebration of Earth Day is dedicated to spread awareness on ways of being environmental friendly and the different methods of sustainability. An ever growing list of exhibitors greeted thousands of visitors excited to learn more about our region’s sustainable programs. Particpants included the Philadelphia Zoo, PWD, Academy of Natural Sciences, and Temple University departments and student organizations!

Staff from the Water Department’s Office of Watersheds shared the idea of bringing together the City of Philadelphia with its water through the Green City, Clean Waters program.  Included in the exhibit was an activity, “Good Bugs/Bad Bugs”, to help demonstrate the crucial role insects play in testing water quality. 

Energy Awareness Festival at the Navy Yard

As part of our week-long celebration of Earth Day, PWD joined other utilities and non-profits at the Energy Awareness Festival on Thursday. Taking place on the Marine Parade Grounds at the Navy Yard, the festival included representatives from The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), and more!

As part of the event, PWD brought out our trusty, kid-friendly “Sewer in a Suitcase.” This 3D model shows how stormwater can cause an overflow of polluted water into our creeks and rivers. All the participants who visited our table learned more about Green City, Clean Waters and how each person can make a difference by doing simple things like installing a rain barrel. Happy Earth Week!

PWD Wins Environmental Communications Honor Award

Kudos to PWD for winning the 2014 Environmental Communications Honor Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists. Not to toot our own horn too much, but we’re excited! This award recognizes the importance of conveying environmental messages to the public and emphasizes innovative and creative approaches to communicating messages. PWD representatives will officially accept the award on Thursday, April 24 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

At the same time, we’ll be celebrating the winners of the 2014 Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest — just one example of the creative ways we engage people about stormwater. PWD and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary will recognize students from K-12 for their illustrations about stormwater management. The ceremony will be held at Fairmount Water Works from 4:00pm – 6:00pm.
Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 16th to Dee Ross at or at 1-800-445-4935, ext 106.

Rain Barrel Workshops are Coming Up!

The Philadelphia Water Department and the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) are providing free rain barrels to Philadelphians.  Rain barrels work by capturing stormwater through disconnected downspouts that collect rain water from roofs. Water that flows into the rain barrel can then be used for irrigating our gardens, window boxes and  and lawn watering.

To receive your free rain barrel complete with installation,  attend a rain barrel workshop. These workshops are held in locations around the city throughout the year.

To learn more about the rain barrel program and to see if there are workshops near you, visit

Also, check out PWD at next week’s Climate Smart: Artists Respond to Climate Change event. Chris Anderson from the Water Department Public Affairs Division will be participating. For more information:

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