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When storms and other unmanageable forces of nature overwhelm both home plumbing systems as well as municipal sewer systems, safety is a concern.

Recreation Safety

Swimming and bathing are not permitted in Philadelphia’s rivers or streams outside of organized events (e.g., races, triathlons, etc.), due to risks of drowning, injury from submerged objects, strong currents, and other hazards. The risks of primary contact with the water are the same for humans and pets alike. Strong currents, drowning, and unseen objects such as fishhooks or glass fragments are a threat to even the best of swimmers. Bacteria and pathogen contamination are also a concern when people are in primary contact with the water during recreational activities. Levels of bacteria can increase after storm events, which stormwater washes into Philadelphia’s streams and rivers.

River/Creek Flooding

When precipitation falls for an extended period of time at a faster rate than it can naturally infiltrate the ground or drain into the sewer system, flooding typically occurs. Our area's rivers and creeks swell as their capacity is exceeded and adjacent land reaches its saturation limit. Additionally, stress on subsurface building foundations results as water pressure from the saturated soil applies lateral forces to the walls and resistance from underneath slabs. Basement flooding is one unfortunate consequence of river and creek flooding.

What We're Doing to Address These Issues

Basement Backup Protection Program

This program provides for backwater valve installations on individual home laterals to protect properties from flooding due to sewer backups. Information on the Basement Backup Protection Program can be found at the Official PWD Homepage.


Check the status of Schuylkill River water quality and whether conditions are safe for recreation activities by visiting the Philly RiverCast website at RiverCast is the first operable web-based recreational warning system in the United States, and uses real-time flow, precipitation, and turbidity data to predict bacteria levels (and suggested guidelines for recreation) within a section of the Schuylkill River heavily used by the public for swimming, rowing, and boating.

What You Can Do to Address These Issues

  • Homeowners experiencing frequent basement flooding emanating from plumbing fixtures can have a licensed engineer or registered plumber evaluate the feasibility of installing a backwater valve and/or ejector as an interim solution for their individual property. This solution may be particularly valuable for properties that were originally designed with a sub-grade kitchen or other living space.
  • Report your basement backup
  • Keep trash out of storm drains and take your trash with you after boating or picnicking along the rivers
  • Join a watershed organization