What's with the Requested Rate Change? 9 Ways to Learn More, Get Involved

Customers, City Council, Mayor Kenney, and the Water Rate Board were recently informed that we need to raise rates. Increased rates will ensure we have the resources we need to better maintain one of the oldest water systems in the country.

As a part of the process—and to promote transparency—we are holding seven Public Input Hearings across the city. These hearings are held with the Water Rate Board, an independent body created by voters to oversee any rate changes. Any testimony made by residents will become part of the public record.

You can find a list of meeting locations, dates and times on the Rate Board site.

We encourage our customers to get involved in the process by attending a hearing and viewing our detailed breakdown of how rates could change and what they fund, available here.

Did you know? When we request a rate change, we must show that the increase is justified and needed. If the Rate Board thinks we didn’t show we truly need more revenue, they can lower the increase to an amount below what we requested or refuse to raise rates at all.

Where Your Bill Goes: Behind the Scenes
In addition to the Public Input Hearings, we will host two upcoming Water Open House events at two big facilities—the Baxter Water Treatment Plant on the Delaware River and the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant.

While not part of the official rate-setting process, these events are designed to show you what your water bill helps pay for. Because we are a not-for-profit, cost of service public utility, all the funds that make 24/7 access to clean water possible come from the monthly water bills sent to Philadelphia residents.

Every PWD employee lives in the city, too, and that means our paying customers include the nearly 2,000 people working to ensure our pipes and plants are doing their job, protecting our rivers and bringing top-quality water to homes and businesses around the clock.

The Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant event will take place on Saturday, April 14 and the Baxter event will take place on Saturday, April 21. In addition to the open houses, expert-guided tours will be offered at each plant. Space for the tours is limited, so RSVP now.

Not sure which one you want to see? The April 14 event will show you how we treat wastewater from homes and streets to protect our rivers; the April 21 event at Baxter will show you how we turn raw river water into top-quality tap that meets or beats state and federal quality standards. All Philly residents with a valid ID are welcome at both. 

Those who attend will get a behind the scenes look at everything needed to deliver safe water and protect our rivers.

Participants can also:

  • Hear from Commissioner Debra McCarty, the first woman to lead PWD in its 200-year history.
  • Talk to Water Revenue experts and learn how we help customers save.
  • Meet some of the nation’s most-trusted water quality scientists, plant operators and more.
  • Learn how our city is leading the way with Green City, Clean Waters, America’s first large-scale green stormwater infrastructure program.

RSVP now!

Join Us in Making Germantown's Bringhurst Park Greener


Bringhurst Park has been a community gathering space for decades. Now, the space is getting a revamp to add some green and protect our local waterways. Residents and park users are invited to join us for a talk on April exploring future designs.  

UPDATE: This meeting has been moved from the park to Germantown United CDC, 5320 Germantown Ave., due to high winds and possible rain. The meeting will kick off at 5:30 p.m. as planned. Please bring your ideas!

Thanks to our Green City, Clean Waters program, thousands of green tools like rain gardens and stormwater tree planters across the city soak up tens of millions of gallons of stormwater runoff each time we have a substantial storm.

Germantown is already home to a number of these projects, but many more green stormwater improvements are planned for the neighborhood in the coming years. Dozens of residents came out to learn about plans for these projects and provided input during our October 2017 open house at the Happy Hollow Recreation Center.

As part of ongoing efforts to involve residents in designing these planned green improvements, we are currently working with neighbors and others who use Bringhurst Park, located across the street from the John Wister Elementary School at Bringhurst and Wakefield, to revamp the space and add stormwater management features.

A meeting to discuss the project and collect feedback about possible improvements will be held at the park on Wednesday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m.

In the event of rain or other bad weather, we will meet at the Germantown United Community Development Corporation, located at 5320 Germantown Ave.

Sign up for the Philadelphia Water Department Germantown green projects email list here to be notified if the meeting is moved and to get alerts about other local projects and events.

Calling Changemakers: Follow This AmeriCorps VISTA's Lead

Clockwise from left to right, AmeriCorps VISTA Sam Boden: Speaking with a church elder at Bethesda Presbyterian Church about their green stormwater grant; answering questions about customer assistance programs at a Germantown recreation center; providing information to residents at a City Hall event; presenting to the Block Captain Rally about resources and how to access them.
Clockwise from left to right, AmeriCorps VISTA Sam Boden: Speaking with a church elder at Bethesda Presbyterian Church about their green stormwater grant; answering questions about customer assistance programs at a Germantown recreation center; providing information to residents at a City Hall event; presenting to the Block Captain Rally about resources and how to access them.

By Sam Boden, current VISTA

I jumped into my AmeriCorps VISTA service year with no idea what to expect.

Even though I was provided with a project description and ample training from the city and CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service), I wondered how I would make an impact while working for a municipal water utility.

Little did I know how transformative this experience would be when I applied for the position, which is accepting applications now through April 5.

We’re Wild About ‘Wonders of Water’: Come See PWD at the Flower Show!

Over here at the Philadelphia Water Department, there’s no shortage of people who proudly wear the “water geek” badge, and we’ve also got more than a few proponents of all things green and growing.

So, you can imagine our delight after learning that the theme of the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show would be Wonders of Water.

After all, PWD has been a wonder of the water world from the beginning: our Fairmount Water Works drinking water plant—surrounded by famous gardens with fountains and sculpture—drew curious visitors like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain from around the globe in the 1800s.

Now that the show’s final weekend is upon us, we can say that Wonders of Water has more than lived up to our nerdiest H2O dreams and grandest go-green expectations.

Whether it’s the lush rainforest spilling over with waterfalls or the far-out landscape of giant cacti showcasing flowers that thrive with almost no water at all, each exhibit is an exquisite exploration of the liquid that makes all plant life on Earth possible.

We got so excited for this year’s water theme, we even created an exhibit for visitors to explore—Home Green Home.

It’s a slice of a Philadelphia block transplanted to the Convention Center floor to showcase all the ways in which a local home interacts with water, from a bright flower-filled stormwater bumpout on the curb to the hidden pipes bringing drinking water to the tap and taking used water away.

'Home Green Home' at The Philadelphia Flower Show

There’s lots of signage to provide inside info and each point of interest in the display has a tip to help you protect water, so be sure to stop by and say hello if you’re coming—as long as supplies last, we’ll have Coreopsis seed packets to encourage natural stormwater gardens at home.

PWD will also have iPads where you can share your thoughts about drinking water quality.

The show runs through Sunday, March 11 and is at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch Streets. PWD’s Home Green Home is located just to the right of the PHS Shop beyond the Grand Exhibit.

If you come in through the Marriot gates above the Jefferson Station entrance at 11th and Market, look for a fun cut-out prop where you can pose as Water Woman, PWD’s trash and pollution fighting hydration superhero.

More Water-Geek Goodies
Of course, Home Green Home is not the only cool place to learn about local water issues at the Philadelphia Flower Show: look for more great stuff like Window on the Watershed, a big installation created through the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative and the Alliance for Watershed Education.

At this exhibit, you’ll meet with members of local waterways groups like the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership and encounter “ecological lessons and stories of our own complex freshwater system—the Delaware River Watershed.”

There’s also Down the Drain, showcasing landscaping options—many of which you can get funding for through our Rain Check program—that you can use to manage stormwater and make your home more beautiful.

Be sure to check these out too:

The World’s Drinking Water by American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD)
This look at select countries that don’t have access to clean drinking water brings awareness to how precious clean drinking water is and how scarce access is for most people in the world. Countries are represented by intricate designs inspired by beautiful flowers.

Urbanization Meets Naturalization by Mercer County Community College Horticulture Program
In a world where our homes often encroach on nature, we need to find ways to make more sustainable choices. Whether we create more permeable surfaces, harvest and utilize rainwater, or make smarter plant choices, every action is a step towards building a more natural environment in an urban setting.

“…nary a drop to drink…” by U.S. EPA Region III
This exhibit has been designed to highlight the connection between watershed protection and our precious drinking water resources. In addition to instilling beauty, the conservation and enhancement of aquatic ecosystems in our own gardens promotes clean and healthy water, while serving as a sustainable landscaping practice.

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty səˌstānəˈbilədē by W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences
sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty səˌstānəˈbilədē depicts an urban residence with a landscape that is beautiful as well as sustainable. Features of this landscape include the use of rainwater collected in downspouts and rain barrels for plant irrigation and fountain sculptures. Solar panels are incorporated into a green roof gazebo and many novel planters are made from recycled materials. Diverse plants are displayed in the many micro-environments of this landscape from its rain gardens and hydroponic planters to its exposed roof surface.

Would You Drink the Water? by Williamson College of the Trades in partnership with Stroud Water Research Center
The seniors in Williamson College of the Trades Horticulture Program and the scientists at the Stroud Water Research Center hope you are inspired by this exhibit and learn the importance of small streams in the environment.

In this exhibit, we display some of the best management practices for improving water and habitat quality in small streams, which is where pollutants typically enter the waterway.

Forest buffers on streambanks keep pollutants from entering streams and provide leaves as food and shade to keep streams cool. The exhibit shows how riparian buffers play a critical role in improving water quality, providing aquatic and wildlife habitats for many species.

Wanted: West Phila. Students for Watershed Stewardship Training

In a recent talk hosted by the TTF Watershed Partnership, acclaimed author Richard Louv urged Philadelphia parents to make sure their kids are getting enough “Vitamin N”—as in nature.

Making a connection to the wildlife and habitats around us is a life skill that can help our youth fend off stress and “nature deficit disorder,” says Louv.

Thanks to the new Philadelphia Watershed Stewardship program, West Philadelphia youth can get a healthy dose of nature along with valuable life and career skills. There’s even a stipend to sweeten the pot.

Last year, we partnered with the LandHealth Institute—a nonprofit providing environmental education to local teens—to create one of the first youth stewardship programs in the City committed to protecting our watersheds. That first season saw great things happen for the students and for our waterways, so we’re excited to bring in a new team of enthusiastic, passionate stewards to help us do it again this year.

The deadline to apply is Friday, April 6th. Access the application online here.

Those interested in applying should contact Dan Kobza from the LandHealth Institute at daniel@landhealthinstitute.org for more information. Kobza will get a hand in running the program from Dan Schupsky, PWD’s community contact for West Philadelphia Green City, Clean Waters projects.

 

How Stewards Serve

Beginning in late spring, 15 high school students age 15-18 from the West Philadelphia area will work alongside PWD, the LandHealth Institute and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) for 11 weeks.

Students will start out learning how to protect the Darby-Cobbs watershed, which flows through many West and Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods, with lessons covering topics like ecology, watershed management and stormwater runoff. After the training sessions, students will spend the summer applying the new skills in their communities.

The stewards will train with LandHealth and the Parks and Recreation staff at the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center— the perfect home base for the Watershed Stewards.

As a potent connector that's linked West Philadelphia residents to the natural world for decades, the center provides a familiar local meeting place where Stewards can host community events, a classroom, and place where students can do real work to improve an urban watershed.

Students can earn up to $850 over the course of the program. Those who complete all training sessions will earn $275. An additional $575 can be earned by participating in various events. Being a Watershed Steward will even give students a leg up when applying for jobs and programs like Philadelphia Youth Network and Power Corps PHL.

First Year Highlights

Here’s a sample of some Watershed Stewards activities from the first year:

 

 

In addition to the skills and knowledge they pick up, the program empowers students by connecting them to environmental and civic leaders, mentors, and new friends while immersing them in a side of the city they may not have experienced before.

Don’t just take our word for it—check out the blog posts penned by last year’s stewards!

Who Is a Watershed Steward?

The ideal Watershed Steward is eager to learn and passionate about protecting the environment, our local waterways, and their community—no prior experience is needed.

To apply, students must submit one letter of recommendation along with their application.

Please apply today and share with like-minded friends! If you have any questions, contact Dan Schupsky at Daniel.Schupsky@phila.gov or 215-683-3405.

EXTRA: Read about how we work with the Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center in this Philadelphia Neighborhoods article -

Coming up: Join Us to Discuss Ideas for Growing Private Green Infrastructure

Have ideas for helping create more success stories like this one in Philadelphia? We want to hear from you.

We recently issued an official "Request for Information," or RFI, supporting the City's efforts to grow the footprint of green stormwater infrastructure on private and non-City property.

To help answer any questions and provide more details about why we issued this RFI, we're hosting an information session on January 10, 2018.

Starting at 9 a.m., the one-hour info session will take place at Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) headquarters, located at 1101 Market Street. Those interested should come to Conference Room 5A on 5th floor.

Responses to this RFI are due by February 9, 2018.

Stormwater Salvation: Could Your Faith-Based Group Get Help to Go Green + Save?

Bethesda's Grant-Funded Rain Gardens

As an early adopter of green infrastructure and Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant recipient, Bethesda Presbyterian's congregation blazed a trail for other faith-based organizations to follow and are committed to protecting Philadelphia’s water.

Bethesda Presbyterian Church sits on a large plot of land in Northeast Philadelphia’s Bustleton neighborhood. The church’s monthly stormwater fees—higher than they would like—reflected the property's large proportion of impervious surfaces, which put a considerable burden on the local sewers during storms. (More about how stormwater fees work here.)

Fortunately, Joan Wilson, a church elder, was determined to reduce that stormwater charge.

New ‘Quiz,’ Website to Jumpstart Your Discounted 2018 Green Home Upgrade

Click this image to visit the new Rain Check site and answer a few questions that will help you find the best discounted green stormwater improvement for your home.
The updated Rain Check website offers customized options for residents interested in free or discounted green improvements offered through the Philadelphia Water Department Rain Check program. Visit www.PWDRainCheck.org

Rain Check—our program best known for providing City residents with free rain barrels—is entering its sixth year with a new website designed to encourage more home landscaping projects that protect local waterways.

By visiting the new Rain Check site, residents can now get a jumpstart on sustainable projects in the new year by discovering the best green upgrade for their property, right from their phone or computer.

“More than 3,500 Philly homes now have rain barrels or other green stormwater tools thanks to Rain Check, so there’s clearly an appetite for sustainable home improvement projects in our city,” says program manager and PWD employee Jeanne Waldowski. “With this new website, we’re giving people who are thinking big about ‘greening’ their home in 2018 the tools they need to make it happen.”

While free rain barrels are the most popular tool installed through Rain Check, the program also provides deep discounts on a range of green upgrades that lessen a home’s stormwater pollution footprint.

Using fresh features on the new website, homeowners can explore whether a rain barrel, planter, or more involved green upgrade—such as a rain garden or rain-absorbing back patio—is a good fit for their property. After deciding what tool is the best option for shrinking their property’s stormwater pollution footprint, residents can sign up for an upcoming workshop.

The free educational workshops, held in neighborhoods across the city, are mandatory to receive a free rain barrel or participate in Rain Check cost-sharing.

Check it Out: Take a quick quiz that will help you pick a project now

Rain Check

“People don’t always have time to come to one of our free Rain Check workshops just to find out that their property doesn’t qualify for a rain barrel or other green tool, so we designed the new site in a way that will help residents find out in advance what will work best on their property,” says Waldowski. “By taking a short quiz about their property, people can quickly find out if Rain Check is a good fit and what options are available.”

Qualifying projects can receive up to $2,000 through Rain Check cost-sharing.