2015 Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest seeking next great Philly Street Artist!

Street art by Faruq Adger
Storm drain art by Faruq Adger, 5th grade, Germantown Friends School. Photo by Shaun Bailey, courtesty of the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary.

Calling the next Banksy or Steve Powers, a.k.a. ESPO!

Philadelphia is a city filled with street art. In fact, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the country and their motto is “…art ignites change.” We agree and we’re looking for some aspiring young artists to create street art that will help us spread the word that pollution entering our storm drains can end up in our rivers.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is now accepting entries on behalf of the Philadelphia Water Department for its Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest! The deadline for entries is February 28, 2015. A brochure with all of the contest rules and specs for the pictures and videos can be found by clicking on this link.

Students in grades K-12 can enter by creating a drawing and/or video showing others how to stop polluted water from entering local storm drains.

Last year’s first-place winner—Esme Fa Harrison from Germantown Friends School—was featured on WHYY’s Newsworks.org after her creation was turned into street art near a Germantown Avenue stormwater inlet. This year’s first-place winner will get to see their artwork digitally enhanced and enlarged to be placed in the streets of Philadelphia, reminding everyone that only rain should go in the storm drain.  Please encourage a student you know to enter for a shot at his or her own street art fame!

Other winning drawings will be made into advertisements used on SEPTA buses, featured in a free calendar in the spring, and posted along with winning videos on the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds, and other sponsors’ websites. 

Winning individuals and teams will have a chance at gift cards of up to $100 in value, a variety of art supplies for their schools, framed certificates, and a contest calendar featuring their artwork. Teachers of winning students will each receive $50 gift cards. The first three schools or organizations to submit over 100 entries will receive $100 gift cards.

Cold Weather Tips from PWD

With temperatures dipping into the single digits this week, it’s a great time to share our cold weather tips for winterizing your water system. Early action can help you avoid costly repairs to your pipes and water meter. Here are our tips to keep out the cold:

1. Identify the location of the shut-off valves for your water main, usually near the water meter. In emergencies, use the house-side shutoff valve to shut off your water supply.

2. Keep water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. When cold air blows on a pipe, it is at risk of freezing. Reduce that risk by repairing or replacing broken windows, covering windows with plastic and caulking windows near water meters and pipes.

4. Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas, like your basement. Pay close attention to pipes near exterior walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. In extremely cold weather, let water run overnight at a trickle. Moving water will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
6. Disconnect garden hoses and winterize the outdoor faucet. 


If you plan to be away from home or own a property that is vacant for an extended period of time,  drain and winterize your home plumbing system. 

The first sign of freezing pipes is reduced water flow from a faucet, so check your faucets for flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up. If you do experience low pressure and suspect your pipes are frozen, check with a neighbor to make sure the problem is isolated to your home. 

  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes or water meter freeze, use a space heater or hair dryer to heat the area. 
  • Make sure the faucets is turned on so melting water can drip out.
  • After your pipes thaw, look to see if your pipes are cracked or damaged and make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent freezing from happening again. 
  • You may want to engage the services of a licensed, registered plumber. 

  • Shut off water with the house-side water main valve near your water meter.
  • If the break is in a hot water pipe, close the valve on top of the water heater.
  • Call a licensed and registered plumber to to repair the broken pipe. 

If your pipes freeze, PWD is not responsible and is not able to help. Protecting your pipes and water meter from the cold is well worth the effort and will ensure your water flows through the winter. 

Check out this video for more. 


Keeping out the Cold from Philadelphia Water Department on Vimeo.

To get a printable, .pdf version of these tips, click here

PWD awards $8.25 million in stormwater management grants, seeks more applicants

Cardone - Stormwater Management Incentives Program
Cardone Industries, a SMIP grant winner, constructed a stormwater management system at its 60-acre Northeast Philadelphia headquarters that can capture the first 1.38 inches of rainfall per storm and store approximately 5 million gallons of stormwater on site. Photo from ISS Management. 

Meet SMIP (the Stormwater Management Incentives Program) and GARP (Greened Acre Retrofit Program), PWD’s two innovative programs that reward local businesses, institutions and other non-residential water customers financially for retrofitting their properties to divert stormwater out of our combined storm and waste water system. Together, these two programs awarded $8.25 million to four projects (3 SMIPs and 1 GARP) from July to September of 2014. These projects, representing a total of 11 properties, created 92 greened acres! A greened acre manages at least the first inch of rainfall over that acre. This puts us 92 acres closer to our goal of turning 9,500 impervious (water runs off instead of soaks in) acres into “green acres” over the course of our 25 year Green City, Clean Waters program. Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor would be so proud!

SMIP was started in January 2012 and provides grants to non-residential property owners who want to retrofit their properties to manage stormwater. Instead of simply paying higher stormwater management fees, SMIP tips the financial calculations for property owners and creates incentives to build and maintain systems that capture stormwater that would otherwise end up in our sewer system and waterways. SMIP grant recipients not only get financial assistance for the design and implementation of their systems, they will also enjoy the lower stormwater fees since their properties will be generating less runoff. 


W & W Realty Company was awarded a SMIP grant to implement green stormwater management upgrades to its commercial tenant, Dependable Distribution Services Incorporated. With the installation of three large stormwater management systems, their 35-acre site will manage more than 800,000 gallons of stormwater directly on site.

GARP came online in July 2014 and provides stormwater grants to contractors or project aggregators who can build large-scale stormwater retrofit projects across multiple properties. Our first GARP grant went to ISS Management, a stormwater solutions provider, working with eight different commercial property owners. 

To see the three projects that were awarded SMIP grants and the list of properties covered by our first GARP grant, check out this press release announcing the awards. Together, the projects will save these commercial property owners almost $400,000 per year in reduced stormwater fees!

SMIP and GARP are run in partnership with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). Applications for both SMIP and GARP can be submitted at any time and announcements will be made towards the end of each fiscal quarter. So get in now to be considered for the January to March 2015 quarter! Applications not selected in a particular round will have the opportunity to be rolled over to the next without having to resubmit.

More information about both SMIP and GARP can be found on our website. Check out PIDC’s Development and Contract Opportunities page for the grant applications.

Resolve to know our rivers better in 2015

A River Runs Through It: Philadelphia Water Skiing + Skateboarding from Jon Graham on Vimeo.

With just a few more hours in 2014, it’s time to reflect back a little on all of the great things that we’ve experienced over the past year and make our plans for 2015. A few days ago we stumbled upon the video above created by local filmmaker Jon Graham and it’s so cool that we had to share! Seeing people enjoy the Schuylkill River—strolling on the new 2,000 foot long Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, skating at Paine’s Park, waterskiing, boating, kayaking and more—is very gratifying. At PWD, we’re proud of the role we played in helping to make 2014 such a successful year for our rivers, our water and our city.  

Whether it’s our own Schuylkill River being named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year or seeing the endangered shortnose sturgeon return to the Schuylkill, 2014 was a tremendously successful year for the health of our rivers. 

We were fortunate to be a part of a great collaboration with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Manayunk community that resulted in the opening of the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. This project showed how green storm water infrastructure and a PWD stormwater storage basin unit can be seamlessly interwoven into a great neighborhood and citywide amenity. We also named our first Stormwater Pioneer and gave $8.25 million to businesses for green stormwater management practices on private property through our SMIP and GARP programs. 

And we’re especially proud of award after award after award being brought home by many of PWD’s staff. And we have to give a shout out to our 2014 Philadelphia Water Department Spokesdog Winners who help us reduce the amount of pet waste that ends up in our rivers! 

As we look ahead to 2015 (here’s our spin on the common resolutions to eat better and exercise more), we suggest you resolve to: 

1. Get outside and experience every single one of the city’s waterways and the great things to do on their banks. Whether it’s waterskiing or kayaking on the Schuylkill or running and biking alongside it; taking in another pop-up park along the Delaware; or hiking along the Wissahickon, Pennypack, Poquessing, Cobbs, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford, you’ll get exercise and relieve stress by being near the water.  

2. Drink tap water! Philadelphia’s drinking water continues to be among the nation’s cleanest, safest and most reliable. We resolve to continue that in 2015 so you can resolve to get your 8 glasses (at least!) per day and at an affordable cost. The cost of 50 glasses of water here in Philadelphia is less than a penny!

3. Do your part to keep pollution out of Philadelphia's rivers and streams.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Ralph Brooks Groundbreaking Rescheduled... Again

RESCHEDULED
The Ralph Brooks Groubdbreaking event will take place today!
Please join Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin, Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, PWD Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Urban Roots, and more as we kick off this fantastic project. 

WHAT: Ralph Brooks Groundbreaking
WHEN: Monday, December 22, 2014 at 2:30 PM
WHERE: Ralph Brooks Park, 20th and Tasker Streets

To learn more about the project, check out our earlier blog post.
A flyer for this event can be downloaded here.

Rendering of Ralph Brooks Park  

Raise a glass to celebrate 40 Years of the Safe Drinking Water Act!

Photo by Bill Kelly

Happy Birthday, Safe Water Drinking Act!
You truly are getting better with age!


On December 16, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed Washington Democratic Senator Warren Magnuson’s Senate Bill 433 into law creating Public Law 93-523: the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The law went into effect the next day and authorized the EPA “to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water.”

The law has been amended twice (1986 and 1996) to include many actions that protect drinking water and the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs and wells that supply it. As part of our compliance with the EPA’s regulations, PWD produces an annual Drinking Water Quality Report  and maintains a Source Water Protection Program that has made our Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds cleaner now than they have been in over a century! Of course we still face many challenges to keeping our rivers and drinking water clean, but, hey, it’s what we love to do!

Most of us don’t give a second thought when we put our glass under our tap and fill it with water. And that’s true whether we’re taking that drink here in Philadelphia or in a hotel in Hawaii or a campground in Alaska. Aside from very rare instances (and for PWD customers, so rare to be virtually non-existent), the water from our tap can be trusted to be clean and safe, in part, because of compliance with the SDWA and the billions of dollars of infrastructure investment that keeping in compliance has required. That we can take our tap for granted is even more amazing when you consider how many parts of the world—for lack of funding, dysfunctional governments, or natural shortages—spend a major part of their daily lives finding drinkable water.

To hear PWD Commissioner Neukrug's interview on WHYY's RadioTimes about the Safe Drinking Water Act, click here.

Did you know....

  • In Philadelphia the cost of 50 glasses of water is less than a penny!
  • PWD monitors Philadelphia's water 24/7 at three treatment and at checkpoints throughout our delivery system.
  • It's estimated that 25% to 40% of all bottled water is taken from the municpal water supply. 
  • There is more fresh water in the atmosphere than in all of the rivers on the planet combined.
  • 75% of a chicken, 80% of a pineapple, and 95% of a tomato is water.
  • It is possible for people today to drink water that was part of the dinosaur era!

To celebrate, raise a glass of cool, delicious (and safe) tap water (or eight ten-ounce glasses if you want to get the 2.5 quarts the EPA recommends you drink to “maintain health”) and read up on what YOU can do as an individual to help US keep your drinking water clean and safe.

Photo credit: Bill Kelly
sources: Philadelphia Water Department, EPA water trivia page, EPA's Drinking Water Facts and Figures

PWD Wins EPA Award for Turning Poop Into Power!

Amanda Byrne accepts EPA Green Power Leadership Award
PWD Energy Team member Amanda Byrne accepts EPA Green Energy Leadership Award 

It’s not often that PWD gets to share the stage with tech superstars Apple and Google, the design mavens at Herman Miller, or the cool kids at REI and Trek Bicycles. But on December 3rd at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference in Sacramento, PWD Energy Team member Amanda Byrne (pictured above) represented the city of Philadelphia, which received one of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Awards in the On-site Green Power Generation category. The award recognizes “achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable energy market and reducing greenhouse gas emissions fueling climate change.” 

Philadelphia received the award because of the Greenworks plan and its commitment to purchase and generate 20 percent of its electricity from alternative energy sources. A big step towards reaching that target comes from PWD’s Biogas Cogeneration Facility at the Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP), where we’re literally turning the city’s poop into power! The award also recognizes two additional green power projects by PWD, a sewage geothermal installation and solar photovoltaic system, both at PWD’s Southeast WPCP.

The 5.6 megawatt Biogas Cogeneration Facility—our largest green power project to date—came online just about one year ago today and produces about 40 million kilowatt-hours annually. This is the equivalent of avoiding 32,300 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, the same as taking over 5,000 cars off the road! This facility is also estimated to save $12 million over the course of the next 16 years by producing 85% of the plant’s annual electricity needs right on site.

How does it work? It’s diagram time!
Biogas Cogeneration Diagram 

This plant’s primary responsibility is removing pollutants from our wastewater before sending that water back into the ecosystem. And we’ve figured out how to take the very… uh… stuff (this is a family blog, after all) we pull out of the water and use it to produce fuel for running the plant! So… yeah. Keep flushing Philadelphia!

This is the second EPA Green Power Leadership Award for the City of Philadelphia, which also won in 2012 for Green Power Purchasing. Want to learn more about the EPA’s Green Power Leaders and see who else got to share the stage with PWD and Google? Check out the EPA’s release here.

Stanley's Hardware Named First Stormwater Pioneer

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“You don’t get a chance very often in life to be a pioneer at anything,” noted Stanley’s True Value Hardware President Mark Jaconski, who with his brother Joe was honored as Philadelphia’s first Stormwater Pioneer. “Our father and grandfather pioneered the business.  We’re just doing our part to help the environment,” he explained, as dozens of customers, employees, neighbors, Philadelphia Water Department executives, City Council representatives and community members applauded their efforts.

Stanley’s Hardware was recognized for excellence in stormwater management and the site will be a model for business owners and private developers who want to reduce runoff from their properties. PWD and the Jackonskis unveiled a Stormwater Pioneers plaque for the property and the brothers were presented with a City Council Citation by Josh Cohen of Councilman Curtis Jones’ office. 

The ceremony, covered by both Newsworks and the Roxborough Review of Montgomery Media, also recognized Ruggiero Plante Land Design in Manayunk for designing the stormwater management strategy. It includes a highly-visible rain garden adjacent to the store’s parking lot and two underground infiltration basins. Together, the system manages over 3,000 cubic feet of runoff.

The Jaconski brothers built a new store on the site of their family’s 66-year old business, tripling its size and doubling both the business and the staff. The business goals established for year 10 have been achieved in year two. 

Case in point, according to Jim Evans, owner of nearby Bob’s Diner, the Jaconski brothers are an inspiration to other business owners on Ridge Avenue. “When I saw what they did on their property, I decided to plant vegetation to do my part for the environment and the neighborhood.”

For more information, visit PWD’s Stormwater Pioneers webpage.