Happening Today: A Brand New Chapter for Philadelphia Water

Part one in a series of stories examining the foundations of our new brand

Way back in the summer of 1987, the Philadelphia Water Department selected its first logo through a design contest for art and design schools in Philadelphia. The winning submission came from Eric E. Doyle, and was designed to convey a department eager to serve the needs of its customers. That sentiment hasn’t changed.  

But Philadelphia Water has evolved tremendously in other ways over the past 29 years. We are working harder than ever to provide quality customer service and protect our infrastructure and water sources, all while transforming Philadelphia into the greenest city in the country. We’re also strengthening our outreach and education efforts to communicate who we are today and our vision for the future. Our new logo is a highly visible reflection of these initiatives.

Philadelphia Water is rolling out a new look for the first time since 1987.

The new logo puts ‘WATER’ front and center and emphasizes the full range of services we provide that impact the quality of life for Philadelphians: quality drinking water, safe and responsible wastewater management, and a commitment to the environment and protecting our city through stormwater management. The updated logo also includes a tagline with a nod to our legacy of serving the city for the last 214 years. 

In the following months, we’ll be using these blog posts to take a closer look at the work behind the new brand, starting with: 

 

  • New efforts in quality customer service
  • New efforts in infrastructure
  • New efforts to transform Philly into a green city
  • New efforts in education and outreach

 

Keep an eye out for more updates at Phillywatersheds.org and feel free to share our new look! 

What’s the Value of Water? Tackle the Question at WHYY with Philadelphia Water

Philadelphia Water is serious about investing in infrastructure. Credit: Rick Orlosky
Philadelphia Water is serious about investing in infrastructure. Credit: Rick Orlosky

Water is essential for everything we do in life, and so are the systems that deliver drinking water to homes and businesses and remove and treat wastewater for safe reuse or return to the environment. After working around the clock for decades or more (often for over a century), and serving growing communities, Philadelphia’s water infrastructure is aging and in need of investment. Water systems also face stresses that their 20th-century builders never anticipated as changing climate patterns intensify storm events, increase drought occurrences, and contribute to rising sea levels and flooding.
Like cities and regions nationwide, Philadelphia is confronting complex environmental, demographic, and economic challenges while working to meet the public’s expectations for affordable clean water, effective wastewater management, and flood protection. But Philadelphia is tackling these formidable challenges with a unique approach. Philadelphia Water is aiming to be a model 21st Century utility with investments in innovative, decentralized water infrastructure as a cornerstone of our 25-year Green City, Clean Waters strategy to achieve that goal. Philadelphia is also pursuing strategies to make all wastewater treatment plans Net Zero Energy facilities.
 
As part of Infrastructure Week 2015, Philadelphia Water is joining forces with American Water, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the Value of Water Coalition for a roundtable discussion on the state of water infrastructure and innovative investments in regional water systems. The conversation will cover a number of ways that water investments are moving Philadelphia and the region forward, and how water infrastructure in this region compares to projects and strategies in other regions across the country.
Join us on Thursday, May 14 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the WHYY Studios for free breakfast and engaging conversation. The event is free, but you must register by clicking here

Source Water Protection Catches Industry Spotlight

The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA
The April cover of the Journal - American Water Works Association. Credit: AWWA

Our Source Water Protection Program is getting more recognition, this time from a leading industry publication, the Journal - American Water Works Association (JAWWA).  

Their April 2015 edition featured an in-depth look at Philadelphia Water’s source water protection efforts in an article titled “Philadelphia’s One-Water Approach Starts With Source Water Protection.”

The piece explores the far-reaching efforts of the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP), which works with a number of partners to maintain the health of the Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds, from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the furthest reaches of the rivers and their tributaries.

The Philadelphia Water employees who authored the report include Elizabeth Couillard, an engineer for SWPP since 2012; Molly D. Hesson, an engineer with the SWPP team since 2006; Kelly Anderson, Program Manager for the SWPP; Mary Ellen McCarty, the Watershed Information Program Manager in PWD’s Office of Watersheds; and Chris Crockett, the Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Environmental Services at PWD and the founder of the SWPP.

Described on the AWWA website as “the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water,” the 50,000-member association has been around since 1881 (which means PWD has them beat by a mere 80 years!).

Getting an article printed in a journal with such a large membership provides PWD with an opportunity to share our successful source water protection efforts with other industry experts, and puts a spotlight on the work behind programs like our Early Warning System Partnership, which just took home a big Environmental Excellence award.

“At a time when we hear so many stories of the impact of human activity on drinking water supplies in the news, understanding and promoting the concept of ‘one water’ is increasingly important. This article was a great opportunity to share PWD's unique perspective as an integrated utility, providing multiple water-related services—drinking water supply, wastewater collection and stormwater management—to customers in Philadelphia,” says Couillard. “PWD’s Source Water Protection Program is charged with protecting Philadelphia’s water supply from upstream threats and is in a unique position to use department experience in each of these services here in the city and then apply them to protection strategies upstream.”

Philadelphia Water thanks the authors of the JAWWA article and all the people who make up the SWPP team for getting the word out about all the hard work we do to make sure Philly always has safe, clean water on tap.
Want to know more about the Source Water Protection Program? Click here.

Philly Student Artists Awarded in Green City, Clean Waters Contest

Winners from the K-2nd grade category celebrate along the Schuylkill with judge Tiffany Ledesma. Photo: Brian Rademaekers
Winners from the K-2nd grade category celebrate along the Schuylkill with judge Tiffany Ledesma. Photo: Brian Rademaekers 

Dozens of budding artists from schools all over the city came out to the Fairmount Water Works to claim their prizes after taking top spots in our Green City, Clean Waters 2015 Art Contest, hosted by Philadelphia Water and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE).

Looking at the truly impressive quality of their work, it’s clear that Philadelphia Water is also a big winner this year. Thanks to the more than 1,300 students who took time to create posters and videos reflecting our “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain” theme, we now have tons of incredible art to help spread the word about protecting our watersheds.

“It was really tough for us to pick winners this year because there were just so many amazing submissions to pick from,”  Tiffany Ledesma, a judge for K-2nd grade entries and member of the Green City, Clean Waters public engagement team, told students and families at the April 28 ceremony.  

Winning students and their teachers from Germantown Friends School, Maritime Academy Charter School, C.C.A Baldi Middle School, St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, Archbishop Ryan High School, Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology (PCAT) at Foundations, Inc. and Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania took home gift cards, a variety of art supplies for their schools, framed certificates, and a contest calendar featuring their artwork.

In addition to the calendar, the winning artwork was used to create street art and SEPTA advertisements that will be seen around the city in the coming months and help spread the word about keeping litter and pollutants off of our streets and out of our waterways. Winning videos were posted to Philadelphia Water’s Vimeo page  and shared on social media sites for Green City, Clean Waters and PDE.

Stop by the Water Works center next to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a free copy of the calendar and check out the videos on the sites above. 

Congratulations to all the winners, and a big thank you to all the students who submitted work and helped get the Green City, Clean Waters message out! 

Click here to check out more photos from the awards ceremony.  

Grant Brings More Green to Lea School

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Porous pavement at the Lea School's playground. Photo credit: WPCNS.
Porous pavement at the Lea School's playground. Photo credit: WPCNS.

Our work to transform Philadelphia schoolyards into living laboratories composed of rain gardens, porous paving, trees and more is getting a big boost in the form of a $20,000 grant from the TD Green Streets program. The generous funding was awarded for Philadelphia Water’s ongoing Green City, Clean Waters green infrastructure improvements at Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 47th and Locust streets in the city’s Walnut Hill section.

The greening effort will involve planting a large shade tree area and street trees this summer–the finishing touches on the first phase of extensive green infrastructure improvements at Lea. This urban forest will be built over a new green stormwater management system.

A partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and TD Bank, the Green Streets program “supports innovative practices in community forestry” by investing in “local forestry projects in low- to moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods,” according to the Arbor Day Foundation website. The Lea grant was one of 10 awarded to communities across the country, and we are extremely excited to be a part of the TD Green Streets program.

For this project, Green City, Clean Waters is partnering with the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) on their “Greening Lea” project, which is transforming the 41,000-square-foot schoolyard into a vibrant and active school and community space. We have been working with WPCNS since 2012 when they participated in the Community Design Collaborative’s “Soak It Up!” design project, which sought to come up with green solutions for stormwater problem areas. We became more involved with their process when they were awarded a Philadelphia Water Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grant in June of 2013. We have participated in their design process throughout.

In 2014, we enabled WPCNS to complete an early phase of the project when they partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to move a play structure from a recently closed school. They were able to remove the asphalt and install a water-porous rubber play surface under both the new and old play structures. The brightly designed surface created a single, cohesive space and reduced the impervious surface by 4,400 square feet.

This summer will see the completion of work that establishes the schoolyard as the primary entrance to the school with a new gate and signage. A series of outdoor play areas, including a shade tree area, a revamped basketball court, and lush rain gardens will welcome students, parents, and teachers.

With this project, everyone is a winner. Philadelphia Water is able to expand its greened acres and the school gets much-needed shade and landscaping in their schoolyard and surrounding neighborhood. Most importantly, the children can touch and see nature in a way that that brings their lessons to life.

Want a Greener School? PWD and Community Design Collaborative Can Help Guide You!

Save the Date: Join us on Monday, May 4 for a very special presentation and discussion.  

Mayor Nutter and Dr. Hite join George W. Nebinger students in a ribbon cutting for their green schoolyard on Earth Day 2015.
Mayor Nutter and Dr. Hite join George W. Nebinger students in a ribbon cutting for their green schoolyard on Earth Day 2015.

After years of bringing the benefits of green stormwater features to dozens of Philly schools through our Green City, Clean Waters plan, we’re ready to share what we’ve learned with communities here and around the country. The result? Transforming Philadelphia’s Schoolyards, a colorful, 44-page design guide to greening schoolyards made with the help of the Community Design Collaborative and their ace team of volunteers. 

The pioneering toolkit on schoolyard transformation will be presented on Monday, May 4, 2015 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Center for Architecture, 1216 Arch Street. The event will include a panel discussion featuring the leaders of three successful schoolyard makeovers, a green schoolyards resource fair, and opening remarks by Philadelphia School District Superintendent, William R. Hite. Jr. and PWD's Commissioner, Howard Neukrug. And, yes, you ARE invited!

We made this guide because there’s an ever-growing groundswell of communities seeking to reinvent Philadelphia’s mostly asphalt schoolyards as neighborhood spaces that foster learning, connection to nature and community. Transforming Philadelphia’s Schoolyards presents ideas, advice and stories drawn from PWD and the Collaborative’s work to design green schoolyards and manage stormwater—providing on-the-ground experience, case studies and guidance for motivated schools and communities across the city and country to do the same.

Through the Green City, Clean Waters plan, PWD is reimagining stormwater management citywide and sees schoolyards as ideal sites for green infrastructure. When PWD began working with the School District of Philadelphia, it recognized a need for a holistic approach to reinventing the schoolyard, and teamed up with the Collaborative, a non-profit providing preliminary architectural, landscape architectural, and engineering designs that incorporate the voices of schools, neighbors and communities. Having been with us since Green City, Clean Waters started nearly five years ago, the Collaborative's experience made them the perfect partner for this guide.  

Advocates for green schoolyards (including teachers, administrators, students, families, communities, designers, public agencies, and others) will gain inspiration and receive a complimentary copy of the design guide at the event.

You can RSVP for the event here. If you’re interested in making your community’s school a greener, brighter place, we hope to see you there!

Philadelphia Water's Early Warning System Getting Praise from High Places

Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.
Above: A map provided by the Source Water Protection Program's Early Warning System showing the tidal spill model trajectory for a hypothetical spill along the Delaware River.

Our Source Water Protection Program at Philadelphia Water does all kinds of important work to ensure the water we drink is safe and protected, from far-off springs in the Catskill and Pocono mountains all the way down to the intakes at our drinking water treatment plants.  However, one of the most critical jobs is overseeing the Delaware Valley Early Warning System–a complex network that stretches from the Delaware Water Gap all the way to Wilmington, Del. and provides a way to sound the alarm when incidents like spills and flooding events occur. 

In recognition of the hard work the Source Water Protection Program (SWPP) does to make sure this crucial web-based system is constantly updated to provide the fastest possible warning and response during emergency situations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection selected the Delaware Valley Early Warning System (EWS) for the 2015 Pennsylvania Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.  Our EWS will be among 15 other programs honored during a special dinner on April 28 in Harrisburg. The award recognizes “the development of a project that promotes environmental stewardship and economic development in the state,” according to the Pa. DEP website.

At its core, the EWS has a simple goal: to notify drinking water suppliers and other water consumers along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers of spills and accidents that occur upstream as quickly as possible. Doing that requires a sophisticated network of over 300 users representing 50 organizations that make up what’s called the EWS Partnership.  Groups within the Partnership can access the system via the EWS telephone hotline or website to alert the network about spills and other incidents, and high-tech features like real-time water quality monitoring and computer models showing how quickly contaminants are moving downstream provide additional information for quick and smart decision making.

Last year, the Source Water team made the EWS even better by implementing a new computer model that predicts the tidal movement of water–critical information during a spill or flood scenario–in the lower Delaware River, where tides play a role in where water goes. This greatly enhanced detail on tidal flows in the Delaware Estuary is of tremendous value to places like PWD’s Baxter drinking water treatment plant, which supplies approximately 60 percent of the city with drinking water.

Given Philadelphia’s location along two rivers at the very bottom of a watershed with plenty of industrial activity, incidents requiring the use of the EWS are inevitable.  This reality makes the work of the SWPP team–and especially maintenance of the warning system–incredibly important, so we are particularly proud of this award from the Pa. DEP. Keep on keeping us safe!

Earth Day Exhibit Reveals Philly's Trash Problem

Artist Bradley Maule works on "One Man's Trash." Fairmount Water Works Photo.
Artist Bradley Maule works on his "One Man's Trash" exhibit. Fairmount Water Works photo.

Anyone who’s taken the time to enjoy the many scenic opportunities afforded by Philly’s waterways has had that moment—you’re soaking in the green and sunshine, marveling at the natural beauty of a river or stream cutting through the urban landscape. And then, some ugly piece of litter breaks the mirage, reminding you that you are, indeed, still in a very big city. One with a trash problem.

Bradley Maule, a Pennsylvania native and Philly transplant, has had that moment more times than he cares to count. Like many nature lovers, he often had the impulse to pick up litter someone else carelessly dropped while hiking along one of his favorite haunts, the Wissahickon Creek in the city’s Northwest. His distaste for the pervasive trash, though, soon morphed into a sort of obsession. Out of this obsession was born “One Man’s Trash,” the latest exhibit at our Fairmount Water Works, which opens (quite appropriately) for today’s Earth Day festivities.

The first in a series of “Culture and Conversation” events that celebrate the Water Works’ 200th anniversary, “One Man’s Trash” is the culmination of a year’s worth of trash collected by Maule during weekly walks in Wissahickon Valley Park, an 1,800-acre wooded gem with the Wissahickon Creek at its heart. The Mt. Airy resident and artist laid out his plans for the project on his website, Philly Skyline, and described his yearlong effort for readers:

Each week, once a week, for all of 2014, I went on 2-3 hour hikes, picking up all the litter I encountered. If something was too big to haul out, I made a note of it on my phone’s text app and made arrangements to remove it with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and Friends of the Wissahickon, the official partners on this project.

Luckily for us, Maule drew the line at picking up “organic litter”—a distinction that means we don’t have to look at a display of rotting apple cores or bags of dog waste!

The Water Works will unveil Maule’s work, which includes infographics reflecting his meticulous tally of collected litter, during a 5:30 p.m. opening reception. The exhibit will be on display through June 26, after which all the junk he’s collected will be recycled, donated and otherwise disposed of.

"A timely exhibit for Earth Day, ‘One Man's Trash’ brings to the forefront the amount of litter accrued on land, and provides an insightful look into how our behavior truly affects our water supply," says Karen Young, executive director of Fairmount Water Works.

When asked what he wants people to take away from the exhibit, Maule says he wants to inspire “…deeper consideration for the waste we each generate” and to foster awareness “that we need to treat our parks better.” In addition to compiling all the trash, he took time to look at the broader waste tied to a specific trail-side menace: the plastic water bottle.

"One of the most common objects I encountered over the course of the year was plastic water bottles—255 of them (with 43 brand names)," Maule told us. Maule also says his focus on the Wissahickon underscored a troubling connection between littering in parks and fouling up our waterways. "Almost all of Philly's big parks — Fairmount, Wissahickon, Pennypack, Cobbs, Tacony, Poquessing—exist where they do because of watersheds," notes Maule. "Unless it's picked up and properly disposed of, litter ultimately ends up in our waterways, whether directly in a place like the Wissahickon, or after a journey from city streets through gutters and sewers."

Click here to register for the “One Man’s Trash exhibit. The event is free, but space is limited.