Introducing Stormwater Pioneers!

More and more Philadelphia businesses are using green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff on their properties. Whether required by PWD regulations or encouraged through incentives, private property owners recognize the important role they play in reducing pollution in our streams when it rains. They are also setting a higher bar with excellent, cost-effective designs.

That’s why PWD recently launched Stormwater Pioneers, a program to highlight the work of innovative business owners and design teams. Stormwater Pioneers acknowledges the very best in stormwater management on private property. The program showcases innovation, excellence, the ability to overcome technical challenges and a true dedication by the property owners, developers, engineers and designers to reduce stormwater runoff.

The first Stormwater Pioneer is Stanley’s True Value Hardware, which has operated as a family-run business in Roxborough for 66 years. After decades of working in a cramped store, brothers Mark and Joseph Jaconski decided to build a new store on their current property. The construction of an expanded facility required the brothers to meet PWD’s Stormwater Regulations. They also decided to protect the environment for the next generation. Their solution was a comprehensive design that utilizes a beautiful rain garden and three underground infiltration basins, which capture runoff and infiltrate it into the ground. 

The property at 5555 Ridge Avenue will be dedicated on Thursday, November 20th at 2 pm. Join Councilman Curtis Jones, Water Department Deputy Commissioner Chris Crockett, the Roxborough Development Corporation and the Central Roxborough Civic Association as they honor the Jaconski brothers and Ruggerio Plante Land Design for their part in protecting the health of Philadelphia’s rivers through excellent site design.

Break Ground at Ralph Brooks Park with Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin

Please join Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin, Deputy Mayor Michael DeBerardinis, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and PWD Deputy Commissioner Chris Crockett for...

WHAT: Ralph Brooks Groundbreaking
WHEN: Monday, November 17, 2014 at 3:30 PM
WHERE: Ralph Brooks Park, 20th and Tasker Streets


Ralph Brooks Tot Lot, a small playground in Point Breeze with basketball courts and a play area for children, was named after a seven year old boy who was shot and paralyzed at the site in 1988. The shooting galvanized the community and the park has carried his name as a symbol against violence ever since. The park, now over 25 years old, has seen better days...and soon it will again.

After years of hard work, fundraising and collaboration, multiple partners have joined forces to revitalize Ralph Brooks Park. Monday will be the groundbreaking for the first phase of the project, which will include new basketball courts, new play equipment, sidewalk improvements, tree plantings, and a rain garden which will manage stormwater runoff from the site.

To learn more about the project and how Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin is involved, check out this video, Connor Barwin As Green As It Gets.

PWD is proud to be involved with a host of partners working on this project including:

To download a .pdf flyer for this groundbreaking event, click here.

Endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Returns to the Schuylkill


Shortnose sturgeon
Shortnosed sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum. Author: Karen Couch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last summer, just below the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River, an angler managed to catch a shortnose sturgeon, a species of fish that has been on the endangered species list since 1967! While sometimes found in the Delaware River, the shortnose sturgeon has never been found in the Schuylkill—at least not on record. PWD regularly samples fish in the Schuylkill and in their 14 years of sampling below the dam, they have not seen this species.

Spotting this shortnosed sturgeon not only indicates that the species could be coming back, it also indicates that the water quality of the Schuylkill is improving. Researchers have long used levels of dissolved oxygen to gauge water quality—oxygen deficient water is not good for aquatic life. The sturgeon is extremely sensitive to low levels of dissolved oxygen, so finding one in the Schuylkill indicates that the dissolved oxygen levels are on the rise.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a sturgeon, remember it is a protected species and that you should quickly return it to the water. To learn more about the shortnosed sturgeon and other species (not all good!) that inhabit the Schuylkill River, check out this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Green City, Clean Waters Wins Planning Excellence Award

APA Award

Congratulations to our Green City, Clean Waters program for being awarded the American Planning Association (APA) Pennsylvania Chapter's Planning Excellence Award in Implementation! The annual award is given to those whose work exemplifies the best and brightest in Pennsylvania Planning. Jessica Noon and Liz Svekla, planners in the Office of Watersheds at PWD, accepted the award at the PA APA annual conference on October 14, 2014. Pennsylvania Chapter President Brian O’Leary presented the award during a luncheon ceremony in front of 500+ planning peers.

During the conference PWD staff led a tour of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects at the Big Green Block. Ten conference participants from communities across Pennsylvania attended the tour to see rain gardens, green roofs, tree trenches and more. Participants learned about GSI design and maintenance; successful partnerships with agencies and stakeholders; stormwater regulations; and the importance of community involvement.

Jessica Noon, Amy Liu, Nicole Hostettler and Liz Svekla from PWD attended the conference sessions and returned to the Water Department with new ideas and inspiration from other parts of Pennsylvania.

Special thanks to APA PA conference committee chairs Susan Shermer, Denny Puko and Keith McNally for coordinating our tour and award!

Greening Lea Playground

Lea Elementary School Playground before the Greening Lea Project
Lea Elementary School Playground before the Greening Lea Project


Lea Elementary School Playground after phase l of the Greening Lea Project

Congratulations to Lea Elementary School which recently completed phase I of its playground transformation project! Previously an asphalt lot, the Greening Lea project will revitalize the school’s 41,000 square foot playground and convert it into a vibrant, fun educational space for the school and the larger community. The Philadelphia Water Department awarded the West Philadelphia Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS), which is spearheading the project, a $242,000 Stormwater Management Incentives Program grant for the project, which will include a porous play surface, a rain garden and other green tools to manage stormwater runoff. 

WPCNS has been working since 2012 to revamp the play areas and brought in parents, students, volunteer design professionals, the Community Design Collaborative, the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Water Department, who worked together to create a master plan for the schoolyard. On September 19 there was a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the existing play set to include a play set from nearby Wilson Elementary School, which was closed in 2013. Beneath both play sets a colorful, squishy porous surface was installed that provides a soft landing for kids while also capturing stormwater that falls on the site.  

The new play area and porous surface are just the beginning of the transformation for Lea. Later phases of the project include installing rain gardens, new trees, a new basketball court, a stage area and more. You can read more about this project in the Philadelphia Tribune and on the WPCNS website.

Villanova Planting at Harper’s Hollow

Volunteers at Harper's Hollow Planting

The Philadelphia Water Department would like to give a big shout out to all of the volunteers who helped plant a rain garden at Harper’s Hollow Park on Saturday, September 27. This successful planting was one of the Villanova University Day of Service projects. The annual Day of Service is a volunteer day that brings together nearly 5,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni who give their time and service throughout Greater Philadelphia. In addition to two Villanova University professors and 16 Villanova students, the planting was attended by members of Friends of Harper’s Hollow, people from the neighborhood and PWD employees that came together, got their hands dirty and installed nearly 100 plants.

The plants for the rain garden were graciously donated by Dr. Robert Traver, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership program, and his lab. Thirty-eight shrub species were planted, including red chokeberries, sweet pepperbushes, and shamrock inkberries, and 60 herbaceous plants were installed, including moonbeam tickseeds, magnus purple coneflowers, and white swan purple coneflowers.

It was a beautiful day and a hugely successful planting. Thanks once again to everyone who came together to get the all the plants in the ground.  We look forward to seeing the plants take root and grow into a mature rain garden. 

Meet the 2014 Philadelphia Spokesdog Winners!

Spokesdog Winners!

Gracie (left) and Daisy Ann (right) are this year's Spokesdog competition winners!
Photos by Shaun Bailey of Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. 

Congratulations to the winners of our 2014 Philly Water’s Best Friend Spokesdog Competition: Daisy Ann, a hound dog from Lower Moyamensing and Gracie, a corgi from Juniata! These two eco-friendly pups and their guardians will teach neighbors about the importance of picking up after their pets to keep our waterways clean.

The Partnership for Delaware Estuary and the Philadelphia Water Department team up every year to host the Spokesdog Competition. Now in its fourth year, the competition crowns two dogs from Philadelphia who will serve (with their guardians) as clean water ambassadors to the city for one year. They spread the word about picking up pet waste at neighborhood events, hand out free pet waste bags and get featured on promotional and educational materials. In return, the winners receive prizes for their pooches including toys, treats, and grooming services. 

This year’s competitions were held on Saturday, September 20th at the Lower Moyamensing Flea Market and on Saturday, September 27 at the Juniata Fest. Hound dog Daisy Ann and guardian Eileen Burns were the winners in Lower Moyamensing and corgi Gracie and guardian Michelle Shaw were the winners in Juniata. They each received $250 worth of prizes for their pups! 

Pet waste is a “poo-lutant” that is harmful to the environment, especially to rivers. Pet waste that stays on the ground can get washed into our sewer system and overflow into our rivers. Once in the river, it can fuel excessive growth of aquatic algae which robs the water of oxygen, potentially killing fish and other species. It can also pollute the land and water with disease-causing bacteria. Luckily, there’s a simple solution—pet owners should flush waste down the toilet (not in a bag) where it can be treated at a sewage treatment plant, or discarded in the trash using a biodegradable bag. 

Check out photos of the event from the Parternship for Delaware Estuary at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/delawareestuary.

Venice Island is Opening!

Aerial rendering of Venice Island

After years of hard work and collaboration between the
Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Parks and Recreations, and the
Manayunk community, Venice Island will open to the public! Join us next week
on October 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM for the official opening and ribbon cutting
event to celebrate the completion of the Venice Island Performing Arts &
Recreation Center, the Philadelphia Water Department storage basin unit, and
green storm water infrastructure projects at the site. Guests will include Mayor
Michael Nutter, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. Deputy Mayor for Community and
Environmental Resources Michael DiBerardinis, Water Commissioner Howard
Neukrug, and Chief Cultural Officer Helen Haynes. There will be musical
entertainment, tours of the green infrastructure projects, performances at the
Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center, and outdoor,
site-specific art installations on display.

The Venice Island project is located between the Manayunk Canal
and the Schuylkill River, between the Lock and Cotton Street bridges in
Manayunk. The Philadelphia Water Department designed the project to include
tree trenches, a pump house with a green roof, and a subsurface basin that will
temporarily store diverted flow from the sanitary interceptor sewer during
intense rain storms. The basin capable of storing nearly four million gallons
of water – roughly 180 Septa buses – that are later pumped out and directed to
a treatment plant. The project not only protects and improves the health of the
Schuylkill River, but also includes a full-scale reconstruction of the
recreational facilities and community amenities, including a new
state-of-the-art recreation and performing arts facility, new athletic fields,
a children’s play area and spray park, and a new parking lot. Read more about this exciting project.

We hope to see you at the opening day!

Date: Tuesday, October 7th

Time: 11:00 AM

Location: 1 Cotton Street (in Manayunk), Philadelphia, PA 19127