Get Wild about Watersheds, Urban Greening and West Philly Nature

Dan Kobza of Wild West Philly takes residents on a nature walk highlighting wildlife and green infrastructure around Papa Playground in West Philadelphia. Join Philadelphia Water and Wild West Philly for special nature walk on June 25. Photo Credit: Joe Piette
Dan Kobza of Wild West Philly takes residents on a nature walk highlighting wildlife and green infrastructure around Papa Playground in West Philadelphia. Join Philadelphia Water and Wild West Philly for special nature walk on June 25. Photo Credit: Joe Piette

Philadelphia Water is all about helping people understand the ways in which our lives and communities are intimately connected to the local waterways that sustain us.

We know—living in a big city like Philadelphia, it can be easy to forget that we’re still a part of a natural world that includes waterways like the Cobbs Creek and Delaware River. Luckily, we have lots of residents who care about nature and want to learn more.

That’s why we’re teaming up with Naturalist Interpreter Dan Kobza of Wild West Philly (one of our watershed partnership groups) for a special walk on Saturday, June 25 at the historic Mt. Moriah Cemetery, much of which has been reclaimed by nature. (RSVP for this free event here.)

Philadelphia Water Challenge Seeks Innovative Approach to Streamlining Green Infrastructure Projects

The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at BigIdeasPHL.com. Credit: Philadelphia Water
The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at BigIdeasPHL.com. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Philadelphia Water, in partnership with the City’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and the internationally renowned Citymart organization, is proud to present the Philadelphia Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Innovation Challenge.

Sustainability First Friday in Fishtown: Celebrate 5 Years of Cleaner Water Through Greener Neighborhoods

What we’re celebrating: After five years of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia has enough green infrastructure/improved stormwater management to reduce pollution by over 600 million gallons in 2016.
What we’re celebrating: After five years of Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia has enough green infrastructure/improved stormwater management to reduce pollution by over 600 million gallons in 2016.

Philadelphia Water will be celebrating a major Green City, Clean Waters achievement—meeting the program’s five-year pollution-reduction targets—at Fishtown’s Lutheran Settlement House (LSH) during the neighborhood’s Sustainability First Friday gathering on June 3 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Members of our Public Engagement team will be at the site’s community garden/farm with a cool model that shows how green stormwater infrastructure works, and students from the after school program will be learning all about water systems and sustainability. First Friday-goers are invited to join in, and we’ll have special Green City, Clean Waters cards that let you show your support for protecting our rivers with green investments in a fun way.

ICYMI: Infrastructure Week Recap + Water Woman Makes the Evening News

Starting with a look at the incredible growth of the Green City, Clean Waters program over the last five years and finishing with a Q&A that explores a storm flood relief project blending green and traditional infrastructure investments, we had an exciting (and busy) Infrastructure Week here at Philadelphia Water.

One of the core goals of Infrastructure Week is to start a conversation that gets people thinking about the ways in which things like water mains, highways, bridges and more don’t just “matter” in our everyday lives—they make our everyday lives possible.

We looked at the busy crews who clean close to 300 storm drains each day, working double shifts to make sure we’re getting the best drainage possible at our inlets every time it rains.

Cohocksink/Northern Liberties Storm Flood Relief: Big Investments to Help Our Neighborhoods

For our final Infrastructure Week post, we are looking at a massive, multi-year project that will help reduce flooding related to heavy rains in several neighborhoods. Like many other cities, Philadelphia is dealing with a sewer system designed for a time when there were far fewer hard surfaces like streets, parking lots and buildings.

Because those surfaces don’t absorb rain, the water becomes stormwater runoff, which can overwhelm sewers, leading to localized flooding and combined sewer overflows. While the City is relying on Green Stormwater Infrastructure investments made through the Green City, Clean Waters program to deal with this challenge, those green tools are more effective when we also improve our traditional sewer system.

A good example of an investment in our existing system that will enhance Green City, Clean Waters projects is the Cohocksink Storm Flood Relief project, also called the Northern Liberties SFR. The project is named after the Cohocksink Creek, which once flowed through Kensington and Northern Liberties and emptied into the Delaware River not far from where SugarHouse Casino stands today.

Like many small streams in Philadelphia, the Cohocksink was covered over and integrated into the sewer system in the mid to late 1800s.
Today, the Cohocksink sewer system must manage stormwater drainage from more than 1,000 acres of urban land. 

To get the inside scoop on the Cohocksink improvements, we put a few questions to project manager Bill Dobbins, an engineer who has worked with Philadelphia Water since 2001.

Belmont Raw Water Basin Project: Helping to Bring You Top-Quality Water

Construction of the cofferdam at the Belmont Raw Water Basin. Inset: Resident Engineer Kam Patel.
Above: Construction of the cofferdam at the Belmont River Water Basin. Inset: Resident Engineer Kam Patel. Credit: Philadelphia Water

In the public imagination, drinking water infrastructure usually comes down to two things: the drinking water treatment plants, and water mains that deliver the finished product to your tap.

In reality, the infrastructure it takes to treat hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day and get that top-quality water to 1.5 million people is far more complex, involving a variety of facilities along the way.

During Infrastructure Week 2016, we’ve been looking at some important infrastructure projects—all of which are funded solely by your water bill—that might get overlooked.

One such project is the renovated Belmont Raw Water Basin, which is in its final stages after years of work.

To give you an idea of how long this basin has been helping to provide Philadelphia with drinking water from the Schuylkill River, consider that Theodore Roosevelt became president the year construction began.

Check out amazing historic photographs of the original construction site here:

Infrastructure Week Throwback: Graff Collection Shines Light on Early Water Champion, Artist

“Design for Cast Iron Wheel by F. Graff” from the Frederick Graff Collection at the Franklin Institute. Credit: Philadelphia Water, the Franklin Institute and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.
“Design for Cast Iron Wheel by F. Graff” from the Frederick Graff Collection at the Franklin Institute. Credit: Philadelphia Water, the Franklin Institute and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

This post explores the foundations of Philadelphia's water infrastructure as we continue to highlight the crucial systems that keep Philly running during Infrastructure Week 2016

Last year, Philadelphia Water historian Adam Levine joined department employees like long-time engineer Drew Brown on a tour of the Franklin Institute archives, which include a trove of 18th and 19th century drawings by Frederick Graff, an engineer himself with incredible artistic talent who helped to design and operate some of Philadelphia’s earliest water infrastructure. Included in the collection are a number of water-related works by other artists, engineers and cartographers. 

Graff’s collection—much of which incorporates watercolor and focuses on hydraulic systems and Philadelphia’s rivers and streams—showcases a fascinating blend of the technical and beautiful, capturing the most finite details of buildings, machines and natural terrain with breathtaking style.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Green City, Clean Waters Outreach Ambassador?

A member of the Philadelphia Water Public Engagement Team teaches Philadelphia Youth about Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Germantown/Mt. Airy. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
A member of the Philadelphia Water Public Engagement Team teaches Philadelphia Youth about Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Germantown/Mt. Airy. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Are you interested in helping communities learn more about protecting local watersheds through projects that make neighborhoods greener, more vibrant places to live, learn, work and play?

You could be our new Outreach Ambassador!