Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Study Shows Evidence of “Triple Bottom Line” Effects of Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Water Fact Infographic

When we started the 25-year, $2.4 billion Green City, Clean Waters plan in 2011, the idea was that we could better manage our stormwater and reduce combined sewer overflows by leading with green infrastructure, as opposed to only using gray infrastructure, and that it would also have additional social and economic benefits. We call it our “triple bottom line" approach. While the environmental benefits (good news—we’re on track to meet our environmental targets for year five of the plan!) and economic benefits are quantifiable, the social benefits are harder to measure. But a recent study, published this January in the American Journal of Public Health, indicates that the green stormwater infrastructure we’ve installed in Philadelphia does, indeed, have social benefits as well.

The study, led by Michelle Kondo, formerly a postdoctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and now a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Philadelphia, looked at 52 green stormwater projects in Philadelphia and found consistent and statistically significant reductions in narcotic possession and manufacture, as well as burglaries near those sites.  

These impressive results caught the eye of the Inquirer’s Sandy Bauers, who featured the study in her regular GreenSpace column

[Kondo] and her colleagues, including Penn epidemiologist Charles Branas, who had studied vacant lots, compared the 52 sites with 186 similar areas where projects were planned but not yet built. They factored in socioeconomic data from the census, crime statistics, and health data.

Their results, published in January in the American Journal of Public Health, were an eyebrow-raiser. Between 2000 and 2012, incidents of drug possession at the project sites dropped by as much as 27 percent compared with the control sites.

As far as a half-mile away, "we saw a significant reduction," Kondo said.

The study controlled for a number of other factors—gentrification, general improvements in quality of life, etc.—that had occurred over the 12 years of the study and yielded a strong positive correlation between the presence of a Green City, Clean Waters project and incidents of drug possession. 

Clearly, there’s still more studying to be done so we can determine links to other improvements in overall quality of life measures and reductions in crime, but these initial results are very promising! Studies like this help demonstrate the return on investment for each individual green infrastructure project and that the triple bottom line approach is truly paying off! 

A Greener Hackett Elementary Brings Excitement to the Neighborhood


Proposed view of Hackett schoolyard by the Community Design Collaborative

Horatio B. Hackett Elementary School is lucky to have a large schoolyard—nearly an acre of land in the middle of the city—but many people describe it as a “sea of pavement.” As it stands, the schoolyard is almost completely covered in asphalt but will soon transform into a lush green space with benefits for students, the neighboring communities and the environment. Many community members are excited that their kids will have green space to play in and teachers look forward to expanding their curriculum to include the outside environment.

This project demonstrates the power of partnerships and community involvement. The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), School District of Philadelphia, Friends of Horatio B. Hackett Elementary School, and the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), and volunteers from the Community Design Collaborative (CDC) worked together on a master plan for the schoolyard that integrates green stormwater infrastructure.

The schoolyard will be outfitted with green stormwater infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff through PWD’s  Green City, Clean Waters plan. The site will be equipped with a rain garden and underground retention basins that will soak up rainwater, filter it and keep it out of the combined sewer system.

Using green stormwater infrastructure at the Hackett School is just one part of the schoolyard revitalization plan. It also includes play and fitness equipment, shade trees, murals, an outdoor classroom, and amenities such as customized swings, accessible ramps and walkways for wheelchairs and students with specialized needs.

Philadelphia Water Department will implement the green stormwater infrastructure elements. To jumpstart the project on the community side, the School leadership and the Friends of Hackett organize work days and are currently raising funds to realize the rest of the plan. You can donate to their cause on their website: http://friendsofhackett.weebly.com

To read more about this project and see pictures of the site, check out this Philadelphia Neighborhoods article Kensington: A Greener Schoolyard for Hackett Elementary.

The Wharton Street Lofts Incorporates a Green Roof


There is more than meets the eye in South Philadelphia. Wharton Street Lofts, formerly known as the Annunciation School, is offering the tenants of its 45 apartments an extra amenity - a green roof deck. Open to all residents, these green roof tops were made possible via a partnership created through PWD’s Green City, Clean Waters. Developer, Leo Addimando. was awarded a grant through PWD’s Stormwater Management Incentive Program (SMIP). Administered jointly with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), this innovative program provides grants to non-residential PWD customers to support investments in green stormwater infrastructure. In addition to the building’s green roof, the developer has incorporated a rain garden in the parking lot, as well as two subsurface infiltration beds, and street trees.

To learn more about the SMIP program and how your business can more effectively manage stormwater, please, Click Here.  

Summer Internship in GSI Implementaion Program

Apply now for a Summer 2013 Internship in our Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Program!



photo credit: Paul Rider


Seeking highly qualified students for experiences in the following academic departments: Landscape Architecture, Engineering, Engineering Technician, Planning, Urban Design


Description: Interns will work closely with Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Program Staff. This group executes both planning and design coordination for GSI projects on public lands such as vacant lands, schools, parks, streets, parking lots, and facilities.


To learn more about the position and apply, click here.


Applications are due this Thursday, February 28th!

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