Pope

What About All the Thirsty Papal Pilgrims? We’ve Got Them (and You) Covered

 


Watch this short video to learn more about how we make your water safe. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, there’s still plenty of speculation about just how many people will be in town for World Meeting of Families events. The most recent reported projections range anywhere between 300,000 and 1 million visitors and event organizers are prepared for as many as 1.5 to 2 million people.

To be on the safe side, Philadelphia Water used the upper end of that estimate in calculations aimed at ensuring our drinking water system will be able to handle whatever the Pope crowds can throw at it.

The short answer is that, yes, our system can provide plenty of safe drinking water for the city and any additional visitors this weekend.

To get to that conclusion, our Water Planning Team looked at factors like the level of demand recorded between Sept. 22-28 over the last six years, as well as the level of demand during other big events like recent Welcome America celebrations. Predictably, higher temperatures were the most consistent factor in increased demand. Most large events, however, didn’t create a significantly higher demand for water.

That said, it’s worth noting that temperatures during the Papal visit should top out in the mid-70s—a nice cool weekend for outdoor events.

Philadelphia Water typically delivers an average of 225 million gallons per day to the distribution system. The potential water demand during the Papal Visit may increase up to 278 million, according to our analysis. But, even if demand increased by 53 million gallons, Philadelphia Water would still be able to keep up. That’s because our water treatment facilities are designed to cumulatively produce up to 623 million gallons per day under optimal and fully functioning conditions. On top of that, the storage capacity for treated and untreated water in the combined drinking water plant and distribution system provides a substantial quantity— 1.065 billion gallons—to meet demand increases.

What does all that mean? It means that Philadelphia Water’s advanced and robust drinking water system is designed to make sure we all have 24/7 access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water, even during big events like this.

And, just in case you’re wondering what happens with all the waste from the Papal Port-a-Potties, we’ll be treating it at our Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant.

More: How Do We Make Water Drinkable? This Graphic Shows It All.

Through Rain, Sleet, Snow and Papal Madness, We'll Be Here

The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: They'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
The stars of Philadelphia Water's customer service call center: they'll be on the line 24/7 during the Pope's visit, as will all essential staff who respond to customer needs. Photo credit: Philadelphia Water.

With Pope Francis just days away from his historic visit to the City of Brotherly Love, you can almost feel the excitement in the air. Like other city agencies and utilities, we've been engaged in months of planning to make sure the visit goes smoothly.

But, just as important, we want to make sure our level of service to every customer remains intact throughout the Pope's stay. Because providing clean, fresh water is the most essential service a city can provide, we never take a breakand we'll be on the clock, as always, 24/7 throughout the World Meeting of Families.

That means water main and sewer repair crews and equipment will be on hand to respond to an emergency anywhere in the city. And it means that our dedicated customer service staff will be on hand to answer any calls to our water help hotline, which you can reach by dialing 215 685 6300. Even our inlet cleaning crews will be on hand to make sure trash and other debris isn't blocking stormwater from the sewers. (For the latest official Pope-in-Philly info from the city, you can visit a special Phila.gov page set up for the occasion by clicking here.)

Now, a little bit about what you can do. If you're a Francis fan, you probably already know that one of his first major statements, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, centered entirely on environmental concerns. In that letter, he specifically calls out our "throwaway culture" and its impact on the earth.

Like any event of this size, the Pope's visit to our city is likely to generate a huge amount of waste. In fact, one company has already pledged to donate 1 million 12 oz. disposable water bottles. It's a generous gesture and we know how important it is for people to stay hydrated, but since studies show that about 70% of plastic bottles never make it to the recycling plant, that means some 700,000 of those bottles very well may become litter that could end up in our rivers and parks and will still be polluting the earth generations from now. Even if we manage to recycle every bottle, there's also the air pollution associated with producing, delivering and refrigerating bottled water.

If you are one of the many people heading downtown for papal events, consider doing our planet a favor by using a refillable bottle that takes advantage of a modern miracle: cheap, safe and abundant tap water. Philadelphia Water will be providing water connections for event organizers, who will offer filling stations. It might seem like a small gesture in the fight against our throwaway culture, but if everyone takes the pledge to ditch disposable bottles, it will have a big impact.

Want to help spread the word about using refillable bottles? We created a funny Pope meme you can share on Facebook and Twitter with the #PopeInPhilly and #CleanWatersPHL hashtags:

The Pope thinks reusable bottles are a great idea!  PS: Keep an eye on this blog for more on the Pope's Philadelphia Water reusable bottle. It's a real thing we'll be talking about soon!

UPDATE: Samantha Phillips, director of the City of Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management, has announced a new text alert system specifically for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit.

“If you are planning to attend this historic event, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts for the Pope’s visit to get real time information of real importance,” says Phillips. “Having piece of mind is part of enjoying the event.”

Enrolling is easy. Text “papalvisit” to 888777 and you will be registered. It’s that simple, and that important.

Alerts will be sent through the duration of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit. Message and data rates may apply depending upon your plan with your service provider.

In addition, the City of Philadelphia offers ReadyPhiladelphia, which allows subscribers to sign up for emergency or weather alerts by text, email, and phone or the Everbridge app. ReadyPhiladephia is available year round to those who live and work in the city. Subscribers can get alerts for up to five locations in the city that are important to them. To sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia, go to www.phila.gov/ready and click on “Sign Up For Alerts”.

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