Triple Bottom Line

Economic Benefits of Philadelphia Water’s Green Approach = Icing on the Cake

This rain garden is making our rivers cleaner while adding value to a South Philly business and block. Credit: Philadelphia Diner.
This rain garden is making our rivers cleaner while adding value to a South Philly business and block. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Here at Philadelphia Water, every piece of our expansive, 3,000 mile stormwater system works towards toward one goal: effectively managing the water in our city that comes from storms, whether they’re summertime cloudbursts or January blizzards.

Managing stormwater is a critical and necessary task for any city. In Philadelphia, we address stormwater both to protect our neighborhoods from flooding and to protect our drinking water sources, the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, from pollution.

We don’t get to choose whether or not we deal with stormwater. But, with our innovative 25-year, multi-billion dolar Green City, Clean Waters program, we’re finding new ways of managing that water that can have additional benefits for neighborhoods—and maybe even Philadelphia’s economy too.

Change Your Life, Help Protect Our Water: Apply for PowerCorpsPHL Now

Above: Paul Johnson shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro during his PowerCorpsPHL program. Photo Credit: PowerCorpsPHL
Above: Paul Johnson shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro during his PowerCorpsPHL experience. Photo Credit: PowerCorpsPHL.

The social, environmental and economic benefits we get out of having and maintaining the green infrastructure that makes up Green City, Clean Waters are a big part of why Philadelphia is taking the green approach to solving stormwater challenges. It’s what we call our “triple bottom line.”

One way we connect people with those benefits is by working with PowerCorpsPHL to train young adults in things like green infrastructure maintenance. As we've seen, that training is translating to real jobs right here in Philadelphia.

And right now, PowerCorpsPHL is looking for young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 who are committed to transforming themselves and their communities. The application period for the next round of youth closes July 3, so now is the time to act.

To find out how you or someone you know could end up working with PowerCorpsPHL and Philadelphia Water, follow this link.

Need proof the program can have a real impact? Here’s fresh testimony from three guys who did the work and now have real jobs they’re proud of:

“PowerCorpsPHL taught me a lot about the [green stormwater infrastructure] field that I’m going to be working in and gave me all the experience I need. They also hooked me up with the right people. My reference list was crazy! All the way from the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department [Howard Neukrug] down. PowerCorpsPHL prepared me to bring patience, motivation, time management, networking, and delegation to the job. I also learned how to create and maintain statistical databases, use power tools, and perform location and navigation. And my communication skills definitely improved.” Paul Johnson, Cohort 2 member and Cohort 3 Assistant Crew Leader on the GSI crew.

 Where He Is Now: Paul now works in Green Stormwater Infrastructure maintenance with the  green design firm AKRF and is studying to become a GSI engineer.

“PowerCorps was like gas for my car. They really give you the opportunity to show what you’re capable of. Whatever it is you’re good at, they pinpoint it and allow you to develop a career out of it. My original plan was to work for the Water Department, but I was allowed to be in certain situations where Mr. [Rich] Negrin [Managing Director, City of Philadelphia] was seeing my writing and speaking skills. If it wasn’t for PowerCorps, I wouldn’t be halfway to where I am now. I wasn’t even thinking about the type of work I’m doing now, let alone applying for it. PowerCorps was a life-changing opportunity.” Marcus Bullock, Cohort 2 GSI crew member, Cohort 3 PPR Assistant Crew Leader.

Where He Is Now: Marcus received a job as a speechwriter in the Managing Director’s Office during Cohort 3, and has since been promoted to Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff.

“When I first started in PowerCorps I was basically the same hard-working guy. I’m a team player regardless. I’m a basketball player—a point guard—and I want my team involved. If the team needs a leader, I can be that leader. I know my place in whatever team I’m on. Whatever I need to do to make the team strong, that’s what I do…It’s not easy to get into PowerCorps. You have to go through a third party, so a lot of the guys I know are in the predicament I was in. So first I recommend RISE and then from RISE you can get to PowerCorps. It’s a process, and a lot of people don’t want to do the process. I’ve been doing this since I’ve been home, for a year and a half. You get what you put into it.  A lot of people just want handouts, and that’s not what PowerCorps is.”Keith Williams, a Cohort 2 PPR crew member and Cohort 3 PWD crew member.

Where He Is Now: Keith has been working in the mechanics shop for PWD since early May. He’s just passed his civil service exam and hopes to one day become a crew chief.

Although the July 3 deadline is fast approaching, another round of applicants will be selected this winter and contacting a PowerCorpsPHL Recruitment Partner now can help pave the road for entry into the program. Read more about how it all works here.

London Councillor Takes Note of Green City, Clean Waters

Thames River
Thames River, London. Photo by Matt Buck. 

In a letter to the editor of The Economist (third one from the top), Councillor Harry Phibbs of London's Hammersmith and Fulham Borough responds to their September article "London's Sewers, Smelling Sweet" about the Thames Tideway Tunnel. He makes a point about using green, natural stormwater infrastructure solutions by referencing Philadelphia’s “better, cheaper alternative of green infrastructure that soaks up the rainwater in various ways to stop it causing sewage overflows in the first place.” Of course he's referring to Green City, Clean Waters. (We guess this glowing praise means they’ve gotten over the role
Philadelphia played in that whole revolution thing.)

Here at PWD, we think any investment in infrastructure is worthy and applaud
London’s commitment to reduce sewage overflow into the Thames. In fact, we’re making similar investments in “hard infrastructure” with projects like the recently completed stormwater storage basin unit at Venice Island while also continuing our commitment to green infrastructure. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an “either or” choice. We can (and should) make investments in new pipes as well as new green stormwater infrastructure like tree trenches and rain gardens.

With that said, we are proud of the triple bottom line approach of Green City, Clean Waters. Investment in green infrastructure provides benefits that go beyond simply reducing combined sewer overflows--it also creates social benefits and is good for the economy. For every dollar we spend, we want to provide the biggest return and benefit to the public as well as the environment. Our hope is that green infrastructure, unlike "hard" or "gray" infrastructure, creates a system that will last as long as nature itself. Thanks to Councillor Phibbs for recognizing us for it!

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