On Earth Day, Think About How a Water Utility Can Help Our Planet

Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system at the Northeast WPCP; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.
Philadelphia Water works to protect our rivers and planet in a number of ways. Clockwise from top left: Solar panels at our Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant; a Green City, Clean Waters tree trench in East Falls; part of our Biogas Cogeneration system; Philadelphia Water volunteers at a March 2016 Bartram’s Garden cleanup that removed 12,927 pounds of trash from the Schuylkill River’s banks.

While the Philadelphia Water Department’s core mission is to provide our 1.5 million customers with constant access to safe, clean drinking water, a big part of doing that job involves protecting and improving our local rivers and creeks.

After all, providing top quality drinking water is a lot easier when you take care of your source water.

That simple fact makes Philadelphia Water, in many ways, an environmental institution.

For more than 200 years, the scientists, engineers, educators and laborers working to provide fresh water to Philadelphians have also fought for a greener city—think of Fairmount Park’s history as a source water protection measure—and cleaner rivers.

Today, we are doing more than ever to not only defend our source water from the Catskill Mountains to the Delaware Bay, but to take care of our planet, too. The City of Philadelphia has long recognized that we, as a community, have a responsibility to protect the earth, and we at Philadelphia Water are dedicated to doing our part.

How?

On a basic level, our three Water Pollution Control Plants treat about 432 million gallons of sewage and wastewater every day, a feat that allowed our rivers to bounce back from damage done in the days before the Clean Water Act.

Those same plants are also contributing to Philadelphia’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and our ultimate goal is to transform those facilities from energy consumers to energy producers. Already, our Northeast Water Pollution Control Plant gets almost all of the power it needs to operate from energy stored in sewage, and a sewage geothermal installation and solar photovoltaic system at the Southeast WPCP reduce that plant’s carbon footprint. Read about our efforts to reduce carbon emissions here.

Out on our rivers and creeks, we work to restore waterways through projects that rehabilitate eroded streambanks, we remove dams that block migrating fish, and we support many volunteer cleanups like those listed on our events calendar. Through volunteer efforts alone, Philadelphia Water and concerned citizens help to remove tons of trash from our waterways and watershed parks each year.
Read about watershed restoration and protection efforts here.

On this Earth Day, we will be with the students at Greene Street Friends School celebrating what may be our most well-known “green” initiative—the Green City, Clean Waters program, which turns five in June.

Since 2011, we have used Green City, Clean Waters to create over 1,000 green infrastructure systems in Philadelphia neighborhoods, keeping over 600 million gallons of polluted water out of our rivers each year.

In addition to improving our rivers, green infrastructure systems help to combat carbon pollution in a way that large, intensive stormwater tunnels cannot.
The plants and trees used in common green tools like street tree trenches and rain gardens also take up greenhouse gases while fighting the urban heat island effect and reducing home energy needs.

Our goal is, of course, to improve water quality. But Green City, Clean Waters lets us do so in a way that turns parks, streets, recreation centers and schools like Greene Street—which used a Philadelphia Water grant to depave a concrete lot and build a rain garden—into green, pollution-fighting machines.

Throughout this spring and summer, we’ll be celebrating what we’ve achieved in the first five years of this 25-year program while getting ready for a major expansion over the next five years. By 2021, we plan to nearly triple the amount of stormwater being managed with green infrastructure, and we’ll need the support of people like you to get that done.

Keep an eye on this blog and follow us on social media to learn more about our “5 Down” events celebrating Green City, Clean Waters. And on this Earth Day, remember that your local water utility is also one of the best advocates our local environment has.