In September 2009, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) released Green City, Clean Waters, a plan to meet federal regulatory obligations while revitalizing the City. The plan commits Philadelphia to manage stormwater with green infrastructure, soil and plant systems that intercept stormwater, infiltrate it into the ground, and evaporate it into the air. By 2029, PWD plans to replace at least one third of the City's impervious surfaces with these systems. The change, in addition to managing stormwater, will increase recreational opportunities, provide jobs, and improve air quality. Green City, Clean Waters is the largest and most ambitious green stormwater management plan in the country.
"We asked, 'What can we do to make our rivers and streams fishable, swimmable, safe, attractive, and accessible?'" explained Howard Neukrug, the Director of PWD's Office of Watersheds. "Our biggest problem is that the sewer system doesn't have sufficient capacity to handle the rain," he said. "When faced with this, most cities in the United States build bigger sewers, bigger tanks, bigger pipes. We're looking at the problem in a completely different way."
In 2009, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVest) issued PWD more than $150 million, including $30 million for green infrastructure, in 1 percent 30 year loans to upgrade its sewer system. With part of this funding PWD and the Streets Department built two demonstration green streets with trees, vegetated bump-outs, and permeable pavers to reduce stormwater runoff.
PWD also changed its commercial billing, separating stormwater charges from sewer bills and basing charges on the amount of impervious surface in a parcel. Customers can reduce their stormwater fees if they install green stormwater infrastructure. PWD is using stormwater management requirements as a catalyst to make the City greener in many areas beyond water. Their progressive approach will help Philadelphia meet Greenworks goals related to open space, economic development, and air quality.
Listen to Calvin Davenger, Deputy Director of Aviation, Planning, and Environmental Stewardship for the Philadelphia Division of Aviation, on sustainability work at Philadelphia's airports.
Listen to Jerome Shabazz, Executive Director of JASTECH Development Services, on the Overbrook Environmental Education Center and how involving youth in sustainability is important.