Green City, Clean Waters – Philadelphia’s bold plan for rainwater management re-imagines the urban landscape
Philadelphia is Peeling Back the Pavement to “Green’ the City
After expanding its analysis of potential ways to reduce CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows), the City of Philadelphia chose a Green Stormwater Infrastructure approach over more traditional engineered solutions and is addressing the total water balance, where all components of water supply, stormwater and wastewater are managed in a closed loop.
Commencing in 2010, the City of Philadelphia has been implementing a US$1.2 billion plan, branded as Green City, Clean Waters, to transform the city over a 25-year period.
Philadelphia is ‘peeling back’ concrete and asphalt surfaces and replacing them with rain gardens, green roofs, landscaped swales in parking lots, heavily planted boulevards, and small wetlands. Over time, it is envisioned that the plan will turn the city into a giant sponge to absorb as much rainwater as possible and delay the rest in its journey to the nearby Delaware and Schuykill rivers.
Rainwater is a Resource
The lead agency for implementation is the Philadelphia Water Department. The champion is Howard Neukrug, Water Commissioner. “We value water and we’re changing the traditional way stormwater is managed between homes, businesses and the environment. We are taking that (old, grey infrastructure) barrier down, and are stopping the water from ever hitting the system,” stated Howard Neukrug when Green City, Clean Waters was launched in 2010. At the time, he was Director of the Office of Watersheds.
“As we evolve Philadelphia into America’s most sustainable and green city, the opportunities ahead will be limited only by the confines of our imaginations and the extent of our determination.”
Leading by Example
“We’re becoming a land-management utility,” stated Howard Neukrug when he recently commented on the role played by the Philadelphia Water Department. “But only for a short time. The purpose is to get out of this business. Because we want city planning to be strong, and for them to do the planning.”
“We want regulations, incentives, policies in place so that it’s not the water department that is designing the street or designing the building or the rain garden. That needs to be done by public or private entities.”
“And so we’re leading the way, we’re demonstrating, we’re innovating, putting things in place. But then we’re stepping back and letting others take over…. We just need to lead the way and recognize that rainwater is a resource, it’s not a waste product,” concluded Howard Neukrug.
To Learn More:
Philadelphia has produced a video that explains how this green vision will be accomplished over time. To view it, click on on the image below or click https://vimeo.com/10756931.
To download a presentation by Howard Neukrug that laid out the vision in 2010, click on Clean Water….Green City: Blending the interests of land and water in Philadelphia.
To view Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter’s “Charting New Waters” speech in 2010, click on https://vimeo.com/15194548