PHILADELPHIA’S GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATERS PROGRAM:”Howard Neukrug fundamentally changed Philadelphia’s relationship with nature, and other cities are watching with great interest,” wrote Pascal Mittermaier in an interview published by the Huffington Post in 2017
Note to Reader:
Howard Neukrug, formerly the City of Philadelphia’s Water Commissioner, started off in drinking water treatment at the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) in 1978 and began the PWD’s Office of Watersheds in 1999. As director of the Office of Watersheds, Commissioner Neukrug led the department in creating the vision and the plan for Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia’s long term plan to clean up the city’s waterways.
Appointed Water Commissioner in 2011 by Mayor Michael Nutter, Howard Neukrug focused on making PWD a sustainable 21st Century urban water utility – one that would fully meet the complex responsibilities and opportunities of our time and our environment.
Designing with Nature in the City of Philadelphia: “Green City, Clean Waters” began as pushback to an expensive grey infrastructure mandate from the USEPA
Howard Neukrug fundamentally changed Philadelphia’s relationship with nature, and other cities are watching with great interest, wrote Pascal Mittermaier in the introduction to his recent interview of Howard Neukrug, published in the Huffington Post. “When I met with urban planners in China and in Mexico, reports about Neukrug’s work were sitting on their desks,” stated Mittermaier.
Pascal Mittermaier is the Global Managing Director for Cities at The Nature Conservancy. He leads a team at the Conservancy focused on transforming how the world’s growing cities harness nature’s power to build resilient, livable, thriving communities for millions of people. By mid-century roughly three out of every four people will live in a city.
What is the formula for success?
“There is no single formula for success—and we still don’t know whether ultimately we will succeed with transforming 10,000 acres of the city’s impervious cover to stormwater managed ‘green’ space,” answered Howard Neukrug. “But creating a vision, providing the leadership, having an environmental mandate, and a new generation of ‘millennial’ engineers and scientists—all passionate about changing the world—are a great start for any sustainable endeavor.”
“Philadelphia’s green programs really began as pushback to an expensive grey infrastructure mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce sewer overflows that occur even during the most minor rainstorms. The traditional methods of remediation relied on making bigger, deeper and longer sewers.
“We called this the ‘100-year tunnel’ since it would have taken us that long to be able to afford the nearly $10 billion construction cost. And once completed, we may have minimized the overflow problem, but there would have been little other funds available in those hundred years to support our water system or help build a more sustainable, resilient city.
“And to make this change, the water sector needed to expand its definition of ‘sustainable’ from ‘a longer lasting concrete treatment structure’ to a more universal understanding that sustainability is a bigger concept that involves more than just managing overflows.
“So, instead of expanding our infrastructure, we went in the other direction—we put together a plan to price, value, reuse, recycle, infiltrate, transpire or otherwise manage, every drop of rainwater we could. We called this plan ‘Green City, Clean Waters’ and started to invent the millions of ways to reduce the amount of rainwater that arrived at our sewer inlets. The goal was to consider rainwater as a commodity and a resource.”
To Learn More:
Download “Green City, Clean Waters”: An Interview with Philadelphia’s Howard Neukrug to read the complete interview by Pascal Mittermaier in the Huffington Post.