Drier Ground

Venice Island's underground basin can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff. | Photos courtesy The Philadelphia Water Department

In the works for the better part of a decade, Venice Island opened in early October. The five-acre site is sandwiched between the Lock and Cotton Street bridges in Manayunk, and lies downhill of Manayunk’s stormwater flow, which resulted in storm-induced flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). To address this problem, the Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation collaborated with the Manayunk Development Corporation to demolish the existing Venice Island Recreation Center and rebuild to include an underground basin that can temporarily store up to four million gallons of stormwater runoff and a pump house with a sloping green roof. The site’s other green infrastructure includes a rain garden, porous pavement and tree trenches.

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Your Furry Friend Could Be Spokesdog for the Philly Water Department!

If you know a dog in Fitler Square or University City with the personality and good looks to be a politician, you should consider nominating your buddy to be Philly Water’s Best Friend. Determined by public online voting, the 15 finalists from each neighborhood will compete pageant style for a panel of judges in order to crown the winners.

The contest is part of a campaign to show pet owners the importance of picking up their dog’s waste and prevent it from contaminating the Schuylkill and other natural waterways. “We really need ambassadors in every dog park to tell folks how easy it is to prevent this common form of ‘poo-llution,’” says Joanne Dahme, general manager of public affairs at the Philadelphia Water Department.

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Join Grid at an Innovations in Green Tech panel happening this Monday

The annual Philly Tech Week kicks off today. Organized by Technically Philly, this week-long celebration of technology and innovation is packed with plenty of ways to geek-out (Did we mention they’re hosting a huge game of pong?). But amidst the workshops, talks and competitions, we’re of course partial to a lunchtime event we helped organize. The Innovations in Green Tech panel is happening this Monday, April 22 from 12-1 p.m. at the University City Science Center (3711 Market St.). Spend your lunchtime learning about new and upcoming breakthroughs in sustainable technologies in Philadelphia. The panel will feature:

  • Pat McDonald from Onion Flats will discuss their Stable Flats project in Northern Liberties – the first certified passive housing in the city.
  • Nicholas Mirra, communications coordinator at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, will talk about Connect the Circuit, their new website that integrates government-funded, nonprofit and privately owned bike trails in the Philadelphia area, giving riders an easy-to-use, interactive resource for planning their next ride.
  • Christine Knapp, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Philadelphia Water Department, will discuss the Solar Sunflower Project, which is working to improve stormwater management in Philadelphia by installing water-permeable parks that can also monitor groundwater.
  • Laurie Actman, Deputy Director of the EEB Hub, will discuss the brand new incubator opening in their Navy Yard headquarters. The project is in partnership with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

To learn more about the panel and to register, visit the Philly Tech Week website. Hope to see you there!

Rain barrel program does more than divert stormwater, provides new jobs too

Each rain barrel from the ECA is made from nearly 100 percent recycled materials. | Photo from ecasavesenergy.orgSince 2011, the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) has been running the Philadelphia Water Department’s free rain barrel program, distributing a couple thousand barrels each year to city residents. While the program has been successful, the ECA has found that stormwater problems don’t end at the Philadelphia border.

“There’s lots of flooding in surrounding communities, and people see that they are living with a system that is essentially broken,” says Liz Robinson, ECA’s executive director. After a workshop is held near the suburbs, Robinson says they’ll get waves of calls, asking for rain barrels. However since funding only covers a Philadelphia program, ECA has had to turn away those residents.

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Meet the winners of Soak It Up!

Although Philadelphia is already a national leader in stormwater management thanks to the innovative Green City, Clean Waters program, the City is always looking for new creative and sustainable ways to improve on their practices and policies. The latest example is the Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, a nationally juried competition hosted by the Community Design Collaborative, Philadelphia Water Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The competition launched in early October and attracted 28 teams with more than 300 professionals from Philadelphia and across the country. A couple weeks ago, the winners were announced, which included Philadelphia companies Roofmeadow, OLIN and Urban Engineers. Tonight, the winners will be presenting their projects at the Academy of Natural Sciences during a conversation on the future of Philadelphia waterways. Tickets are already sold out, but the above video produced by GreenTreks Network (and premiering tonight!) gives a great overview of the competition process and highlights the three winners.

For more on Soak It Up! look for a special insert in our August issue done in partnership with the Community Design Collaborative. The insert will give an inside look into the competition process and some of the creative solutions proposed by the teams. 

Barrels of Fun: Mt. Airy artists beat the blues

While useful, the typical blue rain barrel isn’t exactly beautiful. So, when the Philadelphia Water Department donated five barrels to the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District this past April, the Mt. Airy Art Garage, a community art nonprofit, volunteered their creativity. Neighborhood artists were recruited and soon word spread, attracting more local artists—adults and kids—to be involved. The Water Department has since donated six more barrels with plans to contribute another nine. The barrels will be used to water flower baskets and tree wells on Germantown Avenue.

For more on the Mt. Airy Art Garage, visit mtairyartgarage.org.

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Go With the Flow: The Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters plan gushes with possibilities

When Philadelphia received a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1997 to improve its combined sewer system, the initial solution wasn’t so great. The plan called for replacing old pipes, building more tunnels—using manmade constructions to better handle stormwater. Streets would be dug up, improvements would be made mostly underground and waterway restoration would take a long time. And renovations were expensive.
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