Philadelphia’s nationally-recognized Green City, Clean Waters program will celebrate the ninth anniversary of its launch this June.

As we head toward that milestone and continue to work with you to build new, community-based green infrastructure sites that soak up stormwater and protect our waterways, we wanted to look back on some highlights from year eight of this 25-year plan.

From Point Breeze to Port Richmond, dozens of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects sprouted up around the city during 2019 thanks to Green City, Clean Waters, helping us to reduce the biggest local source of pollution in our waterways—excess stormwater runoff that creates sewer overflows.

As of December 2019, Philadelphia’s green infrastructure investments added up to about 40.7 million gallons of runoff soaked up for every 1-inch rainstorm. With hundreds of additional projects in the works, we are also on pace to meet our ten-year goals in 2021.

“Our eighth year of Green City, Clean Waters was a year of collaboration, resulting in new green stormwater infrastructure sites that positively impact communities in new and meaningful ways,” says Marc Cammarata, Deputy Commissioner of Planning & Environmental Services. “Reflecting on the progress made last year alone, I’m inspired by our communities and their efforts to help the City fully realize the vision of a greener city with cleaner waterways. Thanks to all who contributed to get us closer to our Green City, Clean Waters 10-year milestone—we’re looking forward to more collaboration for an even healthier city in 2020.”

Philadelphia in 2020 can boast thousands of green tools like rain gardens, stormwater tree trenches, and underground systems built beneath now-refurbished athletic fields, parks, and sidewalks. That’s just on public and commercial property—thousands of additional systems, like rain barrels and rain gardens, created by customers using Rain Check incentives help to reduce the impact of residential runoff.

This impressive and constantly growing green infrastructure network is capable of soaking up tens of millions of gallons of stormwater every time we get an inch of rain, keeping billions of gallons of polluted runoff and sewer overflow out of our waterways each year.

Here’s a look at some of the progress we’ve made with the help of residents, the Mayor’s Office, City Council, and our oTIS family—Parks and Recreation, the Streets Department, and the Office of Sustainability.

North Philadelphia

Berks Street and Sedgley Avenue

Completed in June 2019, the green improvements around this intersection represent one installment in a series of PWD investments planned throughout Strawberry Mansion.

Berks Street and Sedgley Avenue

This project features a wide scope of GSI elements, including a rain garden, subsurface trench, tree trenches, and planters. During a 1-inch storm, the rain garden alone manages about as much stormwater as 2,500 55-gallon rain barrels, keeping more than 6 million gallons—11 Olympic-size swimming pools—of runoff out of the sewer system annually.

It’s also a great example of the multiple benefits GSI can offer: this specific green tool serves as a gateway to the newly-opened Discovery Center in Fairmount Park and improves safety for the busy intersection, thanks to curb extensions that house the rain garden itself. This creates a safer route for children commuting to James G. Blaine School.

Hunting Park

After nearly a decade of anticipation, this vast GSI project kicked off in 2019 and is expected to wrap up in the months ahead. Portions of this stormwater project are scattered throughout the four corners of the North Philly park.

Hunting Park project map

Around the green space, seven rain gardens and additional subsurface trenches will be installed. Designed in collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Hunting Park Revitalization Plan, the new green infrastructure captures stormwater runoff from nearby streets, sidewalks and other impervious surfaces that can’t soak up rainwater. During a 1.5-inch rainstorm in Hunting Park, more than 187,000 gallons of stormwater runoff will be managed. You could fill nearly 2,700 bathtubs with this quantity of stormwater!

West Philadelphia

Cobbs Creek

The Cobbs Creek neighborhood is home to a comprehensive green stormwater infrastructure project encompassing more than 25 stormwater management tools. It started in 2019 and is set to finish this spring.

This expansive neighborhood upgrade contains 17 new sites with 26 individual green stormwater tools. Together, the tools collect runoff from north of Market Street all the way down to Baltimore Avenue. Once construction is completed, the improvements will keep about 372,000 gallons of stormwater out of local sewers during a 1-inch rainstorm.

Features include close to 60 new trees, one basin, four bumpouts, 11 infiltration trenches, seven rain gardens and three tree trenches. Bumpouts were also constructed at the entrance of the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center.

Cobbs Creek project

The entire project will manage more than 332,000 square feet and store more than 49,800 cubic feet of stormwater, which is equivalent to the size of more than 5,000 bathtubs!

The project will receive its final plantings by spring 2020. The project will be completed by spring 2020.

In October, PWD hosted a walking tour led by Watershed Stewards. In November, University of Pennsylvania students conducted water sampling at the waterway. Check out our Twitter thread from the tour:

Kingsessing Park and Recreation Center

Kingsessing Park and Recreation Center got four new rain gardens and a subsurface trench, a project that wrapped up in fall 2019.

The site will also see investments through the City’s Rebuild program.

Kingsessing Park & Recreation Center

On an annual basis, more than 15 million gallons of stormwater will be soaked up by the plants and soil in the systems, instead of ending up in our sewers and leading to overflows.

This is equivalent to filling up about 515 SEPTA buses with polluted water!

Northwest Philly

Stenton Park

Since celebrating its completion in July, this GSI system continues to manage more than 32,000 gallons of stormwater runoff for every 1-inch of rainstorm—the same as if 640 local homes had rain barrels attached to their downspouts!

Stenton Park project

In partnership with Parks and Recreation, we invested more than $2 million to renovate this Germantown gem. The green space received a slew of enhancements, including picnic tables, spray features, fitness equipment and new walkways connecting the rec center and playground to the historic Stenton Mansion.

This GSI system is comprised of tree trenches, a rain garden, and a basin to absorb stormwater that would otherwise flow through the streets and sewers to pollute Tacony Creek.

Check out photos from July’s ribbon cutting:

19.07.16 Stenton Park Ribbon Cutting + Sprayground Scenes

River Wards

Trenton & Auburn Playground and Park

Last year marked the completion of a new green stormwater system for this Port Richmond public space that transports runoff from multiple city blocks to a basin beneath the playground.

Overall, GSI will manage 7.68 acres of drainage in the neighborhood, soaking up close to 415,000 gallons during a typical storm to help with local flooding, take pressure off over-burdened sewers, and protect the Delaware River.

Through partnerships with surrounding community groups and Parks & Recreation, the space is also the subject of beautification and recreation improvements, which includes new lighting, basketball courts, athletic fields and natural elements. The park will also receive new ADA-compliant ramps and pavements.

South Philly

1701-03 S. Ringgold Street

Nestled in Point Breeze, this new rain garden occupies a previously vacant lot that once was a burden on the community. Now, it collects more than 13,000 gallons stormwater runoff from Morris Street, South Ringgold Street, and the immediate area during 1-inch storm.

Ringgold Street project

Want to learn about green projects coming to your area and provide input?
Sign up for email and text/SMS updates here!

Tip: Be sure to include your ZIP code. We’ll send you info about community meetings with your area’s Green City, Clean Waters outreach specialist.