Volunteers at Apps for Philly Sustainability use data provided by Philadelphia Water to work on the new Big Green App project. Credit: Matthew Fritch, Philadelphia Water.

By Matthew Fritch for the
Watersheds Blog

Last week, Philadelphia Water released a treasure trove of data in advance of Apps for Philly Sustainability, a three-day event that brought together sustainability professionals and technologists. Their mission? Conquer the city's problems with code. Armed with datasets and digital know-how, teams of students and tech professionals developed apps to help the homeless find resources, assist students with learning disabilities, and track individual energy consumption. (See more details on the various projects here.)

But the project we're most excited about is a Big Green App (hat tip to the Big Green Map). A group of civic hackers used location data for Philadelphia's green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) sites to create a self-guided mobile tour app. Because Philadelphia Water's Green City, Clean Waters program is leading the nation in finding green solutions to stormwater challenges, the department's Public Affairs unit receives requests from across the country and world for GSI tours; this app will help visitors and residents learn more about the city's efforts to protect our rivers and streams through vegetation and infiltration.

While the app is still under development, the tour's initial focus is on a walkable/bikeable cluster of GSI sites in South Philadelphia, featuring projects such as rain gardens in parks, porous pavement on streets, and green roofs on private buildings. Where the Big Green Map shows the scope of Green City, Clean Waters infrastructure, the tour app allows visitors to focus in on the details and benefits of each project: construction costs, the amount of water each system can hold, and beneficial connections to the neighborhood and local rivers and streams.

Progress updates on the Big Green App will be posted here at the Watersheds Blog.

We want to thank and congratulate the civic hackers who gave up their weekend to help their city, especially the ones involved in the GSI tour app: Tyler Wiest, Carlton Stith, Sharp Hall, Sandra Medina Corey and Fernando Medina Corey. Their coding and design skills were on full display. Hope to see them all at Code for Philly (Sorry, this content is no longer available), a forum for developing tech projects.

Matthew Fritch contributed to Apps for Philly Sustainability and works at Philadelphia Water as an environmental engineer. His previous work with Code for Philly led to the creation of the greenSTEM Network, a program that connects Philadelphia School District students to the coding and sustainability communities through hands-on projects. Learn more here.