A feature story in this week's issue of Time Magazine (above), "Street Smarts," highlights America's aging infrastructure crisis and Philadelphia's "smarter" approach:
"[Mayor] Nutter, who has pledged to turn Philadelphia into the greenest city in America, has a nice riff about treating water as a resource instead of a waste product and how it's fun to convert parking lots into parks. But he isn't some tie-dyed hippie tree hugger. He wouldn't be so excited about green infrastructure if he didn't think it could help him comply with the Clean Water Act for about $7 billion less than a giant tunnel would cost.
'It's revolutionary, but it's really a no-brainer,' Nutter says. 'We help the environment, and we don't have to waste all that money tearing up the city.'
What Nutter and his team are doing with porous basketball courts and man-made wetlands is a model — not just for wastewater projects, which the EPA expects to cost the U.S. nearly $400 billion by 2030, but also for the reconstruction of a cash-strapped country."
Of course, the Philadelphia Water Department's Green City, Clean Waters plan is a big part of the picture—even if it has helped to contribute to a sharp increase in rain barrel crimes throughout the city:
"Philadelphia had one green roof in 2006. Now it has more than 60. Rain gardens are sprouting in its playgrounds, and the city's first green street absorbed 6 in. of rain during Irene. Water commissioner Howard Neukrug proudly reports that one of the city's 2,000 residential rain barrels was recently stolen. 'We're coming of age!' he jokes. Philadelphia, he says, will look very different in a few decades. 'You can already see how these beautiful new green sites are slowly changing the city,' he says."