I’m inspired by the plans from the Philadelphia Water Department to manage their stormwater in a different way. Moving our management of stormwater (rainwater) beyond pipes and pumps is something that has been done on a neighbourhood scale for a while now, but this is a great example of what it looks like at a city scale.
The water department is taking the challenge presented by aging infrastructure, and turning it into an opportunity. It’s called ‘green’, but I think that’s a label that limits our perception of all of the benefits. What I really love about this approach is that it adds value in so many dimensions: enhanced public space, introduction of economic development opportunities, protection and enhancement of environmental health through water and air quality, ecosystem contributions, etc.
The traditional pipes and pumps approach is value-poor in comparison. The collect-and-treat/discharge process improves water quality, but is potentially also energy and chemically intensive. Adding value to one process, while degrading value from another. All the other benefits are limited to basic harm prevention (i.e., not flooding). Harm prevention is certainly important, but we can do more.