Philly Launches Challenge for Green Stormwater Solutions – Next City

Philly Launches Challenge for Green Stormwater Solutions

Venice Island is a product of Philly’s Green City, Clean Waters program. (Credit: Philadelphia Water Department)

The Philadelphia Water Department is looking for help to make its nationally recognized Green City, Clean Waters program even more effective. Working with Citymart, an organization that helps cities improve how they solve problems, the agency is launching the Philadelphia Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Innovation Challenge. Philadelphia was the first city to try using green infrastructure to comply with the Clean Water Act’s mandate that the city — and 800 others nationwide — reduce sewage runoff. Now the city is looking for ideas to make the program more efficient by improving tools to assess subsurface conditions at potential GSI sites, before planning and construction begin.

According to a press release, current methods of determining site suitability — like figuring out the location of underground utilities — are usually effective, but they don’t go far enough. Agreements with state and federal regulators require Philadelphia to nearly triple the volume of stormwater currently being managed by green infrastructure over the next five years. Making every piece of infrastructure do the most possible work will be critical in meeting that goal.

In the first phase of the GSI Innovation Challenge, the Philadelphia Water Department has issued a request for information. All are invited to submit information on possible solutions to determining subsurface conditions. The second phase will be a request for proposals, drawing on the ideas submitted in the first round. Interested applicants can learn more and submit here.

The challenge is the latest effort by the Philadelphia Water Department to raise awareness and change behavior around stormwater management. Previously, the agency released a guide for designing more water-friendly schoolyards and created an online game to see how green infrastructure could reduce stormwater charges.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

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Tags: philadelphiawaterstormwater management