2014 Environmental Communications Awards Competition Winner

Environmental Communications Award

Honor Award

Green City, Clean Waters

Entrant: Philadelphia Water Department (Howard Neukrug, Water Commissioner)
Person in Charge: Tiffany Ledesma Groll, Public Affairs
Media Contact: Bev Volpe, Simon PR, 215.545.4715x24

Background and Challenges

Green City, Clean Waters is Philadelphia's 25-year plan to protect and enhance the City's waterways by managing stormwater, primarily with green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). This innovative program of the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is also designed to improve community well being, change the way we think about infrastructure, and provide national models for other American cities.

This green approach to managing storm water runoff is exciting and new. Unlike most traditional (gray) infrastructure, green stormwater infrastructure is placed above ground, impacting communities in highly visible ways and bringing natural beauty to urban environments. But change is never easy, and much is at stake. Across the country, regulators and peer cities are watching closely. That's why it's critical that communities understand PWD's investments in their neighborhoods and how these investments improve the City and its creeks and rivers over time. The bottom line: educating the public on GSI and engaging them in the process is vital to build support and gain acceptance, and requires comprehensive and sustained marketing and communications.

Target Audiences

The 1.7 million drinking water customers and 2.2 million storm water and wastewater service customers of the Philadelphia Water Department. These are City residents—individuals, neighborhood and civic organizations, and local non-profit organizations.


  • Spark an interest in green infrastructure among City residents and leaders.
  • Engage and involve individuals and communities in projects on their blocks and in their neighborhoods.


Among the Green City, Clean Waters' focus areas for public interest and engagement are Green Homes, Public Outreach and Communications Development. Included here are select programs in each.

Green Homes

These educate and incentivize stormwater management on residential properties.

  • Rain Check Program and Green Jobs: PWD offers free stormwater property assessments and shares in the cost of implementing practices such as rain gardens. It also provides job training for stormwater assessors and green tool installers.
  • Rain Barrel Program: After attending PWD-sponsored workshops, residents are eligible for a free installed rain barrel.
  • Downspout Block Builds: These improve the lives of homeowners in need with energy efficiency upgrades, repairs and more. PWD pays for downspout planters and their installation during these builds.

Public Outreach

Using art, design and celebration to raise awareness and support.

  • GSI Demonstration Projects: These high-visibility experiences create buzz, proving that even small spaces can make a difference. Case in point: the 60-square foot green rooftop on a bus shelter across from City Hall helps manage stormwater. It's intended to inspire passers-by to take on their own projects.
  • Infill: Soak It Up Design Competition: A series of exhibitions, workshops, and charrettes culminated in a national GSI design competition. The designs responded to typical and complex stormwater management problems in a cost-effective manner that can revitalize neighborhoods. See http://infill.cdesignc.org/ and http://www.gridphilly.com/digital-edition/soak-it-up-052-special.html.
  • Soak It Up, Philly! Events: Ribbon cuttings, art activities, flower plantings and green street tours help build excitement around GSI. Participants enjoy music, refreshments and yarn-bombed stormwater tree trenches to highlight new green street features.
  • Green City, Clean Waters Art Contest: PWD asks students to illustrate how we can work together to make our rivers and streams healthy. Winning drawings are used year-round in advertising on buses and subways.
  • Green City, Clean Waters Education: Young people/students all over Philadelphia participate in engaging and interactive education lessons by experts from PWD's Fairmount Water Works (FWW) as well as through Philadelphia Parks & Recreation at the Center, in the field and in the classroom. For example, young people coming to the FWW explore hands-on models of green neighborhoods and examine real time water samples using microscopes in the FWW Lab. The FWW's education staff leads GSI tours to a variety of projects in the field to help highlight their quantitative and qualitative value. The hands-on experiences at the FWW and in the field increase awareness about water pollution, environmental stewardship, stormwater management and help make those connections between their own lives and the plans PWD has for their communities, including their own schoolyards.

Communications Development

PWD has embraced digital media and shares content across many platforms. It also recognizes that the digital divide exists in Philadelphia, so it utilizes traditional means to reach those without ready access to technology. Finally, it uses experiential and place-based learning as described above to create excitement, interest and support.


PWD produces engaging documentary videos that communicate the stories behind Green City, Clean Waters. Videos are shown on-line, at meetings, events and on television.

Media Inquiries

PWD provides the media and others who are seeking information with accurate and timely responses.

Select Results

Green Homes

  • Rain Check assessed 205 properties, installed 65 tools and created green jobs for 7 assessors, 8 contractors and 1 fabrication company.
  • More than 2,760 rain barrels have been distributed, keeping 9.6 million gallons of stormwater from the waterways.
  • Block Builds resulted in 31 installed downspout planters.

Public Outreach

  • The INFILL Soak It Up design competition involved 28 teams, representing 94 firms and over 300 design professionals.
  • Two hundred community members and leaders participated in Soak it Up, Philly! celebrations in five neighborhoods.
  • More than 700 students from across Philadelphia submitted entries for this year's annual art contest.
  • Environmental education programs reached 6,900 children and adults.

Click here to return to the list of 2014 winners.

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