During the next 20 years, Philadelphia plans to pursue green stormwater management projects that address not just stormwater, but also offer economic, social and environmental benefits. One example, the "Big Green Block" project in the city's New Kensington area, is bringing together the water department, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, New Kensington Community Development Corp., Mural Arts Program, and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, among other partners, to improve a 15-acre space.

The water department will install stormwater tree trenches in four different locations in the project area to manage street and sidewalk runoff, as well as plant street trees and install two rain gardens. The drainage area will total 54,290 square feet.

The Shissler Recreation Center in the area is being improved with a new athletic field and a pervious parking lot. The nearby site of the Kensington Creative and Performing Arts School also is implementing green stormwater infrastructure systems, and the school itself is being built to LEED certification standards. The green stormwater infrastructure is partially the result of stormwater regulations the water department implemented in 2006 that require new developments and redevelopments of a certain size to mitigate the first inch of stormwater runoff.

"Put altogether, it's an example of how the city evolves from a site in not very good condition to a green oasis for learning and recreating," Neukrug says. "This block is representative of how partners can leverage, the utility can incentivize, and new development can be planned and regulated to create a vastly greener and more sustainable urban form."

  • Read the main story, "Just add water," to learn why, in the formula for creating "green" cities, the water plays a critical role.

Jennifer Grzeskowiak is a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based freelance writer.