Philly Water Department Highlights Local Stormwater Pioneer

This month, the Philadelphia Water Department announced that the very first Stormwater Pioneer award has been given to my local Stanley’s True Value Hardware. You may remember I recognized the effectiveness of the property’s rain gardens to manage storm runoff during a tropical storm last year, but as suspected, there is more than meets the eye.

The Water Department’s new Stormwater Pioneers program highlights innovative stormwater management projects on private property in the City of Philadelphia. When the business owners decided to build a new store, three times the size of the previous one, they were required to meet the City’s stormwater management requirements, including that they infiltrate the first 1″ of rainfall over the entire DCIA (directly connected impervious area) on the site. Despite this regulatory requirement, the owners of this long-standing neighborhood business felt that the possible benefits from reduced flooding impacts on other properties, made it worthwhile.

Green Parking Lot Island

Green Parking Lot Island

Green Parking Lot Swale

Green Parking Lot Swale

According to the Stanley’s Hardware Stormwater Pioneer Case Study, the planners Ruggiero Plante Land Design evaluated several possible stormwater management systems including green roofs and pervious paving. They concluded that a combination of two underground infiltration basins totaling 7,000 square feet and a 900 square foot rain garden worked best for this site. All together, the BMPs (best management practices) manage more than 3,000 cubic feet of runoff.

Although the undergound infiltration basins likely manage the majority of the runoff, the above-ground rain garden has arguably had the most impact on the community. Other local business owners have noticed the gardens and felt encouraged to beautify their own properties as well. When reviewing development site plans in my professional life, I always argue for the incorporation of above-ground stormwater management BMPs when the land is available. Above-ground BMPs such as rain gardens, planters, tree trenches, etc. are more visible and tangible means of managing runoff so that passers-by (like myself) can observe the systems in action thereby educating and encouraging others to do their part to address the larger stormwater issue.

Stanley's Hardware site plan showing stormwater BMPs (Source: Philadelphia Water Department, Stormwater Pioneers, Case Study)

Stanley’s Hardware site plan showing stormwater BMPs (Source: Philadelphia Water Department, Stormwater Pioneers, Case Study)

If we continue to funnel all of our water resources underground (whether into pipes to transport the water as far away as fast as possible, or to temporarily store it underground, out of sight) we will never truly restore our society’s understanding and appreciation of the natural water cycle and return all water resources (including stormwater) to their prominence as an essential component to our ecosystem. Therefore, I feel that conventional, engineered (grey infrastructure) solutions for stormwater storage and management should always be combined with highly-visible, plant-based infiltration methods (green infrastructure).

Check out the underground basins under construction and learn more about the planning process:

Read the full case study:

Learn more about Philadelphia’s Stormwater Pioneers program: