Since 2014, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has annually honored local “Stormwater Pioneers.” This award recognizes private properties demonstrating innovation and excellence in improving the environment and reducing stormwater runoff.

This year, PWD is honoring three faith-based institutions who’ve adopted stormwater management systems on their site that support PWD’s Stormwater initiatives including Green City, Clean Waters – Philadelphia’s 25-year plan to reduce combined sewer overflow pollution in our creeks and rivers through the installation of neighborhood-based green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).

Representing different religious affiliations and neighborhoods across the city, the 2022-2023 winners include Overbrook Presbyterian Church in West Philadelphia, Holmesburg Baptist Church in Northeast Philadelphia, and Congregation Rodeph Shalom Synagogue, located in the city’s Spring Garden section.

Designed to reduce waterway pollution while beautifying our neighborhoods, GSI and other stormwater management practices have been integrated into the landscape of non-residential properties across Philadelphia for almost two decades. From schools to local businesses, community institutions managing stormwater by complying with regulations have contributed to the holistic success of stormwater management programs, helping to keep our waterways clean.

“Communities, and the people and intuitions comprising them, are key to the success of the Green City, Clean Waters, initiative” says Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman, Esq. “That’s why we prioritize integrating green stormwater infrastructure and green spaces at local, neighborhood-based sites. These spaces, including the three sites being honored today, demonstrate remarkable work as they help us reach our most important environmental goals — protecting the rivers that sustain our city.”

Many congregations recognize the importance of being stewards to natural resources, such as creeks and rivers. Collectively, these three sites alone manage close to 98,000 gallons of stormwater per typical storm event, preventing pollutants from entering our waterways.

Stormwater management on faith-based sites can provide an opportunity for new landscaping, improved drainage, and property beautification. After a project is complete, sites can qualify for lower stormwater charges on their monthly bill through the Stormwater Credits Program.

Faith-based houses of worship frequently occupy large lots, which often leads to higher stormwater charges on their water bills. Saving money on operating costs is often a priority for houses of worship.

“Installation of stormwater management systems on these properties has a positive impact on Philadelphia’s waterways and environment, while also lessening the financial burden to the property owner,” says Victoria Lenoci, Director of Philadelphia Water Department’s Development Services Unit.

Two of these sites, Overbrook Presbyterian Church and Holmesburg Baptist Church, received Stormwater Grant support from the Water Department. The third site, Rodeph Shalom Synagogue, completed a redevelopment project in 2015 and was required to install stormwater management on-site for compliance with the PWD Stormwater Regulations.

While all three sites are located within the combined sewershed, and therefore compliment Green City, Clean Waters, both PWD Stormwater Grants and Regulations are applied citywide, further contributing to the reduction of pollution in local waterways.