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Water Center in the News

Environmental Politics and Policy Adaptation in China: The Case of Water Sector Reform 

Water Policy 8/26/2020

Much of the literature on China’s successful adaptation to the policy challenges posed by economic development credits two principle approaches, gradualism and local experimentation. However, the extent to which these approaches aid policy adaptation to environmental policy challenges is less well-explored. This article examines how these approaches have shaped policy adaptation in water resources management by presenting data on ambitious water policy reforms that are, to our knowledge, new to the English-language scholarly literature.

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New DRBC Panel to Focus on Sea-Level Rise as Salt Front Threatens Drinking Water

NJSpotlight 8/14/2020

Committee chairman Howard Neukrug, the former head of Philadelphia Water Department, said his vision for the panel is to take its combined expertise and produce an analysis of how to protect drinking water and prevent flooding in the basin for the rest of the century. “Clearly, the future requires action now,” he said.

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Accelerating Transformational Change in Southwest Pennsylvania Water Management

A Project Newsletter from the Water Center at Penn 8/12/2020

Welcome to the August Project Newsletter. A lot has been going on of late, despite living in a physically-distanced world. In addition to some of the work showcased below, we have started meeting with a 23-member working group to develop draft recommendations related to network purpose, people and processes. We will be creating regular opportunities for the broader stakeholder community to provide feedback on key outputs of this group. Stay tuned for more information soon.

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waterloop #41: Howard Neukrug on Applying Research to Water Sustainability

Waterloop  8/10/2020

In this episode, Howard discusses why there is always activity and innovation around water in the Philadelphia area. He says that The Water Center at Penn is focused on applied research to solve urban water challenges, with faculty, staff, and students all contributing. Howard explains why integrated watershed management and stakeholder engagement are vital to water sustainability in the 21st century.

You can find the podcast here

What would it take to make the Delaware ‘swimmable’?

Penn Today 7/28/2020

With funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Water Center at Penn is investigating questions of water quality, access, and equity.

From its source in New York’s Catskill Mountains to its mouth in the Delaware Bay, the Delaware River serves many roles. Fifteen million people from four states drink its water. Several major cities lie on its shores. It’s a place for commerce, for wildlife, and, increasingly, even in its urban stretches, for fishing, kayaking, and other recreation. 

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China’s Post-Pandemic Water Woes

The Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program 7/20/2020

Few places have suffered more from the COVID-19 pandemic than southern China, the region where the novel coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan. But it turned out that the pandemic is not the only calamity to befall south China this year. The region has been inundated by heavy rainfall since late May, creating a risk of catastrophic flooding.

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Accelerating Transformational Change in Southwest Pennsylvania Water Management

A Project Newsletter from the Water Center at Penn 6/25/2020

The purpose of this newsletter is to update you on the results our most recent round of virtual stakeholder engagements. I would also like to reaffirm to all of our regional stakeholders that there are still many opportunities to fully engage in this effort and to shape its outcome.

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Revealed: millions of Americans can’t afford water as bills rise 80% in a decade

The Guardian 6/23/2020

“High-cost low-quality water is a national issue … the federal government is clearly not playing the role it needs to play,” said Howard Neukrug, director of the water centre at the University of Pennsylvania and former head of Philadelphia’s water department.

“The bottom line is that assuming there’s no federal helicopter with $1tn, rates are going to go up dramatically to pay for infrastructure and quality issues,” he added.

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Coronavirus stimulus packages should help green our water infrastructure | Opinion

The Philadelphia Inquirer 5/4/2020

The COVID-19 crisis is hurting our communities in every way. The investments we make to deal with its immediate and long-term impacts will determine how quickly we recover from the pandemic as well as the economic downturn. Our nation’s water systems are fundamental to both. From the water we drink and wash our hands with, to the systems that manage floodwaters and protect our rivers, it is the foundation of healthy communities and thriving economies.

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A green solution to an aging stormwater system

The Washington Post 4/10/2020

Climate change means more floods, which overwhelm urban sewers and send raw sewage into rivers and streams. Philadelphia is aiming to capture rainwater before it flows into city drains.

Rising temperatures create more frequent intense downpours that overwhelm urban systems, sending raw sewage into waterways. Many cities, from the District to Chicago and San Francisco, have been scrambling to find ways to slow the flow.

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Accelerating Transformational Change in Southwest Pennsylvania Water Management

A Project Newsletter from the Water Center at Penn 2/27/2020

Welcome to the Water Center’s first project newsletter focused on our collective efforts to accelerate transformation change in the management of Southwest Pennsylvania’s waters. For those of you less familiar with this project, in early 2019, the Heinz Endowment asked the Water Center at Penn to undertake an assessment of the ‘State of the Waters’ in Southwest PA focusing on challenges and opportunities around water resource management as well as capabilities, priorities and drivers of the region’s water stakeholders.

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Water Challenges Inside and Outside China’s Borders: A Conversation with Scott Moore

China Power 2/19/2020

This episode explores the major challenges that threaten China’s water resources, from scarcity and mismanagement, to pollution and climate change. Our guest, Dr. Scott Moore, describes China’s sweeping attempts to mitigate the negative impacts that growing water challenges pose at home. Dr. Moore also discusses how China’s efforts to secure its water resources have created security challenges with its neighbors, and the ways in which China has exported many of its most ambitious water projects to Belt and Road partner countries. 

Dr. Scott Moore is the Director of the Penn Global China Program and Senior Fellow at The Water Center  and the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.


A Pittsburgh-Area Test Case in Working Across Political Boundaries to Address Flooding

The Allegheny Front 1/27/2020

Although these actions, on their own, may not lead to great change, a report released last year by the Water Center at the University of Pennsylvania and The Heinz Endowments* suggests these individuals may be paving the only path forward for the region. The report recommended investing in an incubator and an activist network. 

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How Philadelphia’s Water Pollution Problems Shaped the City

Science History Institute, Distillations 1/22/2020

Philadelphia just had its wettest decade on record, and all that precipitation has wreaked havoc on the city’s waterways. Like most old cities, Philadelphia has a combined sewer system—that is, one pipe is used to carry both sewage and stormwater. 

To listen to the podcast visit: Science History Institute


Philly Water Straight from the Tap

Penn Today 1/14/2020

At a celebratory culminating event for the Drink Philly Tap initiative, Yards Brewing CEO Tom Kehoe noted that his company worked hard to obtain the best-quality hops, barley, and other ingredients for their beers. That includes their products’ most abundant ingredient.

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Philadelphia and the World’s Water Crisis: Local Solutions to a Global Challenge

The Athenæum of Philadelphia 11/14/2019

Scott Moore, senior fellow at the Water Center, gave a talk at the Athenæum of Philadelphia.

(Credit: The Athenæum of Philadelphia)


Knowledge by the Slice: Is Flint a Signal of Things to Come? Our Nation’s Water Infrastructure Issuess

Omnia 10/10/2019

Howard Neukrug, Professor of Practice and Executive Director of The Water Center at Penn, discusses the underlying factors that led to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and what can be done to minimize similar problems in the future.


Adapting our Cities for Climate Change: Revolution or Evolution-Howard Neukrug

Penn Arts & Sciences-1.5 Minute Climate Lectures  9/11/2019

Faculty and students from across the University of Pennsylvania unite in a series of 1.5 Minute Climate Lectures to sound the alarm about the climate emergency, to call for large-scale climate action, and to share a vision of constructive and comprehensive response.


Philly’s Drinking Water Threatened by Climate Change

NBC10  8/09/2019

The Water Center at Penn executive director, Howard Neukrug, was interviewed by NBC10. In the interview, Howard explains there are two ways to adapt to climate change, “one way is to continue to build more capacity underground and the other way is to start changing how you manage your land”.

(Credit: Krystal Klei)

To watch the video click here.


Philadelphia Water seeks surge in tap water enthusiasts

Connections Article 7/18/2019

To increase local support for drinking home-town tap water instead of bottled water, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and three partner nonprofit organizations have launched the Drink Philly Tap Coalition.

Other coalition partners are ImpactED (University of Pennsylvania), The Water Center at Penn (founded and directed by Howard Neukrug, former Water Commissioner of Philadelphia Water and honorary AWWA member) and PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Water)

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Relieving Water Scarcity, One Home at a Time

Penn Today 7/8/2019

Mehta, a rising junior from Dallas, was in the city on behalf of Isla Urbana, an international nonprofit devoted to providing clean drinking water to residents of Mexico City through rainwater collection. This past fall, Mehta teamed up with her friend and fellow Penn student Pallavi Menon of Bangalore, India, to start their own chapter of Isla Urbana, Spanish for “urban island,” on campus. They have made it their mission to get Penn students involved in mediating the crisis.

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Toxins from the Tap

Penn Today 6/21/2019

Howard Neukrug, Executive Director at The Water Center at Penn talks about PFAS contamination in groundwater.

Penn Today spoke with Howard Neukrug, executive director of the Water Center at Penn and a professor of practice in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Earth and Environmental Science, about PFAS contamination, including the fear that surrounds the issue, how local and federal agencies are responding, and the many questions that remain unanswered.

Read Full Article Here 


Keeping Rain Out of the Drain

Penn Today 6/3/2019

Howard Neukrug, Executive Director at The Water Center at Penn was consulted on this article as an expert in green stormwater infrastructure.

The “Green Cities” plan in particular places emphasis on green infrastructure—increasing permeable surfaces—over traditional infrastructure like larger stormwater pipes and storage tanks. The 25-year initiative, which emerged under the leadership of Howard Neukrug, then-commissioner and CEO of Philadelphia Water and now a professor of practice and executive director of the Water Center at Penn, aims to reduce stormwater pollution entering city waterways by 85 percent. The plan includes provisions to encourage large property owners to take on the brunt of the responsibility in reducing CSOs.

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Putting Mussels to the Test

Penn Today 5/8/2019

Byron Sherwood, Senior Fellow at The Water Center at Penn discusses his projects with Penn Students.

Looking to the future, with an additional appointment as a senior fellow in the Water Center at Penn and with support from the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and a School of Arts and Sciences’ Making a Difference in Diverse Communities grant, Sherwood would like to impress upon more people the diversity and dynamicism of life in the water.

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Five new utilities join the LUOW network to commemorate its second anniversary in London

Leading Utilities of the World 4/2019

9 April, London – Howard Neukrug assisted The Leading Utilities of the World (LUOW) network to inaugurate five new members during Global Water Summit (GWS) 2019. With the newest inauguration event, the LUOW network now includes 41 members in total, all of which represent the gold standard of utility innovation and performance.

The inauguration took place on Day 1 of the GWS, and the five new utilities accepted for LUOW membership were:

•    Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Germany (represented by Jörg Simon, CEO)

•    DEWA, UAE (represented by H.E. Abdullah Obaidullah, EVP Water and Civil)

•    Águas de Portugal, Portugal (represented by Alexandra Serra, CEO, Águas de Portugal  International)

•    SIAAP, France (represented by Jean-Didier Berthault, Vice President)

•    Yarra Valley Water, Australia (represented by Pat McCafferty, Managing Director)

The five new member utilities were approved and accepted into the network by the LUOW Advisory Board.

Read Full Article Here

Drink Tap Philly Wants you to Drink the City’s Wooder

WHYY 4/08/2019

That’s what a new campaign called Drink Tap Philly is hoping to do. Led by a coalition of four groups, including ImpactED at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Water Department, PennEnvironment, and the Water Center at Penn, the campaign launches later this month and wants to deliver the message that Philly’s water is safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than bottled water.

“What we’re trying to do is empower residents in Philadelphia with information and knowledge to choose drinking tap water over bottled water,” said ImpactED’s Nina Hoe Gallagher, who is leading the coalition.

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Confronting Inequities, Sharing Solutions

Penn Today 3/26/2019

At this year’s meeting of the Global Water Alliance, experts shared their challenges and success stories in addressing disparities in access to water.

There’s a straight line from water access to social progress, according to Eleanor Allen, CEO of the international nonprofit Water for People. “If we don’t have basic services, if we don’t know where we’re going to go to the bathroom,” she explained, “how can we concentrate on creating a better future for ourselves?”

As part of the keynote talk at this year’s Global Water Alliance (GWA) meeting, held at Penn, Allen laid out the rationale that drives her organization’s mission of ensuring that people around the world have access to clean, reliable water that can help break the cycle of poverty and set the stage for economic growth, a trajectory that paves the way for social progress.

Inequities abound in water access in both the United States and globally. This year’s gathering of the GWA focused on implementing solutions that address inequities in the world of water, sanitation, and hygiene, taking an inclusive approach.

To do so, an implicit goal of the meeting was to begin “to address these complex problems” by working across disciplines, according to Howard Neukrug, executive director of the Water Center at Penn, which was one of the sponsors of this year’s conference. The conference itself was a step in the right direction, as Neukrug noted the diverse representation and enthusiasm present in the room, with people trained in engineering, ecology, social justice, economics, entrepreneurship, and international development.

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Water Access is a Problem in the U.S., Affecting Minority and Rural Groups the Most

WHYY 3/22/2019

When it comes to a lack of clean water, many Americans think of the problem as one confined to the developing world. And, indeed, of the 2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe drinking water, the majority live outside the United States.

But as speakers at the 12th Annual Global Water Alliance Conference highlighted this week at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, some of the same challenges to water access in developing countries exist here as well.

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Resiliency by Design

The Pennsylvania Gazette 2/21/2019

Howard Neukrug CE’78 observed during a January symposium titled “Building Resilience in Design”—presented by PennDesign with Rockefeller Foundation support—“no one talks about cities and resilience without talking about water.”

As founding director of the Water Center at Penn and former CEO of the Philadelphia Water Department—where he established an innovative stormwater management program emphasizing porous pavement and rain gardens instead of a single-minded focus on traditional engineering solutions—Neukrug can be forgiven for being biased. Yet the watery aspects of climate change loomed large at the all-day roundtable, which served as the official launch of PennDesign’s new Urban Resilience Certificate program. Presentations by urban planners, architects, and engineers—plus an activist, a sociologist, and a risk analyst—also touched on issues ranging from forest fires, to the urban heat island effect, to coral reef restoration.

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Designing with Resilience to Prepare for a Changing World

PennToday 1/28/2019

Howard Neukrug, executive director of the Water Center and a professor of practice, made an appeal for cross-campus collaboration with an introduction to the Center and its goal of encouranging innovation around the issue of water. Known internationally for the Green Cities, Clean Water initiative formed while he led the Philaelphia Water Department, Neukrug is aiming to leverage Penn’s academic expertise and “help bridge that gap from the academic to applied research to solve our real-world water needs.”

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If the Schuylkill Isn’t Cleared of Silt, Penn Rowing May no Longer get to Use it in 2020

The Daily Pennsylvanian 9/20/2018

Rowing teams who use the Schuylkill River as a training location might soon be forced off the river if it is not cleared of silt.

As the Temple Men’s Crew head coach and a member of the Fairmount Rowing Association, Brian Perkins spends much of his time on the Schuylkill River’s boathouse row. He explained that the buildup of silt in the river has made it increasingly difficult for rowing teams to use the iconic Philadelphia waterway.

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Leveraging Penn’s Expertise to Meet Challenges in the Water Sector

University of Pennsylvania Almanac 7/17/2018

The newly launched Water Center at Penn, led by Professor of Practice Howard Neukrug, aims to open an innovation pipeline focused on water.

Bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners, the Water Center aims to serve as a regional hub of water expertise.

With utility costs on the rise, many low-income families struggle to pay their bills, often making difficult choices about where to allot their limited funds. Though not typically seen as social-service agencies, city-run utilities are contending with how to ensure customers have access to crucial resources, such as water, while continuing to operate sustainably.

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Why Does it Take so Long to Upgrade Philly’s Water Infrastructure? Here’s an Explanation

Plan Philly 7/13/2018

When a broken water main sent 15 million gallons surging into Center City streets, public attention was riveted by scenes of pedestrians sloshing along and a cave-in that threatened to swallow the intersection of Juniper and Sansom.

The July 3 rupture raised a lot of questions for Philadelphians. Chief among them: Is the city’s water infrastructure too old or too shoddy to prevent such events? Is the Water Department, like seemingly everything else, underfunded?

According to current and former water commissioners, Philadelphia does not have a water infrastructure crisis, despite those apocalyptic images.

“We’ve had a number of breaks of this magnitude in the past decade,” said Howard Neukrug, who was water commissioner under Mayor Michael Nutter and is now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “And it will happen again. This is common throughout the Northeast and Midwest, which has a lot of infrastructure very similar to what we have in Philadelphia.”

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Leveraging Penn’s Expertise to Meet Challenges in the Water Sector

Penn Today 5/30/2018

The newly launched Water Center at Penn, led by Professor of Practice Howard Neukrug, aims to open an innovation pipeline focused on water. With utility costs on the rise, many low-income families struggle to pay their bills, often making difficult choices about where to allot their limited funds. Though not typically seen as social-service agencies, city-run utilities are contending with how to ensure customers have access to crucial resources, such as water, while continuing to operate sustainably.

Read Full Article Here

Making Connections and Leveraging Dollars

Waterfront Alliance 5/11/2018

Howard Neukrug is a  professor of professional practice in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Pennsylvania and the recent founder of the university’s Water Center. He spent 37 years at the Philadelphia Water Department, founding its Office of Watersheds and creating its award-winning Green City, Clean Waters program. He was a featured speaker on a stormwater management panel at this year’s Waterfront Conference on May 8. We caught up with Howard after his panel to learn more.

Read Howard’s Interview Here