Projects at The Water Center

Current Projects

Integrated Water Management for Cities

The purpose of this project is to provide policy guidance and technical assistance on the principles of integrated water management (IWM) to three cities including: South Bend, Indiana, Toledo, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The project focuses on how IWM can provide multiple benefits to residents, including more affordable access to water services. The Water Center is working with The Mayor’s Innovation Project and local city water leaders to provide local, targeted support to South Bend, Toledo, and Pittsburgh. The Water Center at Penn will draft case studies of all cities.

Challenges of Public Water Sector Utilities

This study will provide a report on solutions to challenges faced by public water utilities. The Water Center at Penn is assisting with writing several sections of the report regarding privatization of water systems. The report is being prepared for the Mayors Innovation Project (MIP) and will serve to support their primary audience – mayors.

Basic Water Utility Management: A Guide for Local Leaders

Paying for Water Systems: A Guide for Local Leaders


Affordable Water in Great Lakes Cities

The purpose of this project is to provide technical assistance work and policy guidance to the City of South Bend towards the development of an affordability program. The Water Center at Penn is completing multiple site visits to South Bend and assisting the Mayors Innovation Project (MIP) with research and the evaluation of assistance and affordability programs nationwide.


Drink Philly Tap

For the past four years, surveys conducted by the Philadelphia Water Department and ImpactED at the University of Pennsylvania have found that 40% of city residents drink bottled water at home, instead of tap. These findings also revealed that Philadelphians from different education and income levels, races, and genders drink bottled water at different rates. The Drink Philly Tap project formed in response to these research findings to empower residents of Philadelphia with information and knowledge to choose drinking tap water over bottled water.

The work of Drink Philly Tap is guided by three core values:


  • Knowledgeability – we provide accurate and reliable information about tap water in Philadelphia
  • Transparency – we are transparent about our mission and our partners
  • Inclusivity – we invite everyone in Philadelphia to Drink Philly Tap and be a part of the initiative

Three Rivers Watershed Action Network and Leadership Incubator

Drawing out of on an extensive Three Rivers watershed stakeholder engagement exercise undertaken as part of a Heinz Endowment-funded planning grant, this two-year project will support the generation of the necessary political will for integrated water resource management. It will do this by creating opportunities to expand the tent from the smaller group of highly sophisticated stakeholders deeply engaged in the current challenges, to engage the larger community- from the urban core to rural stakeholders. Building, leveraging and expanding upon the many successful local initiatives already under way, the project will comprise of four interconnected focal areas:


  • Scoping, establishment, and maintenance of the “Three Rivers Watershed Action Network”
  • Scoping, establishment, and maintenance of the “Three Rivers Watershed Leadership Incubator”
  • Targeted technical assistance in integrated water management for struggling small communities
  • Development assistance for a robust watershed‐wide water data collection, monitoring, and communication framework


Accelerating Transformational Change in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Phase 1 Report

SW PA Water Network First Stakeholder Workshop Report – Dec 2019

Completed Projects

Water Affordability and Equity Conference

The Water Center at Penn explored innovative regional solutions designed to encourage new stormwater utilities (and associated fees) and more generally, identified novel approaches for bringing new financial resources to bear in the protection and restoration of our waterways.

Affordability Conference


Stormwater Utilities & Innovative Financing Solutions for the Delaware River Watershed

A third component of this grant comprised of a study exploring innovative regional solutions designed to encourage new stormwater utilities (and associated fees).  This study also sought to identify novel approaches for bringing new financial resources to bear in the protection and restoration of our waterways.

In addition to providing a tool kit of financing options for water policy and program managers to draw from, the resulting paper delved into the case for considering regional models in watershed management, highlighting both the opportunities and the challenges.  The paper then considered what this might mean for regional stormwater utilities.

The final part of the analysis localized the analysis within the Delaware River Watershed, proposing four innovative financial mechanisms that to date have only been gently probed, but are worthy of much deeper feasibility analysis.


Integrated Urban Water Management in the Lower Susquehanna

The Water Center at Penn worked with American Rivers and the Mayors Innovation Project, to investigate opportunities for system integration and program coordination in and among the three largest cities of Lower Susquehanna – Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster. These cities are already very progressive in their use of green stormwater infrastructure and urban planning, but each are also supporting large populations of disadvantaged communities. This project began to demonstrate new methods for using collaborative partnerships to manage issues of water, equity and justice

Healthy Waters for the Great Lakes


The Water Center at Penn worked with the Mayors Innovation Project to understand the underlying issues that caused the water failures in Flint, Michigan and to determined whether similar conditions existed in other small, post-industrial, and economically shrinking cities in the Great Lakes region of the US. The Water Center at Penn supported cities as they looked to integrate and coordinate water system programs and improvements to larger gains for the community and the region.


Transforming New Jersey's Water Infrastructure: A Call to Action and Innovation

The Water Center at Penn developed a strategy document for the transformation of New Jersey’s Water Infrastructure, with the goal of opening a new dialogue with regional and national stakeholders on the costs, needs and approaches to solving New Jersey’s water infrastructure crisis. “Our nation’s cities and towns, regions and states need a new vision, a new plan, a new roadmap to ensure water sustainability and community resiliency – to provide modern, reliable water services for all, to restore our waterfronts, natural waterways and beaches, and to keep our communities healthy and safe.” – Transforming New Jersey’s Water Infrastructure

Our Water Transformed: An Action Agenda for New Jersey’s Water Infrastructure

Accelerating Transformational Change in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers

The purpose of this planning grant is to provide an initial assessment of Pittsburgh’s State of its Waters and to identify the priorities and drivers of the region’s leading water stakeholders. The Water Center at Penn will establish the threats, opportunities, challenges and weaknesses of Pittsburgh’s critical water issues and create a roadmap for a collaborative multi-stakeholder strategic planning process that aims to improve the quality and access to water resources for all constituents across Pittsburgh’s three rivers.

Accelerating Transformational Change in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Phase 1 Report

Report Feedback Form



Framework & Tools for Quantifying Green Infrastructure Co-Benefits

The Water Center at Penn is helping to develop a comprehensive framework and supporting an Excel-based tool to help utilities quantify the financial, social, and environmental benefits of GI at the community level. The framework and tool will lead utilities through each step of the TBL analysis, from establishing a baseline, to identifying and valuing applicable benefits, to developing useful outputs and appropriately comparing benefits and costs

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