Projects

A significant body of applied water research is already completed, underway, or planned by the Water Center
Current projectsCompleted projects

Current Projects

 

The Water Center strives to make diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental justice foundational to its research. Learn more about the Water Center’s commitment to confront water-related racial inequities.

 

 

Evaluating the effectiveness of a protocol to counteract online misinformation about drinking water safety

Partnering with Critica Science to develop ways to combat drinking water safety misinformation that can negatively impact individuals’ physical and financial health by providing timely, up-to-date scientifically valid responses. Provide content-specific technical expertise as the need arises during the implementation of the research project and collaborate in the authorship of publications to disseminate information on strategies developed.

Water Center Project Lead

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Project Partners

Innovations in Water Systems Finance

The Water Center at Penn will support American Rivers and other project partners to identify and advocate for improvements to state and federal investment in water infrastructure in the Delaware River watershed for more green infrastructure and improved equity focusing on the State Revolving Fund programs.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Project Partners

Leading on Affordable, Resilient Water Systems in the Great Lakes

Many small to medium-sized cities across the Great Lakes region are challenged with providing affordable water service for their residents. This project aims to assist those cities through the implementation of a virtual Water Affordability Academy, which highlights peer cities that have successfully managed water affordability challenges, thus demonstrating that water affordability is critical, reasonable, and achievable. Additionally, these workshops connect utility leaders with some of the country’s most respected utility innovators to help them identify, assess, and establish a path toward water affordability in their community. The Water Affordability Academy, in conjunction with direct technical assistance provided by the Water Center at Penn, supports city leaders and utilities by creating a pathway of clear, specific, and customized steps city leaders can take to address their water affordability challenges.

Water Center Project Lead

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Project Partners

      

New York -Water Affordability Academy

The Water Center at Penn and Mayors Innovation Project will host and organize a New York-specific Water Affordability Academy. The Academy will provide city and utility leaders with the necessary foundation of water affordability-focused knowledge, as well as the tools and resources to get started on their path towards affordability.

  • Establishing a cohort of New York cities focused on identifying one impediment to keeping water affordable. This cohort will launch after the Academy, as a natural next step in the implementation process

  • Providing the necessary direct technical assistance to implement evidence-informed changes. This assistance will take place in parallel with the cohort

  • Reporting out on these successes far and wide

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Project Partners

Philadelphia Green Stormwater Infrastructure Affordability

The City of Philadelphia adopted the innovative Green City Clean Waters (GCCW) plan in 2011 to address combined sewer overflows by creating 9000+ acres of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to capture 85% of baseline annual wet weather flow into the sewer system. 

Since 2011, additional positive impacts of GCCW include a significant number of new jobs, $60 million added to local economies, and the environmental, social and health benefits of green space. In addition, GSI was found to be more affordable for ratepayers and less energy intensive than gray infrastructure. 

Despite these positive impacts, concern has arisen about how Philadelphia will continue to pay for GSI given challenges associated with GSI implementation, operation and maintenance and the impact of COVID 19 on ratepayers. 

This project seeks to identify how the City can effectively support, incentivize and finance stormwater project implementation on private land while achieving a balance between stormwater rate revenue and stormwater credits to reach the GCCW implementation target by 2036.

Water Center Project Lead

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Project Partners

Roadmap for a Delaware River Upgrade for Recreational Use in Philadelphia and Camden

The water quality in the Delaware River is considered suitable for swimming, except for a 27 mile stretch between Philadelphia, Camden, and Chester. This project will assemble and analyze existing data outlining current conditions and limiting factors to achieving a “swimmable” water quality, in coordination with key stakeholders including the Delaware River Basin Commission, Utilities, Environmental and Recreational Stakeholders, Regulatory Agencies, and others.  The Water Center and its partners will evaluate expected results of planned investments with the goal of predicting when and where water quality could support swimming as those committed projects are implemented.   The project will culminate in the development of a number of possible options for policymakers to consider for optimizing or accelerating improvements and improving access for communities along this urbanized stretch of the river. 

Water Center Project Lead

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Three Rivers Watershed Action Network and Leadership Incubator

Supporting generation of the necessary political will for integrated water resource management.  Key strategies include expanding support beyond a small group of highly sophisticated stakeholders deeply engaged in current challenges along the Three Rivers Watershed, to engage the larger community – from the urban core to rural stakeholders and building, leveraging and expanding upon the many successful local initiatives already under way.

Water Center Project Lead

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Links/Attachments

Water as the Universal Connector in West Philadelphia

Offerings students a unique opportunity to work in and with the historically under-resourced community of West Philadelphia to harness and synthesize arts, citizen science, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education. Students will engage in an extensive literature review, involving communication with university professors and local stakeholders to understand the urban and environmental history of the Cobbs Creek area. This effort will also create a constructive dialogue between the university and its surrounding community regarding environmental and economic justice. Through this project, The Water Center is working to enhance the overall ecosystem health of our shared neighborhood through a focus on water.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Completed Projects

A Local Decision Makers Guide to Navigating Small Drinking Water and/or Wastewater System Technical Assistance and Financing Options

Creating a thoughtful, objective, straight-talking guide for local elected and appointed decision-makers in under-resourced urban communities. Guide will assist decision-makers in navigating the wide array of options and opportunities for technical assistance and funding resources available to managers, board members, and elected officials responsible for local stormwater management systems. Additionally, the guide will be structured to assist decision-makers in prioritizing and organizing their internal operations before pursuing specific financing opportunities.

Water Center Project Lead

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Links/Attachments

Analysis of Pennsylvania State Revolving Fund Water Infrastructure Financing: The Lehigh River Watershed

Collectively, Pennsylvania’s drinking, storm and wastewater infrastructure is in poor condition. Municipal leaders face a significant backlog of infrastructure maintenance challenges as well as new challenges due to an increasing number of large storm events, which result in flooding and water quality impacts. Although financing for water infrastructure improvement at low interest rates is available through PENNVEST, the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development community block grants, these funding sources largely go unused. The goal of this project is to gain clarity about whether and how available resources can better address Pennsylvania’s water sector infrastructure challenges by analyzing one watershed, the Lehigh River Watershed.  The project team selected municipal water sector entities in a four county area of that watershed to understand whether there are existing policy hurdles to leveraging state revolving fund and other resources for financing much needed infrastructure improvements.

Water Center Project Lead

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Accelerating Transformational Change in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers

Provide an initial assessment of Pittsburgh’s State of its Waters and identify the priorities and drivers of the region’s leading water stakeholders. Identify 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 will improve the quality and access to water resources for all constituents across Pittsburgh’s three rivers.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Analysis of Strategic Alternatives for the Duquesne Water System

Providing support to the mayor and city council of Duquesne, PA in identifying and pursuing the steps necessary to ensure a safe, sustainable water distribution system for a financially distressed, shrinking industrial city with severe fiscal and demographic challenges. Identifying key technical, governance and financial challenges, as well as potential sources of financial and technical assistance.  

Water Center Project Lead

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Developing a Foundation for Affordable Water in Great Lakes Cities

Provide research, evaluation of existing affordability programs nationwide, technical assistance and policy guidance to the City of South Bend to develop an effective water affordability program for its residents

Water Center Project Lead

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Drink Philly Tap

Support the development and implementation of the Drink Philly Tap project formed to empower residents of Philadelphia with information and knowledge to choose drinking tap water over bottled water.

Water Center Project Lead

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Healthy Public Water Systems in the Great Lakes Basin

Understand the underlying issues that caused the water failures in Flint, Michigan and determine whether similar conditions exist in other small, post-industrial, and economically shrinking cities in the Great Lakes region of the US.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Project Partners

Integrated Water Management for Cities

Provide policy guidance and technical assistance on the principles of integrated water management (IWM) in three cities including in South Bend, Indiana, Toledo, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with particular focus on how IWM can help create affordable access to water services.

Water Center Project Lead

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Project Partners

Integrated Water Management (IWM) in the Lower Susquehanna Watershed

Investigate opportunities for system integration and program coordination and demonstrate new methods of using collaborative partnerships to manage water, equity and justice issues in the three largest cities of the Lower Susquehanna watershed – Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Stormwater Utilities and Other Innovative Regional Financing Solutions for the Protection and Restoration of the Delaware River Watershed

Explore innovative regional financing solutions designed to encourage new stormwater utilities (and associated fees) and identify novel approaches for bringing new financial resources to bear in the protection and restoration of Delaware River waterways. Create a tool kit of financing options for water policy and program managers to draw from and examine the case for considering regional models in watershed management. Propose four innovative financial mechanisms that to date have only been gently probed, but are worthy of much deeper feasibility analysis.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

The Challenges of Public Water Sector Utilities

Contribute to report for city Mayors on solutions to challenges faced by public water utilities with particular focus on privatization of water systems.

Water Center Project Lead

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Project Partners

 

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

Produce 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.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Water Affordability and Equity Conference

Conference exploring innovative regional solutions designed to encourage new stormwater utilities and novel approaches for bringing new financial resources to bear in the protection and restoration of our waterways.

Water Center Project Lead

Funding Partner

Affiliations

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