• Infrastructure Black and White

    SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS 

     

    DESTINATION

    Modernized energy and water systems and open space networks enhance business performance and quality of life.

     

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

 
The reliable provision and effective management of energy and water are fundamental to economic growth and quality of life. As demand for these resources rises and extreme weather places increasing strain on existing infrastructure, regions that make investments to ensure the long-term dependability and efficiency of their power generation and grid assets, water supply networks, and systems for managing stormwater and wastewater will be best positioned to protect communities and natural resources and compete for world class businesses and talent. In addition to this built infrastructure, parks and protected open space serve as critical green infrastructure to protect water resources and improve quality of life.

HOW DO WE CURRENTLY FARE?

Global & National Connections
Passenger Air Connections
Intercity Rail Ridership
Global Port Connections
Regional Mobility
Transit Ridership
Transportation Choice
Transportation State of Good Repair
Sustainable Systems
Water Distribution Efficiency
Electric Reliability
Open Space Acreage
Passenger Air Connections
Philadelphia International Airport provides nonstop international service to 25 countries whose combined GDP accounts for nearly one-quarter of world economic output. By this measure, Greater Philadelphia ranks last among the 10 largest U.S. metros.
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COMBINED GDP OF COUNTRIES SERVED BY NONSTOP PASSENGER AIR SERVICE BY METRO AREA (2015)

WORLD CLASS STRATEGIES

 

 

MODERNIZE AND PROTECT THE REGION’S EXISTING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE

 

While Greater Philadelphia has the advantage of extensive water supply and sewerage systems, much of this infrastructure is aging and in deteriorating condition. Many of the region’s older communities depend on water supply and sewerage infrastructure installed decades ago. In Philadelphia, the average water line is 78 years old and the average wastewater line is 100 years old. Recent water main breaks in and around Philadelphia have underscored the need for investment to replace deteriorating assets, but local governments are hard-pressed to meet the substantial and growing need for funding for new pipes and repairs.

 

The region also faces challenges surrounding the management of stormwater. Runoff during storms has become a major source of pollution for the Delaware and Schuylkill watersheds. In Philadelphia, where a combined sewer system discharges wastewater into area rivers during heavy rainfalls, the Philadelphia Water Department is advancing nationally acclaimed plans to invest in green infrastructure improvements that expand stormwater capacity by capturing rainfall at its source and preventing it from entering sewer systems. By emphasizing green infrastructure techniques to avoid the substantial costs associated with upgrading and installing new pipes, tunnels, and treatment facilities, the plan has been lauded as an innovative step toward resolving stormwater management challenges in a cost-effective manner.

 

Adequate funding for improvements to the region’s water infrastructure remains the primary stumbling block for ensuring the ongoing performance and reliability of our water supply and sewerage systems. As these investments are delayed, future costs of upgrades and state-of-good-repair improvements are expected to increase, as emergency repairs cost far more than proactive maintenance and replacement programs.

 

Promising Pathways

 

EXPANDING GREEN STORMWATER INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE REGION'S CORE COMMUNITIES

Green infrastructure that absorbs stormwater or otherwise diverts it from aging and overburdened sewerage systems can reduce capital costs, add greenery to streetscapes, and mitigate the destructive impact of extreme weather events on communities and watersheds in the region. In Philadelphia, the Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters plan focuses on enhancing stormwater management capacity through green infrastructure improvements that capture or absorb rainfall close to where it hits the ground and prevent it from entering the city’s sewer systems. Developed as a part of an agreement with the US EPA to bring the City into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, Green City, Clean Waters outlines plans to “green” 9,000 acres within the Schuylkill and Delaware River watersheds, increasing stormwater capacity while enhancing the public realm in communities across the city. Ensuring the long-term funding of theGreen City, Clean Waters plan and identifying opportunities to apply PWD’s green infrastructure model in other highly developed communities in the region will increase stormwater management efficiency and improve the health of Greater Philadelphia’s watersheds.

 

REPLACING AGING WATER DISTRIBUTION AND TRANSMISSION PIPES

Many of the water distribution and transmission pipes in the region’s older communities are at the end of their useful life and in need of replacement. Resulting recent water main breaks in and around Philadelphia have demonstrated the adverse impact of service disruptions on regional economic productivity and quality of life. The US EPA estimates that $9.3 billion will need to be invested in Pennsylvania’s public water transmission and distribution infrastructure over the next 20 years to ensure that these systems continue to provide safe drinking water to the public; for New Jersey, this figure is estimated at $5 billion.

 

ENCOURAGING PRIVATE INVESTMENT IN WATER AND WASTEWATER INFRASTRUCTURE

In some communities in Greater Philadelphia, private utilities are responsible for drinking water distribution and wastewater management. Increasing private participation in this market, either through regulatory action or via partnerships with public agencies or water providers, could help reduce debt loads on municipalities while encouraging private sector investment to ensure reliable and resilient service for residents and businesses. Toward this end, all three states in our region permit private water utilities to finance ongoing system improvements through use charges. Revenue from these Distribution System Improvement Charges (DSIC) can be used only for non-revenue producing investments including the repair and replacement of distribution lines. By providing a steady stream of revenue for capital investment, DSIC can improve system condition and drive down long-term costs to residents and businesses by limiting expensive emergency repairs. Supporting additional regulatory reforms that encourage private utilities to make capital investments in their infrastructure will help ensure the long-term performance and reliability of water systems in the region.

ENHANCE REGIONAL ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE

 

Rising demand for power and outdated grid technology represent serious threats to the performance of the region’s energy distribution infrastructure. While Greater Philadelphia does not face the same immediate challenges surrounding energy supply that confront metros in the US West and Southwest, investment is required in our region to make our energy infrastructure more resilient and efficient. Integrating smart grid technology and advancing other improvements to enhance the performance of the region’s power distribution systems and make them less vulnerable to extreme weather will be key to the region’s long-term competitiveness.

 

While leveraging innovations within the energy sector is key to increasing the performance and resiliency of our infrastructure, it also presents significant opportunity to drive economic growth in the region. Supporting efforts to diversify Greater Philadelphia’s energy portfolio, reduce overall consumption, and improve efficiency will help enhance our infrastructure while fostering economic growth. Taking advantage of Greater Philadelphia’s proximity to the Marcellus Shale is vital to positioning the region at the forefront of the booming natural gas industry, while promoting “green building” clusters such as the Energy Efficient Building Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard will help place the region at the vanguard of a growing industry. Efforts to capitalize on such developments in our region via strategic infrastructure invesments will help unlock economic opportunities associated with these emerging industries.

 

Promising Pathways

 

MODERNIZING EXISTING GRID INFRASTRUCTURE

 

Existing grid technology limits the ability of utilities and customers to adjust and control the flow of energy. Emerging smart grid technology allows utilities to collect better data on electricity usage and optimize grid performance and reliability. It can also provide end users more information about the amount of energy they are consuming, helping them to make informed decisions about their usage. And because they are capable of accommodating the two-way flow of energy, smart grids also provide for the decentralization of energy generation, helping enhance overall system resiliency.  For example, customers can produce energy on-site through small-scale wind and solar arrays or other sources and sell it back to the grid. Development and application of this technology, already underway at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, could enhance the performance and resiliency of Greater Philadelphia’s infrastructure and be a significant driver of economic growth and opportunity across the region.

 

INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE TO CAPITALIZE ON EMERGING ENERGY SECTOR OPPORTUNITIES

 

Greater Philadelphia’s ability to fully capitalize on economic development opportunities linked to the rapidly evolving energy sector will depend on the capacity of the region’s infrastructure to accommodate industry activity and growth. A number of significant local developments present opportunities to strengthen the energy industry in the region, including the recent conversion of the Philadelphia refinery complex on the Schuylkill River to process oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation, the emergence of the Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry driven by the Marcellus Shale, and the ongoing development of the nation’s preeminent hub for energy efficient building technologies at the Navy Yard. Strategic investments to expand rail capacity and modernize power distribution systems while preserving environmental and community health will help the region take advantage of these opportunities.

 

REDUCING ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN THE COMMERCIAL BUILDING SECTOR

 

Efforts to lower energy consumption will help reduce strain on the region’s power grid, improve system reliability, and shrink overall environmental impact. Increasing energy efficiency in commercial buildings presents a significant opportunity to reduce overall demand for energy in the region. Energy use in these properties accounts for 36% of all electricity consumption in the US, and it is estimated that 30% of the energy used in these buildings is wasted. Several regional efforts are already underway to address energy consumption in buildings around Greater Philadelphia. The Delaware Valley Green Building Council is a leader in the regional movement to make commercial properties more energy-efficient and has played a key role in the rising number of LEED-certified office buildings in the area. The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard aims to reduce energy consumption in Greater Philadelphia’s commercial building sector by 20 percent by 2020, while EnergyWorks, a program of the Metropolitan Caucus supported by grant funds from the US Department of Energy, is helping residential, commercial, and industrial building owners in southeastern Pennsylvania reduce their energy use. Supporting these efforts and expanding the reach of energy-efficient building applications will be key to increasing the performance and resiliency of the region’s power systems.

PRESERVE AND EXPAND THE REGION’S NETWORKS OF PARKS AND PROTECTED OPEN SPACE

 

Open space plays a vital role in mitigating flooding and preserving water quality. In communities across the region, the absorptive capacity of open space helps to mitigate the risk of flooding during storm events by trapping and containing stormwater. Additionally, forests and wetlands provide a natural protective buffer between human activities and water supplies, helping safeguard our drinking water from harmful pollutants. Open space and parks also enhance quality of life in communities and play a role in attracting residents and businesses to the region.

 

Greater Philadelphia lies within the most heavily urbanized corridor in the United States, and land use in the region has sprawled dramatically over the past 80 years, significantly reducing the amount of open space in the area. While population grew by 70 percent during this period, acreage of developed land rose by 300 percent. With the march of development expected to continue, protecting and expanding the region’s networks of parks and open space will be critical to preserving natural resources, enhancing the region’s ability to absorb the impacts of extreme weather, and maintaining quality of life in local communities.

 

Today, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) estimatesthat protected open space accounts for 23% of the region’s land area. DVRPC has set the goal of increasing this share to 41% (1 million total acres) by 2040. 

 

Promising Pathways

 

SUPPORTING OPEN SPACE PRESERVATION EFFORTS

 

Strong public support for open space preservation efforts will play a major role in our region’s ability to absorb the impact of extreme weather events and maintain high quality of life. Several high-capacity organizations including the Brandywine Conservancy, the City of Philadelphia Commission on Parks & Recreation, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Natural Lands Trust, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and county and municipal parks and recreation departments across the region all work to preserve, improve, and expand open space. Supporting the efforts of these organizations and ensuring that public funding is in place to sustain and expand preservation programs will be key to maintaining a strong open space network across Greater Philadelphia. Today, in the aftermath of flooding caused by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey senators are reviving a bipartisan bill to increase dedicated sales tax revenue for open space preservation. However, legislators not in favor of the sales tax mechanism are weighing other proposal options.

 

REDUCING IMPERVIOUS SURFACE COVERAGE IN HIGHLY DEVELOPED COMMUNITIES

 

Impervious surfaces including streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and rooftops prevent rainfall from soaking into the ground and add to the volume of stormwater that enters the region’s waterways and sewer systems. This increased runoff can raise the risk of flooding, and, because it picks up pollutants from streets and other impervious surfaces, can contaminate streams, rivers, and lakes. Reducing impervious surface coverage in the region by replacing paved surfaces with permeable materials, incorporating vegetation into existing and proposed developments, and restoring underused sites to their natural states will help lower the amount of runoff that enters the region’s waterways and sewers and contribute to better water quality and flood mitigation capacity.