Strategic Design

improving residential participation


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The Philadelphia Water Department


Soak It Up, Philly!


Spring 2011


Michael Smith, Donovan Preddy

  • The Problem: Like many cities in Northeast United States, stormwater and sewage are carried together to processing plants via a Combined Sewer System. During heavy rains, the sewers get overworked with both storm water and human sewage which overflow into the Schuykill and Delaware rivers.
  • The Scenario: Per a mandate handed down from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Philadelphia Water Department has devised a strategy to deal with these polluting events. They call this program Green City, Clean Waters. It’s an ambitious program that will face numerous obstacles along the way. Some of these obstacles will lie within their power to control, such as making improvements to sidewalks and streets. Other obstacles will be more difficult to address, the most complicated of which is inspiring the participation of local residents. The situation is further complicated by the fact that this government agency will be increasing the cost to remove stormwater in order to fund this program. Interestingly, based on our research, we have found no incentive for residents to participate in the Green City, Clean Waters program. We have addressed this part of the larger problem through this project. In looking at the part of Green City, Clean Waters that focuses on residents, we have isolated an opportunity to increase the degree to which this population will support the plan and actively participate.
  • The Proposal: We have divided this strategy into five components: A Simple First Step, An Incentive To Act, A Motivating Interface, Public Awareness Events and Strategic Partnerships. The first step of our plan provides a simple first step to allow residents to easily begin participating in the program. We modified the overall concept of retaining water to create a basic potted plant kit that becomes a symbol of involvement and promotes growth of the cause. The next component provides an incentive for residents by offsetting the stormwater removal charges when residents purchase qualifying products. These efforts will then be supported by an online interface that aims to motivate a continued participation. We also sketched up several potential ways for the Philadelphia Water Department to reach out to a greater audience using local landmarks and creative advertising. Finally, we propose a list of possible partnerships that could help promote the message of this program based on a shared need for clean waterways.