Weitzman News

Posted April 7, 2021
  • The Allegheny River, Pittsburgh

    Still from a PWSA video, American Infrastructure

PennPraxis and Water Center at Penn to Develop Stormwater Master Plan for Pittsburgh

PennPraxis, the consulting and community engagement arm of the Weitzman School of Design, and the The Water Center at Penn have been engaged by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to lead the development of a comprehensive stormwater master plan for Pittsburgh.

“The Water Center and PennPraxis team are uniquely positioned to assist PWSA and the people of Pittsburgh in creating an inclusionary vision for stormwater management and the practical guidance to put it into practice,” said Will Pickering, PWSA’s chief executive officer, in announcing the $500,000 contract. “Their focus on community engagement and policies that address local land use and equity issues will lead to a plan that reflects the challenges experienced in Pittsburgh.” 

PWSA is the largest combined water, sewer and stormwater authority in Pennsylvania, serving 300,000 consumers throughout the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. PWSA is contributing fifty percent of the cost and is seeking additional funding from local foundations. 

Aging infrastructure and the impacts of climate change have created challenges for stormwater management. The increasingly frequent and intense rain causes the combined sewer system to overflow into rivers and streams, flood streets, and cause property damage and health concerns when basements back up with raw sewage. 

In creating a new comprehensive stormwater management strategy, the Penn team will work collaboratively with PWSA, the City of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh residents to improve water quality, alleviate flooding, reduce basement backups, create jobs, and make neighborhoods safer and more resilient.

The master plan will bring together past planning efforts to establish a holistic plan that considers how improved stormwater management can shape the economic and community development of Pittsburgh. It will identify priorities and milestones to implement within the next five years—including a proposed stormwater fee, pending consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other regulatory mandates—as well as the next 25.  

“Pittsburgh has a complex history with stormwater and the master planning process provides the opportunity to address it collectively with City leaders, community stakeholders, and local agencies,” said Pickering. “The Water Center and PennPraxis have formed an exceptional team to guide us through this process.”

The team also includes Grounded Strategies, Moonshot Missions, Andropogon Associates, AKRF, Inc., Susan Rademacher and Heather Sage, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Change.