Going Green

City of Pittsburgh and PWSA Draft City-Wide Green First Plan

PWSA is Leading the Way with the Wet Weather Plan

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is committed to a “green first” approach to improving water quality affected by stormwater runoff.  Green infrastructure (GI) can be a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to manage the volume, rate and water quality of stormwater runoff while providing many additional benefits to communities.

GI can create jobs and increase property values through neighborhood revitalization and beautification. GI protects the environment by improving the quality of our water and our air. PWSA’s Wet Weather Feasibility Study outlines an adaptive approach to assess the extent to which GI can be used to improve water quality in Pittsburgh.  In addition, PWSA is working with neighboring municipalities to plan for water quality improvements on a watershed-wide scale. 

Strategy Documents

Wet Weather Issues

The City of Pittsburgh's sewer system is primarily composed of combined sewers, which means that storm water and sewage are carried in a single pipe. During heavy rain events, excess water can overload the sewage system resulting in untreated sewage flowing into our streams and rivers.

This is known as Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is requiring municipalities to reduce CSOs, which will improve water quality for swimming, boating, fishing and aquatic life.

By capturing rain where it falls, excess water is prevented from entering the combined sewer system. Right now we are paying to treat rainwater, which carries a huge financial burden and takes up space in our sewers.

Traditional sewage systems consist of miles of underground pipe known as gray infrastructure. Gray infrastructure is very effective at transporting sewage, but not at keeping rain water out of the pipes. Green Infrastructure (GI) can retain water, reduce flows and make our neighborhoods beautiful. PWSA plans to install GI where feasible as it works to reduce CSOs.

Adaptive Management, Green Infrastructure and Integrated Watershed Planning

PWSA is proposing the use of green infrastructure and Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) to assist in the control of combined sewer overflows as the first step of a broader adaptive management plan aimed at optimizing the recommended approach to meeting the requirements under the Clean Water Act. An integrated approach using a combination of 'green' and 'gray' solutions to address combined sewer overflows has the potential to be more cost-effective and may result in additional benefits to the Authority, the City and its residents. The IWM approach also considers all types of pollutant sources in the watershed to holistically address water quality challenges.