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Stormwater overflows are a major public health concern in Pittsburgh because of their impact on water quality. (Photo by Allie Caulfield | CC BY 2.0)

Two Penn centers are leading the development of a stormwater master plan for the city of Pittsburgh.

PennPraxis, a center for applied research and outreach at the Weitzman School of Design, is working in collaboration with the Water Center at Penn and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to improve water quality, reduce flooding and create jobs in Pittsburgh, Weitzman News reported. The $500,000 contract intends to consider how improved stormwater management can improve economic and community development within the next five years. 

Chief Executive Officer of PWSA Will Pickering told Weitzman News that PennPraxis and the Water Center can assist the city by creating a plan for stormwater management, and putting the plan into practice.

“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,” Pickering said.

Stormwater overflows the sewage system and floods the water back onto the rivers, streets, and backing up basements and property damage, Weitzman News reported. This impacts water quality and is a major public health concern. 

PWSA serves 300,000 consumers throughout the Pittsburgh area and is the largest combined water, sewer, and stormwater authority in Pennsylvania, Weitzman News reported.

On February 5, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with the city of Pittsburgh and the PWSA that requires them to follow a list of actions to address stormwater inspection and enforcement violations. Among the list of actions include updating a stormwater code, hiring additional inspectors and enforcement staff, and placing management partnership procedures.

The partnership 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, according to Weitzman News.