Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Philadelphia Green City, Clean Waters Green Infrastructure Program Saves $50 Million/Year, Generated $4 Billion In Economic Impact So Far

New research released by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia has found Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters Green Infrastructure Program has produced $4 billion in economic impact in its first 8 years, saved the City $50 million annually in avoided health costs and access to open space and generates an average of 1,160 jobs annually.
The study was conducted by Econsult Solutions on behalf of SBN and updated research through 2018.
In 2018, GCCW also reduced crime by nearly nine percent (8.7 percent) and saved the city $50 million annually in avoided health-related costs attributed to access to open space. The research released updates findings about the benefits of GCCW last produced in 2016.
“Green City, Clean Waters is so much more than a combined sewer overflow control plan,” said Anna Shipp, Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. “It is an inspiring example of the triple bottom line in action. Not only is Philadelphia’s innovative nature-based approach meeting regulatory requirements, it has also catalyzed the growth of a now thriving local GSI industry and has established our city as a national thought and practice leader. SBN’s new research shows that how we invest in our communities matters, and with strong investments in the nature-based practices foundational to Green City, Clean Waters, Philadelphia has everything to gain: billions of dollars for our local economy, thousands of supporting jobs, reductions in crime, equitable access to public open space, healthy rivers and streams, better climate resilience – and so much more.”
Green City, Clean Waters is a 25-year, $1.2 billion commitment by the City of Philadelphia to improve the control of combined sewer overflows through a primarily nature-based, “green” approach to managing stormwater.
Led by the Philadelphia Water Department, the program includes the increased use of vegetation such as green roofs, tree trenches, and porous pavement.
SBN’s GSI Partners initiative includes companies who design, construct, and maintain green stormwater projects in the city as well as throughout the five-county Philadelphia region.
The initiative is working to advance the local GSI industry, innovation, and the local economy as it relates to GSI.
“This new research shows once again that Green City, Clean Waters is a worthwhile investment in our communities and our local, independent businesses. By taking into account the triple bottom line impacts of GSI, we are able to direct ratepayer investments into projects that will provide the most benefits,” said Councilmember Derek Green (At-Large). “As a City, we should remain committed to the green-first approach to managing stormwater that has brought our City so many benefits – including a nationally recognized industry – and drive more investments to programs that provide a combination of social, economic and environmental benefits.”
In 2016, SBN valued the impact of GCCW on Philadelphia at $3.2 billion over 25 years. In this research update, SBN instructed Econsult to evaluate the triple bottom line - economic, social and environmental - impacts of GSI and GCCW.
Econsult’s research found that the total economic impact of GCCW for Philadelphia had risen to $4 billion in 2018 and that the annual economic impact of SBN’s GSI Partners was $89 million.
“As a result of GCCW, my business has grown from gross revenue of $1M in 2017 to $3.5M in 2018 with an estimated revenue of $4.5M in 2019,” said Dennis Shelly, President of PEER Enivronmental, LLC. “We have grown from 2.5 employees in October 2017 to 7 employees today. The City needs to keep its commitment to GCCW. Other cities are modifying their ‘gray’ infrastructure plans to be more like our ‘green’ one. It has made Philadelphia an international model.”
“GSI projects have the power to transform our daily lives through multi-purpose, high-performance interventions. When rooted in the unique character and specific needs of a community, public landscapes become instrumental in cultivating socially and ecologically thriving places,” said Sara Pevaroff Schuh, Principal, SALT Design Studio. “Green City, Clean Waters provided critical momentum in Philadelphia for neighborhood revitalization, and without it, we would not see the tremendous level of ongoing investment in community placemaking or support for the local GSI industry.”
The social impacts of the GCCW program extend throughout the city, but significant benefits are experienced in its low and or moderate-income communities.
In fact, 65 percent of public open space projects are in such communities. The recreational benefits of public, open-space GSI projects including parks and vegetated areas produces public health improvements from increased outdoor activity and exercise opportunities.
The recreational benefit of GSI open space sites is $22.7 million annually to the households living near those sites.
Crime reduction is an additional benefit of the GCCW program and GSI projects generally.
SBN’s report determined that an estimated 4,354 fewer crimes occurred in Philadelphia in 2018 due to GSI projects, which represents a $337 million annual benefit to Philadelphia. Existing research has demonstrated that vegetated GSI projects reduce crime within one-quarter mile of sites by 10 percent.
When it comes to the environmental impact of GCCW, GSI projects have been demonstrated to reduce surface temperatures in urban areas and mitigate what are known as “heat islands,” densely populated urban areas that are significantly warmer than surrounding areas.  
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the primary cause of heat islands is a lack of vegetated land surfaces.
Most heat islands in Philadelphia are located in low and moderate-income census blocks. SBN’s report calculated that 51 percent of public projects and 40 percent of private GSI projects are located in high-risk heat islands, demonstrating that adding GSI projects which reduce the effect of heat islands is a matter of health equity.
GSI projects also produce flood mitigation and water and air pollution reductions toward an overall environmental benefit.
The Nicetown East Park revitalization project is a GSI project which exemplifies the triple bottom line benefits of the GCCW program.
This $78 million, multi-year project undertaken by PWD and in partnership with the Parks and Recreation department improved the existing park. Nicetown, a community with a median income of $26,600 per year, sees a localized benefit of $800,000 annually in avoided health-related costs and a 4.4% reduction in crime.
On May 23, SBN will host the 2019 Excellence in Green Infrastructure Awards Ceremony at Fringe Arts, the region’s only award that celebrates and elevates green stormwater infrastructure projects and innovations, the triple bottom line (TBL) benefits of a nature-based approach to stormwater management, and the partners who bring these projects to life in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia website.
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