Hey, Neighbors! What’s Your Rainy Day Plan?

Issue Date: 
February 4, 2013

The Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT)—an initiative based at the University of Pittsburgh that promotes cooperation between the City of Pittsburgh and 36 neighboring municipalities that comprise our region’s urban core—has been awarded a grant from the Heinz Endowments to encourage municipalities to develop wet weather plans that utilize green infrastructure and reduce waste.

Wet weather plans—strategies to deal with large amounts of rain—are crucial to preventing water pollution in the region, said David Y. Miller, founder and advisor to CONNECT, director of Pitt’s Center for Metropolitan Studies, and a professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

“The primary cause of pollutants entering the rivers is wet weather,” Miller explained, citing water runoff that carries pollutants into rivers and streams. Rainwater that ends up in sewers also wastes resources. “The treatment plant has to treat clean water that was made dirty by virtue of getting into the system,” he said.

Using the Heinz grant, CONNECT will collaborate with 3 Rivers Wet Weather, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the Clean Rivers Campaign to reach out to elected officials in municipalities served by the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN). The municipalities are currently developing wet weather plans for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which need to be submitted by July 31, 2013.

“This project is creating the opportunity for municipal leaders to learn more about opportunities for green infrastructure and source reduction and encourage them to add them to their plans,” said Kathy Risko, CONNECT’s executive director. Outreach will include a variety of strategies and will be tailored to suit each municipality.

“Examples of methods that can be used are green roofs, tree planting, bioretention and infiltration, permeable pavement, and water harvesting,” Risko added. These methods can improve water quality, increase the available water supply, reduce the effect of urban heat islands, increase recreational opportunities in the community, and reduce noise pollution.

“Through this project we will develop and deliver one clear and consistent message about the importance of including green infrastructure and source reduction in the municipal wet weather plans,” Risko said.