To help comply with a consent order to reduce sewer overflows in the Pittsburgh region, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is offering grants to encouraging home and business owners to install rainwater conservation projects.
“We have in Pittsburgh what’s called a combined sewer system throughout most of the city, and a combined sewer takes both the sewage and the rainwater into the same pipes, so when you get … rain entering into that system then you start to get potentially backups into the streets and basements, or more likely overflows into the receiving waters, the rivers,” said PWSA interim Executive Director Jim Good.
The $250,000 allotted for the grants will be broken down into two categories. For large scale commercial projects the PWSA will match funds spent on projects up to $50,000. Good said a project such as repaving a parking lot with porous material could be eligible. The PWSA is planning to grant 7-12 commercial projects.
The remaining $75,000 will be used for smaller community-based projects such as rain gardens, tree pits, and bioswells which collect and slow runoff. These projects can be as much as 100 percent funded up to $5,000. The PWSA expects to grant 15-20 of these projects.
When evaluating projects the PWSA will consider various criteria such as projected water quality impact, efficiency measured in cost per gallon retained, and the ability to monitor and measure results.
“The end goal in a lot of this is to modify our wet weather plan to be less focused on grey infrastructure, pipes and tanks and what have you, and more focused on green infrastructure. We’re going to have to be able to go to the regulators with data that shows that these are effective and how effective they are,” said Good.