Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Going Green: Capital Region Water unveils a green solution for city’s storm water problem

Capital Region Water Community Outreach Manager Andrew Bliss speaks with a resident about CRW's storm water plan.

Capital Region Water Community Outreach Manager Andrew Bliss speaks with a resident about CRW’s storm water plan.

Harrisburg’s water infrastructure has a problem that affects nearly every resident.

When even moderate rain falls, the combined sewer system overflows. This overflow causes storm water to mingle with sewage, which leads to pollution and flooding caused by system backups.

On Tuesday, Capital Region Water released a draft of its long-term community greening plan to address these storm water issues. It’s called “City Beautiful H20,” a play on words from the City Beautiful movement, which added parks, sewers and basic infrastructure to turn-of-the-century Harrisburg.

“We want to be a community-driven plan,” said City Beautiful H20 Program Manager Claire Maulhardt. “We are 100 percent behind that statement. We want projects to happen organically and in the aesthetic that the city want to happen.”

Green infrastructure uses nature as a model to filter storm water. Streets lined with specially designed trees, planters and pervious surfaces filter and reduce storm water runoff. Business and residential property owners are also encouraged to plant rain gardens and install vegetation on their roofs. Larger businesses and institutions might install wetlands, basins or bioswales, a down-sloped landscape installation, to filter the storm water, according to the draft.

Starting next year, three pilot projects will kick off City Beautiful H20, Maulhardt said.

In the draft, a rain garden, two storm water planters and porous basketball courts will be installed at the 4th and Dauphin playground near the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum. A bioswale will remove pollution from the runoff water. Along N. 6th Street, storm water planters, rain gardens and a storm water storage trench are planned for the Camp Curtin YMCA and the adjacent block.

Jamien Harvey, executive director of the Camp Curtin YMCA and member of CRW’s community ambassador workgroup, said the proposed draft will “build what’s been the cornerstone of this neighborhood.”

“The environment we raise our kids in is crucial,” Harvey said. “They deserve the best of everything.”

The third project features water bump outs, rain gardens, tree trenches and a community garden in the Summit Terrace neighborhood along N. 12th and N. 13th streets.

Maulhardt said partnerships with existing community organizations and community input led to the decision for choosing these three pilot projects.

“We want the community to drive what they want to see,” Maulhardt said. “Our vision is to be a key facilitator in helping find partnerships, link it up with potential funding and be that player in moving the pieces around to make projects happen.”

Funds from CRW’s 2017 rate increase and grants will support the three pilot projects. CRW also is developing a fee system to support long-term storm water management.

CRW Community Outreach Manager Andrew Bliss said the community voted for a fee that reflects the amount of storm water a property generates, which would incentivize green infrastructure. Bliss said CRW will work to educate the community before any fee is decided on or implemented.

CRW’s board will review The City Beautiful H20 Community Greening draft later this month before moving forward with projects.

“This [draft] is a snapshot of the process that we’ve been going through the last 18 months,” she said. “We will continue to update this. It’s a living document”

To learn more about Capital Region Water’s City Beautiful 2.0 Community Greening Plan draft, visit To provide input on the draft, visit or attend the next meeting on Dec. 15, 6 to 8 p.m., at the Lincoln School, 1601 State Street.

Author: Lawrance Binda

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