Photo by Anne Whiston Spirn.
Philadelphia, like most older US cities, has a combined sanitary and storm sewer system, which overflows into rivers and streams when runoff from heavy rainfall enters sewers, producing a flow that exceeds the capacity of sewage treatment plants. In fall 2009, the Philadelphia Water Department announced a landmark proposal to reduce combined sewer overflows through green infrastructure. A class of ten MIT Urban Planning and Architecture Masters students will explore the potential for this approach to reduce 30-50% of runoff from impervious surfaces in the Mill Creek Watershed, which drains about two-thirds of West Philadelphia.
Transect analysis is common in geomorphology and other fields of landscape research, but not to our knowledge in urban watershed planning. A transect ‘cuts across’ the watershed at selected intervals in order to (a) understand patterns of urban development from ridge to valley; and (b) understand processes of urban drainage that can inform design. We will study a series of transects within the Mill Creek watershed, both across the buried floodplain and along the main trunk sewer.
We are arrived in Philadelphia last night and will be here until Sunday gathering data for this project. Stay tuned to watch the project unfold, and eventually for a report on each of the seven transects we’re looking at.
This project comes out of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, a decades-long local commitment to the people and landscape of West Philadelphia, where Professor Anne Spirn has been working since 1987.
Post by Anne Whiston Spirn, James Wescoat, and Alexa Mills.