Spurring Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Stormwater Markets

In July 2014, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) launched an innovative competitive grant program to encourage the development of green infrastructure on private property. Green infrastructure practices—which include tree trenches, rain gardens, green roofs, and porous pavement—restore the landscape’s ability to retain stormwater on or near where it falls, keeping polluted runoff out of municipal systems and out of waterways, rivers, and oceans. Philadelphia’s program, called the Greened Acre Retrofit Program (GARP), encourages contractors or design/construction firms to compete for limited public grant funding by aggregating and bringing to PWD the lowest-cost retrofit opportunities available on private land. The availability of public dollars through GARP is intended to create a competitive green infrastructure market that can help PWD source low-cost stormwater management, while also generating a potentially new line of business for engineering/design/construction firms. Private property owners in Philadelphia also benefit from GARP, as its funding provides a means for private property owners to reduce the impervious area on their parcels and thereby reduce their monthly stormwater management fees. Over the course of approximately six weeks, NRDC and Philadelphia’s Sustainable Business Network interviewed approximately twenty local firms to understand their perceptions of GARP and to hear first-hand what changes to the program structure would make it easier for them to submit GARP applications and prepare innovative project plans. This report highlights the findings from our interviews of these firms and synthesizes several recommendations for PWD’s consideration.