Pittsburgh, PA - In 2014, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority initiated the first integrated watershed management plan in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It brought together the 12 municipalities within Saw Mill Run as well as ALCOSAN, 3 Rivers Wet Weather, Economic Development South, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the ARMY Corps of Engineers to develop a plan that outlines priority projects to address the prevalent flooding and stormwater challenges along Route 51.
This collaborative planning effort resulted in the Saw Mill Integrated Watershed Management Plan, which was completed in 2020. The overall goal of the plan is to transform the Saw Mill Run stream from a corridor plagued by flooding and pollution into a regional asset, with fishable and swimmable waters and high quality economic development.
The plan provides municipalities with a path forward to comply with environmental regulations to reduce sewer overflows and certain pollutants, while also addressing other water quality and flooding issues. The integrated plan aims to break down silos and take a watershed-wide approach that solves multiple water issues while also fostering economic development, increasing public health, and beautifying neighborhoods.
As part of the planning process, PWSA has spent $3.4 million performing a data inventory, creating a monitoring program to analyze water quality and quantity, and developing collection models that prioritized and determined the level of control needed for each pollutant to improve the health of the stream.
We have also completed two early action projects including a stream restoration project at two locations within Saw Mill Run and the construction of a rain garden at Volunteers Field. As of now, other municipalities are pursuing individual, smaller projects within their boundaries, like Bethel Park’s stream restoration project and our partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on a new stream restoration project in the City of Pittsburgh.
Moving into the next phase of the plan’s implementation to coordinate and develop projects that facilitates multi-municipal benefits requires a lead organization that can effectively bring together all the communities and stakeholders. Watersheds of South Pittsburgh, a local non-profit organization, will now take on the lead role for implementing the Saw Mill Run Integrated Watershed Management Plan.
Watersheds of South Pittsburgh represents the entire Saw Mill Run watershed and is well positioned to advocate for and advance the plan within the 12 Saw Mill Run municipalities. This includes coordination of restoration efforts that benefit each municipality and the collective watershed community. In this new role, Watersheds of South Pittsburgh will coordinate the municipalities to invest in collaborative regional projects that will have a larger impact within the watershed.
“Managing water resources can be complex; rivers and streams generally flow through multiple political jurisdictions, complicating the decision-making process around issues that affect them,” stated Lisa Werder-Brown, Executive Director of Watersheds of South Pittsburgh. “Working within the geographic boundaries of a watershed offers opportunities to coordinate efforts and create solutions to improve and protect water quality.”
“I am proud of the work that our staff and regional partners have put in to develop and advance this collaborative and innovative plan for the Saw Mill Run watershed,” stated Will Pickering, Chief Executive Officer of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. “We are excited to continue to partner and support this next implementation phase.”