Stormwater Case Studies

debarbaro rain

Case studies from our neighbors and local businesses can serve as inspiration when it comes to considering how to reduce stormwater runoff. 

When contemplating stormwater management techniques, having real world examples to illustrate the different components of a management plan enables one to envision how they can best apply the strategies to their own properties. 

With an abundance of resources available, it can be intimidating knowing where to start. Below you will find creative examples from fellow Pittsburghers who have put plans into action on their own properties.

Property Case Studies

Jamil Bey


Pittsburgh resident prepares for precipitation, reduces stormwater fee

As Pittsburghers, our weather memories are rife with recollections of downpour events. We are no strangers to absolute soaker storms and have many times marveled at the sheets of rain that fall from the skies above. As heavy, intense storms will continue to impact our region, stormwater management is a growing concern.  
Taking actions to reduce runoff from your property is not only helpful to our sewershed and our rivers, but also can result in a credit towards your stormwater fee on your bill. Credits are awarded to customers that have stormwater control measures in place which capture and detain a defined amount of runoff, thereby reducing the amount entering the sewer system. For more information, please visit our Stormwater Credit program page.
Jamil Bey, of Beltzhoover, has transformed his property with the addition of a clever and effective home stormwater management system and is receiving a credit towards his stormwater fee.

Jamil’s house contends with two slopes; a gradual slope rolls laterally across his driveway and a steeper slope descends from the house downhill into his backyard. Taking advantage of the natural topography on his land, Jamil had a stormwater grate installed at the margin of his driveway to collect water which would be moving quickly from the raised portion of the impervious concrete to the depressed side. He also had drains installed in his concrete walkways to redirect water. The downspouts from his gutter also redirect into his management system. 
Jamil has lined the side of his property extending from the end of his walkway downhill into his backyard with rocks and cobbles that form a shallow, elongated bowl shape. This intervention will help to slow water moving downhill. 
The water which is conserved from the driveway and walkways via drains is redirected by pipes to an outflow which empties into his rain garden. The rain garden is located at an elevation lower than all impervious surfaces on his property.  
A rain garden is an effective solution for slowing down the flow of water on a property as it is populated with plants and soils that excel at soaking up water. Plants which are native to our area such as coneflower, goldenrod, Christmas fern, and swamp rose mallow have root systems adapted to wetter conditions. Many of these plants are also attractive to pollinators. Incorporating native trees and shurbs are also effective rain garden additions.  
Collectively, all parts in the system that Jamil Bey has installed have reduced the amount of stormwater moving downhill. If Jamil’s actions were replicated across the city, the benefits to our watershed and sewershed would be amplified, bringing enduring positive changes to our built environment.  

Bringing mindfulness to our stormwater management practices at home benefits our whole community. If you would like to learn more about actions you can take to make an impact, be sure to check out our Stormwater Resources.

de Barbaro - Freitas Properties


A net zero energy home, designed with stormwater issues in mind.

Lucyna de Barbaro and Ayres Freitas, property owners in Squirrel Hill, know the importance of collaboration at the neighborhood level to improve the urban watershed. Before building a duplex consisting of two attached single-family homes with shared green infrastructure, a shared driveway, and a 3-car off-street parking and/or garage on Fernwald Rd., they requested a report to demonstrate how their site design could reduce their impact on the stormwater system by keeping as much rainwater as possible on the property. Their efforts ultimately resulted in a 50% credit on their monthly PWSA stormwater bill for each individual home of the duplex. 

To address stormwater issues, their design team, Common Ground Design, considered the runoff from the two properties comprising the duplex as well as off-site run-off from a neighboring driveway, which drains onto the duplex property.

Each home of the duplex shares an access way, and the deBarbaro-Freitas chose to reconstruct a portion of the shared driveway of the duplex with permeable pavers and a sub-base that allows stormwater to infiltrate into the ground. These pavers reduce runoff at the site and filter pollutants from the water. As the duplex sits at a higher elevation than neighboring parcels, the design of the driveway base and sub-base was considered to ensure that water percolates vertically.

In addition, each attached home utilizes an oversized 250-gallon rain barrel at the rear of their property to collect the water that is conveyed from the sloped rear roof. The excess water is directed to a shared rock sump to encourage vertical seepage. The large 5’x12’ and 5’ deep rock sump or “dry well” is double-lined on the vertical sides to prevent water from seeping out horizontally.

One oversized gutter conveys all flow from the front, street-facing roof to a sump and a rain garden.

A rain garden near the rock sump has deep-rooted native plants and grasses, whose roots “hold on” to the water that is directed there. At first glance, a rain garden looks like any attractive, ordinary garden. It attracts birds and butterflies and can be incorporated into a variety of landscapes and yard designs. But beneath the surface, a number of things are occurring to mimic water management in nature. Through the use of specially selected rain garden plants and soils, stormwater can also be cleaned before it enters the sewage system.

To further manage stormwater, 12 inches of a special soil mix was installed in the front and back yards. This sorbent soil is 40% compost, 20% sand, and 40% topsoil. Loose, sorbent soils are excellent at slowing stormwater and infiltrating compared to harder packed clays and silts.

The sustainable design of the attached family homes on Fernwald Rd., including permeable paving, rain barrels, rock sumps, rain gardens, and sorbent soils ultimately benefits not only the two homes, but also the neighborhood and the urban watershed as a whole.  

Threadbare Cider House


Threadbare Cider House Paves the Way to Better Stormwater Management

When considering plans for Threadbare Cider House, co-founders Alex Grelli and Mark Meyer and their contractor, Marty Marra of MM Marra Construction, Inc. entered the planning process with the intention of managing stormwater in a creative way. With two large spaces available on the property for parking, a decision was made against resorting to traditional asphalt paving of the lots. Instead, a plan was devised to use a permeable paving product solution that would ultimately reduce Threadbare’s impervious area from 25 equivalent residential units (ERUs) to 14 ERUs.

Threadbare’s parking lot solution was installed in 2017 by MM Marra Construction and required only a loader to distribute limestone fill and laborers to do the work.  Threadbare’s lot has held up to changing seasons, delivery trucks, plows, and many visitors seeking delightful ciders and artisan pizzas over the years. The system has proven very durable and no observable ponding has occurred during and after heavy rain events.

A porous gravel paving product system known as GeoPave  was selected for Threadbare’s parking lot areas. Installation of the GeoPave system involved compaction of the ground followed by layering of crushed limestone on top of the compacted ground to create a highly porous substrate. The unique feature of the GeoPave system which distinguishes it from a standard gravel lot is the lightweight, flexible 100% recycled plastic grid which is anchored into the ground to support and contain the gravel layer. This grid has a remarkable compressive strength, 5 times that of concrete, and can support the weight of virtually any vehicle. While gravel lots may bring to mind recollections of fair grounds and festivals, complete with rocks being tossed about when departing the event, the grid of the GeoPave system feels remarkably solid under your tire, similar to traditionally paved surfaces.

In addition to the environmental aspects of this surface product, Threadbare was able to eliminate the need for a $150,000 underground storm water detention system, which would have included almost 500 linear feet of 48” diameter pipe to be used to collect, store and release storm water from the inlets.

In addition to opting for permeable parking, you will notice native plants smartly placed around the property which excel at further absorbing stormwater, all while bringing charm to the property.

By replacing traditional impervious surfaces with permeable pavers, property owners can effectively reduce stormwater runoff and ultimately lower their stormwater fees. The benefits of permeable lots extend beyond individual stormwater management as well. Allowing rainwater to infiltrate into the ground helps replenish local groundwater resources and moreover, mitigates the "urban heat island" effect by reducing surface temperatures. This reduces overall energy demands while making the surrounding areas more comfortable for pedestrians.

Threadbare Cider House, operated by Pittsburgh Spirits, stands out as an example of a business that is paving the way to a more environmentally-conscious future. To learn more about how you can reduce your stormwater fee and make a positive impact with your stormwater management practices, visit:

Stormwater Credit Program

Installing stormwater management systems such as a rain garden or an underground stormwater system on private property are examples of how a private property owner may earn a credit towards your stormwater fee.

To learn more about our credit program and how to apply, please visit our Stormwater Fee webpage.