Stormwater Strategic Plan FAQ

PWSA engaged a visionary project team led by PennPraxis and the Water Center at Penn to initiate a collaborative community process to develop a Stormwater Strategic Plan. This Strategic Plan will serve as Pittsburgh’s blueprint to address local stormwater challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PWSA’s Stormwater Strategic Plan?

PWSA’s Stormwater Strategic Plan builds off past planning efforts by using climate change data, community input, and prioritizing public health and wellness to provide a cost-effective, inclusive, and sustainable way to address one of our region's most challenging problems.

The planning process was led by a visionary project team from PennPraxis and the Water Center at Penn, and they were joined by subconsultants representing both national expertise as well as deep knowledge of local water issues. The broad goals of the Stormwater Strategic Plan were to achieve a significant reduction of flooding, improve the quality of life for residents, develop cost-effective solutions that address wet weather challenges and regulatory requirements, and incorporate broad public and stakeholder support.

The plan addresses these specific goals of improving water quality, reducing street flooding and basement backups, and beautifying neighborhoods in an affordable manner. All of which will create a community that is healthier, safer, and more resilient to the impacts of stormwater.

The Stormwater Strategic Plan identifies priorities and milestones to implement within the near term while keeping an eye on the future, so we are better prepared for the impacts of climate change.

Why is the Strategic Plan needed?

Pittsburgh needs a comprehensive approach to managing stormwater. The impacts of climate change and aging infrastructure significantly complicate the challenge. When it rains, the combined sewer system overflows into rivers and streams, streets flood, and basements backup with raw sewage. The region often experiences intense and frequent rainstorms that cause property damage and threaten the health and safety of Pittsburgh residents.

Over the past several years, PWSA, the City of Pittsburgh, and other entities have studied the region's stormwater challenges. From the Citywide Green First Plan adopted in 2016 to a review of existing stormwater codes and ordinances completed in 2022, Pittsburgh's stormwater challenges are well documented. PWSA's stormwater priorities focus on reducing combined sewer overflows (CSOs), urban flooding, and contamination of local waterways. The Stormwater Strategic Plan creates a global model to serve as Pittsburgh’s blueprint to address local stormwater challenges.

How is it different from past planning efforts including the 2016 Citywide Green First Plan?

Past planning efforts, dating back to 2013, began to look at how Pittsburgh could use green infrastructure to manage stormwater and improve water quality. The 2016 Citywide Green First Plan prioritized watersheds throughout Pittsburgh and identified projects that would help to reduce combined sewer overflows into rivers and streams. In 2019, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), the agency that treats wastewater for Pittsburgh and other municipalities in the county, received approval of their Clean Water Plan, a regulatory document defining strategies to reduce combined sewer overflows into our rivers by 2036.

With the approval of this regional plan, PWSA needed to adapt its approach to avoid duplicating efforts while continuing to identify solutions that would address many other wet weather challenges in Pittsburgh. The Stormwater Strategic Plan builds upon these past planning efforts, analyzes the effects of climate change, and aligns with ALCOSAN’s Clean Water Plan.

The Strategic Plan is more comprehensive. It creates a framework for the level of storm protection to provide across Pittsburgh, identifies short-term stormwater projects using an effective combination of green and grey infrastructure and uses climate data projections to plan for future projects. It also recommends funding strategies and governance models to create a sustainable and more resilient city that prioritizes public health and wellness.

ALCOSAN’s Clean Water Plan is available at

How is the Stormwater Strategic Plan funded?

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority received overwhelming support from our foundation community to fund a portion of the Strategic Plan. The Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Hillman Foundation each contributed $100,000. PWSA budgeted $250,000 towards this planning effort. 

When it rains, my basement frequently backs up with sewage or my neighborhood often floods. How will the Strategic Plan address these challenges? Will it stop them from occurring?

This plan identifies ways to significantly reduce the frequency, volume, and impact of flooding throughout Pittsburgh. Of course, there could always be a larger storm that PWSA would not be able to handle, especially with the ongoing onset of climate change.

What level of storm protection can be provided when the Strategic Plan is complete?

Through a collaborative process with stakeholders and the Pittsburgh community, the planning process identified guiding principles and the framework to establish a minimum level of storm protection to equitably protect Pittsburgh residents from local stormwater challenges.

Why is it important to continue the level of service discussion as a community?

This remains important conversation for the Pittsburgh community. By developing a collective answer to this question, we can assure that residents and businesses participating in the process understand the benefits and limitations of the level of service, and realize the cost associated with its implementation. For example, a level of service that prevents flooding during the most severe storms could result in large rate increases. This conversation will work towards establishing a level of service that balances protection from flooding with the cost to ratepayers.

When will I start seeing results at my home or in my neighborhood?

From the time the plan is completed in December 2023, design and construction to implement the plan’s recommendations will take place over many years and funding will always be limited. The pace of implementation will also be affected by the amount of federal and state funding available, to ensure that these improvements are accomplished in an affordable way. The problems of too much stormwater entering our system did not happen overnight. It will take time to implement needed solutions.

Where can I find more information about PWSA’s stormwater planning?

For more information about the Stormwater Strategic Plan and PWSA’s other stormwater planning efforts, please visit For information about stormwater projects currently in design, construction, or recently completed by PWSA, visit For information about the stormwater fee, visit