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Chapter 2 - Submission, Review, and Approval Procedures

2.5 PWD's Development Review Process

2.5 PWD’s Development Review Process

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is organized into several different programs, each with various responsibilities and authority regarding land development. Many of the approvals needed from programs other than Stormwater Plan Review are related to water and sewer connections or instances in which PWD infrastructure is affected by a proposed development. The following Section briefly introduces each PWD program involved in the development approval process, focusing on its role within the process (Table 2.5-1). The applicant should keep in mind that, although Stormwater Plan Review coordinates with other programs through the stormwater review process, it is the applicant’s responsibility to make sure he or she obtains all needed approvals from applicable PWD programs and other City and State agencies before beginning construction.

Table 2.5-1: Reviews by PWD Programs Based on Project Characteristics


PWD Programs

GSI Implementation Unit

Design Branch

Water Transport

Projects Control

Industrial Waste and
Backflow Compliance

Stormwater Plan

GSI Planning
and Design

Stormwater Billing
and Incentives





Water Service



Sewer Service







Change to PWD




Private Cost
Green Street








Modification or






Private Cost Sewer
or Water Main Extension





X = Review/Coordination/Approvals may be required

1Sewer service connection reviewed in accordance with PA Act 537

2Unit responsible for review will depend on funding source

Not every development project must be reviewed by each program in this Section. The applicant should contact programs directly for questions regarding when and if plans should be submitted to that program for review. A summary of contact information and issued permits/approvals for each program is provided in Table 2.5-2.

Table 2.5-2: PWD Program Contact Information and Issued Permits/Approvals

Program Phone Issued Permits/Approvals

Stormwater Plan Review

  • (215) 685-6387
  • Conceptual Approval
  • Post-Construction Stormwater Management Plan (PCSMP) Approval
  • Record Drawing Compliance

Projects Control

  • (215) 685-6339
  • (215) 685-6353 (Act 537 Review)
  • Stamps Conceptual Stormwater Management Plans approved for Zoning
  • Act 537 Approval/ Exemption

Water Transport Records

  • (215) 685-6271 (Information and Service)
  • (215) 397-7097 (Inspection of Connections)
  • (215) 685-6275 (GPIS help)
  • (215) 685-6270 (Supervisor)
  • Stamps Building Permit application on behalf of PWD
  • Water Service Approval and Pre-Permit Application
  • Sewer Connection Approval (for sewer connections greater than six-inch) and Pre-Permit Application
  • Meter Installation Permit

Design Branch

  • (215) 685-6309
  • Private Cost Approval

Industrial Waste and Backflow Compliance

  • (215) 685-6085 (Industrial Waste)
  • (215) 683-2226 (Backflow Compliance)
  • Significant Industrial User (SIU) Wastewater Discharge Permit
  • Groundwater Discharge Permit
  • Hauled Wastewater Discharge Permit
  • Manhole Pumpout Permit
  • Form CP100 - Backflow Prevention Assembly Installation Permit

GSI Planning & Design

  • (215) 685-6213
  • Private Cost Green Street proposals

Stormwater Billing and Incentives

  • (215) 685-6070 (Stormwater Credits)
  • (215) 685-6244 (Stormwater Appeals)
  • Stormwater credits and adjustments
  • Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP) grants
  • Greened Acre Retrofit Program (GARP) grants

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Unit

The Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Implementation Unit is part of the Planning and Environmental Services Division of PWD. The objective of the GSI Implementation Unit is to effectively develop and grow an integrated infrastructure resilience program to ensure ongoing regulatory compliance. The GSI Implementation Unit works with both public and private land to maximize opportunities for GSI improvements. The unit consists of four programs; Private Development Services, Stormwater Billing and Incentives, GSI Planning, and GSI Design. For the purposes of this Section, information about the GSI Planning and Design programs has been consolidated.

Private Development Services

Private Development Services is the larger PWD program that houses Stormwater Plan Review and Stormwater Inspections. Stormwater Plan Review is responsible for reviewing development plans for compliance with the PWD Stormwater Regulations. Stormwater Inspections is responsible for the inspection of stormwater facilities associated with development and retrofit projects during construction. In addition, the Private Development Services program conducts maintenance inspections of properties to ensure the property owner maintains SMPs to design function. Active and post-construction inspections are discussed in more detail in  Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of this Manual.

Stormwater Billing and Incentives

Stormwater Billing and Incentives reviews Stormwater Retrofit projects and engages in partnership project opportunities between PWD and other entities. They also administer PWD’s stormwater grant programs, which provide funding and assistance to non-residential PWD customers and contractors. These programs aim to stimulate investment in and utilization of stormwater management practices, which reduce stormwater pollution to the City’s sewer system and surrounding waterways and enhance the region’s watersheds.

Development projects interested in over-sizing SMPs to manage additional area on-site or from the public right-of-way (ROW) are eligible for grant funding from PWD to accommodate the additional drainage area. PWD will provide funding at a flat rate per acre managed above and beyond the area required by the PWD Stormwater Regulations. Any applicant interested in grant opportunities for their project is urged to contact Stormwater Plan Review as early as possible in the design process. In addition, each development project submitted to PWD is analyzed for opportunities to over-size SMPs and the applicant may be contacted by PWD regarding grant funding. Additional information about funding available to development projects can be found on the Stormwater Plan Review website.

Stormwater Billing and Incentives also applies billing adjustments and stormwater credits to properties throughout the City, including those that have successfully met the Stormwater Regulations. A property’s current monthly stormwater charge can be determined using the PWD Stormwater Map Viewer. Most non-residential and condominium projects that comply with PWD's Stormwater Regulations per a final inspection at the close of construction and compliant Record Drawing review may be eligible for stormwater credits. A Stormwater Credits Application (Form B) may be submitted for review once the previously outlined steps are completed. The applicant is referred to Section 6.3 for more information on PWD's Stormwater Credits Program.

GSI Planning and Design (PWD Capital Projects)

Within the GSI Implementation Unit, the GSI Planning and Design teams' primary focus is to implement GSI projects that are built and maintained by PWD. GSI Planning conducts preliminary analysis and identifies locations for GSI in the public ROW and on city-owned property. GSI Design staff manage the design of GSI systems to ensure they meet PWD's standards.

GSI Planning and Design staff also work collaboratively with the Private Development Services and Stormwater Billing and Incentives programs to maximize stormwater management opportunities on various types of GSI projects. The GSI Planning team facilitates partnerships with city agencies and non-city entities to coordinate funding and project timelines for public retrofit projects and for partner projects managing beyond what is required by the Stormwater Regulations. GSI Planning and Design may assist developers in implementing stormwater projects by providing design guidance and funding options for management of additional stormwater. For these projects, Stormwater Plan Review will coordinate with GSI Planning and Design staff in the review processes.

In addition to maximizing stormwater management onsite, entities may be interested in building a green street as part of their project. To encourage the inclusion of green street elements, GSI Design provides technical assistance to land owners undertaking improvement projects within the ROW. This team approves proposals for developer-funded (Private Cost) green streets projects. The applicant is referred to the Green Streets Design Manual for more information. GSI Design also provides technical review and issues approvals for all other GSI partnership projects.

Planning and Research

Within the Planning and Research Unit, Water and Sewer Planning is responsible for reviewing preliminary water and sewer connections to PWD infrastructure proposed on Conceptual Stormwater Management Plans. Stormwater Plan Review incorporates comments from Water and Sewer Planning as part of the Conceptual Review Phase, as described in Section 2.3.

Projects Control

Projects Control is a review and coordinating entity within PWD with several important roles in the development process, including coordinating and processing private and public project submissions and approvals among multiple PWD units. Projects Control approves changes to PWD ROWs, such as easements and encroachments, including striking, shrinking, and establishing new ROWs. Stormwater Plan Review coordinates with Projects Control in the sign-off of Conceptual Stormwater Management Plans, signifying PWD approval for Zoning.

Prior to obtaining PWD sign-off on a Building Permit application, all projects must submit to Projects Control for Utility Plan Review. The Utility Plan Review looks for utility conflicts, ROW conflicts, connection location and size, and other potential issues.

Projects Control is also charged with ensuring that development projects in Philadelphia comply with Pennsylvania’s Sewage Facility Act, or PA Act 537. Act 537, as amended, was enacted to address existing sewage disposal problems and to prevent future problems by requiring proper planning, permitting and design of sewage disposal facilities. Projects Control reviews Act 537 Sewage Facilities Planning Modules submitted for development projects and issues either approvals or exemptions.  On-lot disposal systems (septic tanks) are discussed in the Act 537 Application Mailer for Public Sewers and are generally reviewed and permitted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Projects Control receives all Submission Packages and Stormwater Plan Review Fees on behalf of Stormwater Plan Review.

Water Transport Records

Water Transport Records (WTR) is a key administrative and technical group within PWD that provides PWD sign-off on Building Permit applications; stamps sprinkler applications with current flow test data; verifies water and sewer availability for proposed development projects; reviews and approves proposed water and sewer connections; provides records of existing PWD Infrastructure to property owners, developers, and their agents through Pennsylvania One Call System; receives and supplies flow test orders to the public on behalf of Load Control; inspects sewer connections; and updates contract drawings and connections on existing utility return plans.

WTR issues stamps on Building Permit applications and sprinkler applications with up-to-date test flow data on behalf of PWD. WTR issues Water Service Approvals and Water Pre-Permit Applications and Sewer Connection Approvals (for sewer connections greater than six inches in diameter) and Sewer Pre-Permit Applications. Pre-Permit Applications must be submitted to the Water Desk at the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspection (L&I), who will issue the actual permits. Sewer Connection Approvals will not be issued until all necessary reviews with Stormwater Plan Review and Design Branch are complete. WTR also issues Meter Installation Permits, reviews hydrant relocations, and reviews Guaranteed Pavement Information System (GPIS) utility clearance. Lastly, WTR reviews and inspects all connections from the point of connection to a PWD sewer to the curb trap. For more information, the applicant is referred to the Sewer Connection and Repair Manual.

Industrial Waste

Industrial Waste enforces local, State, and Federal regulations governing the discharge of wastewater into City wastewater collection systems.  In addition, Industrial Waste issues permits regulating industrial, commercial, and non-routine discharges to the City's sewers and wastewater treatment plants.  Permits such as Significant Industrial User (SIU) Wastewater Discharge Permits, Groundwater and/or Accumulated Stormwater Discharge Permits, and Manhole Pumpout Permits establish specific discharge, monitoring, and reporting requirements that promote preservation of the City's water resources.

Backflow Compliance

The City of Philadelphia has Cross Connection Control regulations to protect the health and integrity of its drinking water supply. The quality of Philadelphia’s drinking water could be compromised through a cross connection. A cross connection is an improper and illegal plumbing arrangement between a potable and non-potable water supply. These connections, under certain hydraulic conditions, can lead to dangerous “backflow” from a contaminated water system into drinking water.

Specifications regarding type, installation, and testing requirements for backflow prevention and cross connection control can be found in the Cross Connection Control Manual. Enforcement of Cross Connection Control regulations is a joint effort by PWD, L&I, and the Department of Public Health. In addition, Stormwater Plan Review may incorporate standard comments regarding backflow prevention as part of the Conceptual Review Phase. If an applicant has questions concerning backflow prevention requirements, he or she is encouraged to contact Backflow Compliance directly.

Design Branch

The Design Branch is PWD’s primary in-house design group and is responsible for designing repairs, upgrades, and alterations to many of PWD’s critical systems, including water and sewer infrastructure. The Design Branch approves changes to PWD infrastructure that may result from a development project. Approved changes include constructing water and sewer infrastructure to be owned and maintained by PWD through Private Cost projects, relocating existing fire hydrants and inlets, and evaluating the impacts of proposed development projects on or near existing PWD infrastructure.

A Private Cost project is a residential, commercial, or industrial development that proposes to construct PWD infrastructure with private or public funds other than funds provided by PWD. The process outlined in this Section is specific to traditional water and sewer infrastructure improvements as well as circumstances where existing PWD owned or maintained green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) must be moved or reconstructed to accommodate a development project. New Private Cost GSI improvements are reviewed in conjunction with the GSI Design program discussed earlier in this Section.

The requirements listed below also apply to projects initiated by local, State, and Federal agencies. PWD will accept and maintain water and drainage facilities installed by a developer or outside agency if they are designed and constructed in accordance with PWD standards, inspected and approved by a PWD Construction Unit inspector, and within public or designated ROWs.

For a Private Cost project, the applicant must adhere to the Private Cost Project Requirements, which were created to do the following:

  • Familiarize the developer and their consultant with the procedures and requirements for preparing design plans for the relocation and construction of water and/or sewer infrastructure that will be dedicated to the City of Philadelphia.
  • Streamline the Private Cost Plan review and approval process.
  • Ensure that all new water and sewer infrastructure is designed and constructed in conformance with PWD standards.
  • Evaluate maintenance and operational impacts of proposed development projects on/near existing PWD infrastructure, ensuring both the public and PWD receive sewers and water mains of the highest quality with a long and trouble-free service life.

Prior to PWD Design Branch’s final approval of the Private Cost plans, the applicant must submit a copy of all approvals, permits, etc. from outside agencies and departments related to the project. The applicant is referred to the Private Cost Manual 2017 for a checklist of deliverables.

Final Private Cost approval will be given when the Private Cost group's comments have been satisfied as determined by the PWD engineer assigned to the project. The applicant, upon receipt of the final approval letter, signed plans, and agreement, must instruct the contractor to contact PWD’s Inspections Coordinator (office: 215-685-6387) seven (7) days prior to construction to have a PWD inspector assigned to the project.