Our Water Campaign

Our Water Campaign Logo

Our Water Campaign

UpstreamPgh was a founding member of the Clean Rivers Campaign in 2011. The CRC’s goal was to move the plan for reducing sewer overflows in a more sustainable direction. The first plan put forward by ALCOSAN, our regional sewer authority, relied entirely on deep tunnel conveyance to the treatment plant to handle overflows. The campaign’s position was that this once-in-a-lifetime investment of more than $2 billion in infrastructure should include as many green, above ground solutions as possible to keep rain out of the sewers, since that approach would also bring multiple other benefits to the community. Cleaner air, cooler summer temperatures and revitalized business districts are just a few of the advantages of a green approach.

Beginning in 2014, the Our Water Campaign (OWC) began advocating for clean, safe, affordable and publicly-controlled drinking water in the City of Pittsburgh. At the time, the extent of the lead crisis in PWSA’s system was just becoming clear; the threat of privatization was also looming.

The largest investment of public funding for infrastructure in our region’s history

After generating significant public pressure over nearly a decade, the final Consent Decree was approved by the court in May 2020 and includes $100 million for projects that reduce flows of rain and ground water into the system, including green solutions. The CRC also secured a Customer Assistance Program for the first time at ALCOSAN; rates will continue to rise for several years to pay for the Consent Decree costs, so this will become increasingly important for low-income ratepayers.

By mobilizing a broad coalition of community organizations, the OWC was able to secure pledges from numerous elected officials to prevent privatization of PWSA, which put the issue to rest at least temporarily. We also secured a Customer Assistance Program at PWSA, and the creation of a Community Lead Response Advisory Committee to insure community input to the line replacement program. A critical step was convincing PWSA to stop doing partial water line replacements, which can actually elevate lead levels in the home. PWSA is now well on the way to completing full line replacements of all lead pipes throughout their system by 2026.


Pittsburgh United
Sierra Club
Clean Water Action
Hill District Consensus Group
Penn Future
Thomas Merton Center
One Pennsylvania
New Voices for Reproductive Justice
Women for a Healthy Environment


As leader of the coalition, Pittsburgh United secured grant funds to support this work from

The Heinz Endowments
The Surdna Foundation
And others