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Fairmount Water Works Pledges Restoration and Resiliency in Wake of Historic Flooding

USGS Water Table depicting
flood stages of the Schuylkill
River 8/30/21-9/3/21

POOL: A Social History of SegregationExhibition to Open on World Water Day, March 22, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA–The Board of Directors for the Fund for the Water Works, the Philadelphia Water Department, and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, revealed a plan to restore the iconic Fairmount Water Works buildings, which suffered inundation as the Schuylkill River rose to historic levels in the wake of Hurricane Ida on September 2, 2021. The flooding occurred just one day prior to the planned opening of its most significant museum exhibition yet, POOL: A Social History of Segregation. The opening is now planned for March 22, 2022, on World Water Day, the annual United Nations event that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water.

In collaboration with a Resiliency Work Group, the Water Works aims to research and develop a “Blueprint for Readiness,” utilizing alternative restoration options in the facility to enable it to withstand damage from future flooding. Resources and methodology will be shared with others in need of building more resilient structures prone to rising waters.

“We view the challenges of restoring the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center as an opportunity to build back better andbe more resilient,” stated Karen Young, executive director of the Fairmount Water Works. “By identifying best practices,new technologies and methods of sustainableinfrastructure, we will be better prepared for a future that will most likely continue to bring extraordinary environmental impacts and consequences, associated withextreme weather and climate change.”

Since the 1800’s the Fairmount Water Works has been an architectural and engineering model for innovation, serving the public proudly in all its iterations. The POOL exhibition was originally scheduled to open to the public on September 3rd, 2021 just two days after Hurricane Ida devastated parts of the region with destructive tornadoes followed by historic flooding. Thanks to the foresight of exhibition creator Victoria Prizzia, founder of Habithéque Inc., and the design and installation team and Water Works staff, the 4,700 square foot exhibition fared quite well and escaped significant damage following the storm: “We designed elements of POOL and other new exhibits in the Interpretive Center with water resistant materials and mobility. But the persistent challenge following severe storms is the expense and burden associated with removing river debris and industrial cleaning. Despite this, we are committed to  cleaning, redesigning, restoring and replacing needed elements – with a focus on making our operations more flood resistant.”

POOL is a multi-disciplinary museum exhibition set in the former Kelly Natatorium, once an indoor swimming pool for competitive swimmers to practice, and for the community to learn to swim. The exhibition is an artistic and scholarly investigation into the role of public pools in America, with the goal of deepening the understanding and the connection between water, social justice and public health. Adds Prizzia: “The story of water is a story of social and environmental justice, as safe access to clean drinking, household and swimming water is a current day issue for people living in America and around the world.”

POOL Preview – September 1, 2021
Photo credit: “15 Minutes” Inc.

“We are committed to safeguarding this National Historic Landmark with state-of-the-art design, planning and engineering,” says Young. “It is with resilience, determination and a healthy dose of humility, that we foresee our future as a world class Interpretive Center committed to greater awareness, knowledge and understanding of environmental and social issues surrounding water. The Fairmount Water Works will continue its mission as a landmark institution where people from all backgrounds and all communities are welcome to visit and join the conversation.”

Major support for POOL has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Philadelphia Water Department. For more information about POOL, visit

About the Fairmount Water Works

For more than 200 years, the Fairmount Water Works has told the story of our connection with water. It operated as a pumping station from 1815 to 1909, an aquarium from 1911 to 1962, as the Kelly Natatorium until 1972, and today serves as Philadelphia Water’s public education destination, housing an award-winning urban environmental education center. The mission of Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center is to foster stewardship of our shared resources by encouraging informed decisions about the use of land and water. We educate citizens about Philadelphia’s urban watershed, its past, present and future, and collaborate with partners to instill an appreciation for the connections between daily life and the natural environment. Located on the Schuylkill River at 640 Waterworks Drive, off scenic Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, the FWW is recognized as The Delaware River Basin’s Official Watershed Education Center and Gateway Center for the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, featuring innovative, landmark exhibitions and serving as a living laboratory for urban watershed sustainability projects. For more information, visit


Media Contact: “15 Minutes” Inc.    215-290-7668

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