Aqua Cares About Bugs, and You Should Too

Why would a compliance guy at Aqua America care about bugs in the IllinoisKankakee River when most people try to avoid or kill bugs?

 

Kevin M. Culver of Aqua America

First off, I am not an entomologist (aka a bug expert) so why do I care about bugs? This is the first question I ask when conducting a source water presentation or manning our source water display booth at events.

Most of the responses I receive, depending on the age of the participant, are that:

·      Bugs are bad and need to be eliminated

·      Bugs are part of the food chain necessary to sustain life in the river

Both responses are somewhat correct but not exactly why I care. We do not want bugs in our drinking water but they are an important part of the food chain.

I care about the bugs because one can determine the health of a stream by the number and type of bugs living in the stream. Not only can the bugs be used to determine water quality, but fish and fresh water mussels can also be used as biological indicators of water quality.

 

Bugs And Your Water   

So what are macro-invertebrates (macros)? These include aquatic insect such as larvae, worms, leeches and snails that can be found under rocks, attached to plants and in the bottom sediments of rivers and streams.

Not all macros that are found indicate species of water quality. In fact, only 36 different groups of macros make up the specimens used to determine water quality.

 

The 36 Groups: What You Need to Know

As a citizen scientist through the River Watch program, I have been trained on techniques on how to properly collect and identify the water quality indicator of macro-invertebrates. 

I collect bugs at four assigned sites annually within the Kankakee watershed, located in the northeastern part of Illinois. The same sites are used each year to determine water quality at that instant and to trend this result against previous sampling events.

Each of the 36 indicator species is assigned a tolerance value (TV) to pollution between “0” being completely intolerant to pollution and “11” being highly tolerant to pollution.

The weighted average tolerance value of all the bugs collected at a site is the water quality indicator, officially known as the Macro-invertebrate Biological Index (MBI).

If a bug is intolerant to pollution, it means it hasn't acclimated to pollution, which mean the river is clean. If a bug is tolerant to pollution, it means the bug has indeed been exposed to pollution - so much so that its body has changed its reaction to pollution. 

So when Aqua tells everyone that the Kankakee River is one of the “cleanest” rivers in the Midwest, it's the bugs that prove it. The water quality in Rock Creek in the Kankakee State Park is one of the few sites in Illinois that are statistically getting cleaner, according to the bug results.

This year I also collected 849 bugs from my Kankakee River site that had the lowest ever average tolerance value (MBI) at 4.29.

 

Why Should You Care About the Bugs?  

Along with just being cool, they are an integral part of our source water protection plan. You can determine water quality by which bugs are present or absent and they are a great way to educate and demonstrate to young and old about the importance of source water protection.

 

 

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Water: The Real Olympic Superstar

The Olympic Games are one of the world’s oldest traditions. For thousands of years, athletes of all shapes, sizes, nations and creeds have come together to prove their prowess. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that many of the water-based competitions we know and love today joined the ranks. Now, as some of the most popular sporting events to watch, it’s hard to imagine the Olympics without them.

Since we're nearing the end of the Rio 2016 Olympics, we have a lot of questions on our mind. If you’re like us and want to know how many gallons of water a regulation-size pool holds, check out the fun facts below.

 

 

Image via Pexels.com

Swimming:

·      When the swimming competition was founded in 1896, the only two stroke styles were freestyle and breaststroke.

 

 

·      Regulated pools weren’t around until 1908. Up to that point, the competitions took place in open water.

 

 

Image via Pixabay.com 

Diving:

  • Diving was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Olympic games. Springboard and platform events were added in 1908.

 

Water polo:

  • In the early days of European Water Polo, players would ride on barrels that resembled horses, and hit the ball with mallets. America had its own version more similar to rugby.

 

  • Water polo was introduced at the Olympics in 1900. At that time, it was only a men’s competition. It took until 2000 for women to have their own division.

 

Synchronized swimming:

  • Synchronized swimming is one of the newest Olympic sports, having debuted in the 1984 Los Angeles games.

 

 

  • Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are the only Olympic sports with no male equivalent team.

 

 

Image via NBCOlympics.com

The pool:

  • Olympic pools hold about 660,000 gallons of water.

 

  • Each pool is required to be 50 meters long and 25 meters wide in order to meet regulations.

 

 

The athletes:

  • If you follow the Olympics at all, you’ve most likely heard of Michael Phelps. Holding 18 gold, two silver and two bronze medals, he’s not only the best swimmer in the world, but also the most decorated Olympic athlete in history.

 

  • For women’s swimming, Jenny Thompson (now retired), holds 12 medals – eight of which are gold. She currently holds more medals than any other female swimmer in history.

 

 

Now that you’re an expert on everything water in the Olympics, you’re ready to cheer on your favorite team (USA of course). Show off your newfound knowledge to your friends and prepare your victory dance for when Phelps takes all the medals. We’ll be on the edge of our seats the entire time. How about you?

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6 Ways to Hydrate Like an Olympian

Ever wonder how Olympic athletes stay hydrated? With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway, that question has been on our minds a lot. Sometimes we just want to know how many glasses of water it takes Michael Phelps to swim in peak condition. That’s why we decided to do a little digging to discover exactly how Olympic superstars like Phelps replenish their energy in order to take the home the gold.

  

1.     Sweat it off

Olympic athletes need to drink before, during and after their training sessions and competitions. Sweating is the body’s way of controlling temperature, and athletes do a lot of it over the course of a day. Constant water breaks are a surefire way to recharge your system and keep you at peak performance.

 

2.     Don’t go for the gold

What exactly does healthy, hydrated urine look like? Mostly clear! The more water you drink, the more diluted your pee urine becomes. If your urine is darker in color and has a strong odor, then you’re definitely dehydrated. No worries, though: All you need to do to fix the problem is have a couple more glasses of water a day.

 

3.     Burn, baby, burn

Consuming thousands of calories a day is a necessity for Olympians. They burn off most of what they eat while competing and then need to replenish themselves in order to keep up muscle mass. Drinking more water not only helps athletes stay refreshed, but it also improves digestion and reduces stomach pains. (That must be a nice bonus after eating all that food.)

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

4.     Glass half full

Athletes may give it 110 percent when racing, swimming or pole vaulting, but their bodies are only made up of about half that percentage in water. If an Olympian loses more than two percent of their weight in water, they will begin to lose their mental edge. Staying hydrated both prevents fatigue and keeps the mind and reflexes sharp for optimal Olympic performance.

 

5.     Drink more than you think

One of the biggest misconceptions about hydration is that you only need to drink water when you physically feel thirsty. In reality it’s already too late. By drinking water (or other beverages with high water content) every so often you can prevent dehydration from sneaking up on you. This is especially important if you’re out in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Pro tip: By carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times, you’ll be more likely to take sips throughout the day.

 

6.     Be a good sport

We know we talk a lot about water, but hey, that’s what we do best. However, one of the best ways to make sure you stay as healthy as possible is to consume sports drinks in addition to your regular water intake. Sports drinks contain electrolytes that help to replace the sodium athletes lose when they sweat.

 

We all need to stay hydrated, but athletes need to work on it a little bit more than the rest of us. To keep yourself hydrated, check out these hacks. If you take these hydration tips to heart, who knows — maybe you’ll be up on a podium wearing the gold one day!

 

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How to Observe AND Preserve for Water Quality Month

Did you know August is National Water Quality Month? Not many people do, but that’s why we’re here — to spread the word. You can make simple changes in your water usage that will have a huge impact on local ecosystems and watersheds.

Think about all the little critters that play in the neighborhood creek or the pond by the park. Their health is literally in your hands. Your own water supply is one of the many places where polluted runoff occurs. Follow some of the helpful tips below to be on your way toward a cleaner and happier watershed.

 

·      Remember when you were six years old and your pet goldfish passed away? Your parents probably had a nice little toilet funeral for it. Well, believe it or not, flushing Goldie wasn’t too good for the environment. Let’s stop flushing anything that the toilet isn’t meant for. This includes medications, goldfish and leftover cleaning products.

 

·      Speaking of pets, we all know cleaning up after them is a cumbersome task. However, if their waste is left where it falls, it can get washed down storm drains, spreading  that bacteria into your drinking water.

 

·      Cars can create a huge mess if not tended to properly. You can still work on that old Corvette in the garage, but make sure you lay down some plastic liners to collect any dripping oil or other fluids first.

 

·      Gardens can be quite harmful to watersheds. If you use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, the runoff is some of the worst. If you have a patch of land dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables or flowers, you should take extra precautions and use organic repellents.

 

·      The same idea goes for toxic household products. One way or another, they get rinsed down the drain. To avoid contaminating your water, consider buying non-toxic, organic cleaners.

 

·      Finally, if you’re thinking about paving your driveway or other parts of your property, you might want to reconsider. Rainwater rinses off pavement and drags any pollutants it comes in contact with straight into the nearest drain. Without the pavement, water soaks into the ground, diluting contaminants and preventing flooding.

 

Over the past decade, watershed purity has declined. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ 2005-2015, “Every day, more than 2 million tons of sewage drain into the world’s waters.” 

It’s never been more important to stay conscious, keep updated and be proactive about water quality.

Not sure where your watershed is located or what condition it’s in? Just input your zip code or town name to Surf Your Watershed to find out.

Go out and start saving the planet – one flush at a time.

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Aqua America Partners with Villanova University College of Engineering on International Water Infrastructure Projects

Aqua America, Inc. today announced a partnership with Villanova University’s College of Engineering to provide mentorship opportunities, hands-on water quality expertise and foundation support for the college’s international service work. As part of this partnership, Aqua leadership and engineers will travel with Villanova faculty and students to various projects internationally to provide engineering and water infrastructure expertise.

Aqua’s on-site engagement with Villanova begins with a trip to Nicaragua on August 4 and a visit to Panama on August 11. Members of Aqua’s leadership team will accompany the Aqua team that includes engineers and water quality experts. They will travel with Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL) representatives to inspect water project sites, meet with community members and connect with local nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners. The partnership reflects Aqua’s greater initiative of partnering with community-based nonprofit organizations that advocate for the environment.

An important part of the success of the Villanova program has been working with in-country partners who have the capacity to implement these projects. In the Alto Bayano region of Panama, VESL has been providing engineering support on water-related infrastructure projects for 25 years. In collaboration with local NGO’s, they have helped to develop one of the largest rural water supply systems in Central America. Similarly, over the past decade, the college has worked with local partners in Waslala, Nicaragua to design and implement water supply networks that provide safe drinking water for rural communities. Through the Aqua America partnership, VESL hopes to improve the sustainability of water delivery services in these areas, while creating unique learning opportunities for its local partners and student participants.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Aqua America in what is a true partnership,” said Villanova’s Dr. Gary A. Gabriele, Drosdick-Endowed Dean of Engineering. “Aqua is VESL’s first corporate partner to put boots on the ground, and we look forward to the continued growth of this partnership.”

Aqua’s President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Franklin highlighted that the company has a long history of demonstrating commitment to the communities it serves.

“Because this commitment has become part of our culture, it will continue long into the future,” Franklin said. “When we consider how fortunate we are to live in the United States where clean drinking water is almost taken for granted, we must consider what other human beings in other countries endure each day to find clean water for their children to drink.”

Franklin noted that with this in mind, Aqua made the decision to take a small portion of the Aqua foundation budget and combine it with the talents its employees possess to make a meaningful difference for those who live in these countries.

He added, “As one of the nation’s leading water companies, our mission is to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource. In our own small way, we will demonstrate our commitment in a few communities outside the U.S. where clean, safe drinking water is so desperately needed. We look forward to leveraging our expertise and partnering with Villanova’s distinguished College of Engineering faculty and students on this program.” 

Aqua supports environmental projects through the Aqua Charitable Trust and forming important partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations within the company’s territory. This partnership with Villanova marks the first time Aqua will be taking its commitment internationally.

Villanova is highly regarded in the area of water resource management and sustainability. In addition to offering graduate degrees in sustainable engineering and water resources and environmental engineering, the university is home to the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering and the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership. Given this area of expertise, in addition to Panama and Nicaragua, VESL water projects are underway in Ghana, Honduras, India and Madagascar. The college’s other service projects include robotics for unexploded ordnance removal in Cambodia, and mobile health programs in Nicaragua. More than half of Villanova’s engineering undergraduates participate in service-learning projects or experiences.

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