From Lake to Tap: Become a Surface Water Pro in a Snap

You turn on the faucet, and water comes out. You flush the toilet, and a new pool of water appears as soon as the previous one is gone.

We’re used to water being available on demand, but rarely do we stop to ask a crucial question: Where does that water come from, anyway?

It’s a valid question—and one that we’re going to address throughout a yearlong series we’re launching today called Aquastructure. From water purification to the infrastructure improvements on systems both existing and new, we want to demystify the operations and structures through which clean, reliable water is delivered to the homes of our customers. With Aquastructure, we will show you, literally, the structure of Aqua.

So, back to my toilet…

Right. The water that was there before you flushed—and the water that reappears seconds later—comes to your home after undergoing a series of treatment processes, but it originally comes from either the ground or a surface body of water, such as a lake, river or reservoir.

We asked Jim Barbato, director of corporate engineering at Aqua, to help explain how Aqua utilizes these surface water sources to withdraw “raw” water from lakes, rivers, streams and reservoirs. (Fresh water is collected from these sources and then screened to remove fish, leaves and debris—a.k.a. all the things you definitely don’t want coming out of your faucets.)

What’s the difference between gathering water from these sources as opposed to the ground?

“Well, surface water requires more treatment and barriers, such as filtration, to protect public health from harmful waterborne contaminants,” Barbato says.

Okay, so there’s more stuff in untreated surface water before it goes through the purification process. That makes sense.

He broke down some of the numbers when it comes to sourcing: Out of the total amount of surface water that Aqua treats per day, about 20 percent (30 million gallons) comes from reservoirs. The other 80 percent (112 million gallons) of surface water treated per day comes from rivers and/or lakes.

Moving on: After surface water is sourced, coagulants are added to the water and cause dirt and other particles to stick together so that they can be removed.

Okay… Coagu-whats? Barbato to the rescue.

“Coagulants are special water treatment chemicals that are added to the water to cause the particles in the water to adhere to one another, making them heavy enough to settle into a basin from which the sediment is removed,” he says, adding that Aqua utilizes several different coagulants, one of which is aluminum sulfate (alum).

Got it. What next?

To put it simply: a lot. The next few steps of the surface water treatment process may seem quite similar, but we can assure you that they’re all essential to ensuring clean water. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Getting settled: After contact with the coagulants, larger particles sink to the bottom of the tanks so they can be removed.
  • Filter, filter, filter: The water then goes on a fun little journey through filters of anthracite (a coal-like mineral), sand and gravel to remove even smaller particles.
  • Living the chlorine dream: Next, chlorine is added to disinfect the water and eliminate any potentially harmful organisms. See ya later, bacteria! 
  • Final treatment: The end is in sight as sodium hydroxide, lime or additional custom treatments are added to adjust the pH (acidity level) of the water before it makes its grand debut as clean, drinkable water in your home.

You might be wondering: Do all of these steps take place at the same facility, or are they spread out between the water source and the final destination?

The answer is a little of both. Barbato notes that while sometimes the source water intake structure may be remote from the main treatment plant, the rest of the treatment process typically happens at the same facility. The more you know!

So how does Aqua keep my water safe?

Providing clean water to you, our customers, is at the core of what we do. And we take plenty of steps to ensure that we’re able to do exactly that.

Many of Aqua’s surface water treatment plants participate in the American Water Works Association’s Partnership for Safe Water, which exists to improve the quality of water delivered to customers by optimizing water system operations. By participating in the program, utilities such as Aqua demonstrate a commitment to protecting public health and providing exceptional water quality to customers.

Participating in the partnership is no walk in the park, though! Barbato let us know that plants must demonstrate water quality results that meet all regulatory requirements in order to be involved. Only about 200 water utilities across the country participate in the partnership, and you bet that Aqua is proud to be one of them. 

Clean, safe water is what it’s all about.

On top of that, Aqua’s five largest surface water treatment plants in Pennsylvania—Neshaminy, Ingram’s Mill, Pickering East, Pickering West and Shenango—all employ an early event detection technology that monitors outside factors to surface water sources. That means that if a large storm or a seasonal shift changes the input of surface water in the sourcing process, plant engineers are well-equipped to detect and manage these changes.

Cool. Anything else I should know?

You’ll remember that not all of Aqua’s water comes from surface sources—plenty comes from the ground, and we’ll cover that process in our next Aquastructure feature. In meantime, make sure you're signed up for WaterSmart alerts so you never miss a beat about changes to your water service.

We’ll see you back here next month. Stay hydrated, stay warm and stay ready to learn! 

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Water Goals for the New Year

Image via Pexels

With a new year comes the opportunity for new goals, and as we head into 2018, Aqua is committed, as always, to fulfilling our mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource.

Since water is a crucial part of our daily lives, why not make some water-related goals for the year? Consider adding some of these resolutions to your 2018 agenda so you can be a champion of water every day.

Up your eco-friendliness

Image via Pexels

Most people use between 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for basic necessities. This year, consider how you can make your water usage as friendly to the environment as possible.

  • Cut down on paper and plastic drinking vessels. Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a trusty reusable water bottle to fill with tap water—you’ll save money and ensure you always have water on the go.
  • Reduce the amount of water in which you cook food. Did you know that doing so actually helps your food retain more nutrients?
  • Fully load your dishwasher and clothes washer. Don’t run the wash if you’re not getting full use out of it! Plus, washing dark clothes in cold water saves energy and helps your clothes retain their color.

Staying Healthy

Image via Unsplash

Plenty of people’s goals for the new year involve fitness, and it’s safe to say that water comes into play with all of them. Hydration and physical activity go hand-in-hand, so keep these tips in mind:

Be a water advocate

Image via Unsplash

Without water, life as we know it would not exist. In fact, 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. Staying educated and volunteering are both ways to make a difference when it comes to protecting our most essential natural resource in 2018.

  • Learn more about water issues. Make sure you and the children in your life know about the water cycle and the importance of treating Earth’s most essential resource with kindness.
  • Find a water-focused organization you’re passionate about. Consider volunteering with a nonprofit in your area dedicated to providing water to people around the world and in your communities, or give back through an organization focused on a specific water issue, from protecting our oceans to advocating for infrastructure improvements.

There are plenty of additional ways to make water a significant part of your new year. What are your goals for 2018? Let us know!

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Water You Drinking for the Holidays?

We want to know: Water you drinking this holiday season?

The holidays are officially in full swing, and that means one thing: festivities.

It may feel like you’ve been planning your holiday dinners and parties for months now, but there’s still time to add a quick, festive and healthy beverage option to your menu! Instead of going above and beyond with extravagant food and beverages, keep things simpler, healthier and easier with these delicious flavored water recipes.

  • 12 cups of water
  • 2 apples
  • 3 mint sprigs
  • 1 piece of ginger

Cut apples into four to six slices, and slice the ginger into small shreds. Mix with the mint sprigs and add all to bottles or a pitcher of water. These flavors add a spicy touch and are great for digestion.

  • 2 oranges
  • 2–3 cups of fresh cranberries (frozen works, too)
  • 2–3 cups of ice cubes
  • 12 cups of water

Slice both oranges, rinse the cranberries, and place all of the fruit into a glass pitcher. From there, add water and ice. Let sit for about an hour for a fully infused, festive flavor!

  • 1 apple
  • 6–8 raspberries
  • 1 fresh sprig of rosemary
  • 12 cups of water

Cut the apple into four slices, rinse the raspberries, and give the rosemary a gentle rub to release its essential oils. Place the items together in a pitcher of water, and let sit at room temperature or chill overnight for a deeper flavor.

  • 1 pear
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • Fresh, grated ginger
  • 12 cups of water

Cut the pear into thin slices and combine with the cinnamon sticks and grated ginger in a pitcher of water. Let ingredients sit for an hour before serving.

 

No matter which of these recipes you choose to make for your holiday gatherings, you’ll be left feeling hydrated, healthy, and satisfied. Which of these fruit-infused holiday beverages sounds the best to you? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

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DIY Stocking Stuffers: Using Water for Holiday Cheer

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… But what’s that? Oh no, they’re bare!

 

Running out of time to finish your last-minute holiday shopping? As the holidays are quickly approaching, we have some creative DIY stocking stuffer projects that you can easily create for your loved ones this season. Made out of household materials—like water, our favorite crafting tool—you’ll see how reusing everyday items can make some seriously cool and original gifts.

 

Snow Globes 

Image via Wikimedia

Need a way to repurpose those fast food meal toys your kids keep around the house? These DIY snow globes transform their toys into unique gifts.

What you’ll need:

  • Mason jar
  • Figurine
  • Water
  • Glycerin (optional)
  • Glitter
  • Super glue

What to do:

  • Grab an old figurine to use for the focal point of your snow globe
  • Place a liberal amount of glue on the bottom of the figurine and place it inside of the lid
  • Fill the jar with water (you can also add glycerin at this step so that the glitter will float better)
  • Screw the lid on tight, and seal it with super glue so it won't leak

You’re now ready to shake your snow globe and watch the scene come to life!

Lava Lamps 

Image via Wikimedia

Water is one of the only materials necessary for this groovy DIY project.

What you'll need:

  • An empty jar
  • Water
  • Food dye
  • Vegetable oil
  • Antacid tablet

What to do:

  • Fill the empty jar 1/3 with water, then fill the remaining 2/3 with the vegetable oil. Leave about an inch of space towards the top.
  • Add drops of food coloring until you reach a desired color
  • Break an antacid tablet into pieces inside the jar
  • Screw the lid on tight and watch the bubbles fizz and move

This stocking stuffer is guaranteed hours of fun—the lava lamp effect can happen as many times as you break a new antacid tablet.

Block Crayons 

Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Have a few dozen broken crayons lying around that the kids don’t use anymore? Yeah, we thought so. Give their favorite coloring tool a facelift with the help of a simple cake pan and kitchen knife in this craft.

What you'll need:

  • Kitchen knife
  • Old crayons
  • Cake tins (preferably with shapes)

What to do:

  • Peel the wrappers off crayons by running them under warm water and scraping off any remaining wrapper pieces with a knife
  • Parents: cut the crayons into tiny pieces no bigger than a pea
  • Be sure to keep the colors separate so your kids can arrange them how they want
  • While they're arranging their colors, preheat the oven to 150 degrees
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the wax melts
  • Remove the shapes from the tin after they cool down. (If they stick to the pan, place them in the freezer for about an hour to help them pop out) 

 

With your finished products, you will have brand-new crayons that kids (especially the toddlers in your life) can use—all without going out and spending money on new crayons!

 

Skip the store lines and expensive gifts this holiday season by showing your loved ones you care with thoughtful handmade gifts. We hope that you’ve enjoyed these fun and watery crafts and that you’re able to use them this holiday season. To keep up your DIY streak by making your own festive holiday candles, head here.

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Defining Aqua’s core values

 

By Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin

At Aqua, we are on a mission to protect and provide earth’s most essential resource. We provide 85 billion gallons of water to more than 3 million people each year, and we then return it to our rivers and streams using the highest environmental standards. Our company’s employees understand the importance of the services we provide, and the great responsibility that accompanies our work.

As a company, we are guided by three main pillars: our mission, our vision and our core values. Last year, we set out on a process to better define our core values, the principles that embody the character of our company and inspire our work together. These values are inherently embedded within our business practices and our behavior so I looked at this as a discovery quest.

We used an extremely inclusive process to determine these tenets. Guided by Aqua’s mission and vision, our Aqua Ambassador employee engagement team worked with members of the company to understand the key concepts that are most highly valued by employees. We then distilled the concepts into an employee survey in which our staff described the Aqua culture, told us what was important to them in their personal and work lives and shared the values that they believe guide our company.

I was honestly impressed with what we uncovered through this enlightening process, and am proud of the core values that we have developed to help guide our work in a more formal way. They are: integrity, respect and the pursuit of excellence to be the best we can be for our customers, shareholders and communities.

Integrity

“Integrity” and “honesty” are words that were repeated by employees to describe both themselves and how they view Aqua. Our team views integrity as being honest and transparent with coworkers, customers, and shareholders. It means being careful and trustworthy to those in both their work and personal lives and displaying good character through thoughtful actions and decisions. This focus on integrity helps us to provide the best possible customer experience, day in and day out, and helps to promote a positive work environment at Aqua.

Respect

Given the nature of our business, respect is embedded into so much that we do. Our employees show this respect by being committed to one another; by respecting the work-life balance that all employees deserve; by showing our customers excellent service and committing to the communities we serve by protecting the environment and earth’s water supply through infrastructure investments, community outreach and sustainable business practices. 

Pursuit of Excellence

As employees and as a company, our pursuit of excellence is unyielding. Our employees grow as professionals to continually meet the tremendous responsibility of providing water to our communities, and we demonstrate the highest level of care with each customer by always being knowledgeable and by treating them with a level of service that we would provide to one of our own family members. As a company, we make safety a priority by properly training and providing tools to employees to make sure that they are aware of risks, working responsibly and following safe practices. And finally, we all work together to reach Aqua’s responsible and strategic growth objectives and demonstrate our commitment to shareholder value.

By safeguarding these core values of integrity, respect and the pursuit of excellence, Aqua continues to make important contributions to each community we serve. We do this each day when we ensure public safety through our commitment to firefighters; when we help communities become attractive for economic development and job growth; when we protect our watersheds, lakes and streams; and when we provide necessary infrastructure for clean, safe drinking water.

I am grateful for the many Aqua employees who helped us to define these core values, and I enjoy working side by side with them each day to make sure we are living these values to the benefit of each other, our customers, our shareholders and the communities we serve. 

 

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