It all began in 1886 when a group of engineering professors from Swarthmore College in southeastern Pennsylvania became concerned about the safety of the local water supply. With typhoid fever surfacing in nearby towns, they were taking no chances. They abandoned their wells and established their own water company with one primary goal: to protect public health. Starting that home-grown organization, Springfield Water Company, was like throwing a pebble in a pond.
These educators could not have imagined the huge ripple effects that would be produced by their tiny venture, which served the residents of a small village. The company ultimately grew into Aqua America, a publicly traded, water- and wastewater-utility holding company, serving about three million people in 10 states.
The company’s 125-year journey has been an adventure with growth, expansion, building and modernization. Throughout the years, the company’s core mission has remained true to its origins: to provide quality water in a way that ensures public health and environmental quality.
“We’ve always been the industry leader for sustainability of our product and environmental protection, long before those two phrases became the mantra,” said Nick DeBenedictis, Aqua America chairman and CEO. “To meet those goals, we have made huge capital investments in our infrastructure. We are an engineering and technology-driven company that strives for excellence in our product.”
During DeBenedictis’ 20-year tenure, the company has experienced unprecedented growth through acquisitions. Focusing on its core business of water and wastewater utilities, Aqua has completed more than 250 ventures, which have quadrupled its customer base and more than tripled the number of employees, from approximately 500 to 1,700.
“Our vision for growth through acquisition was driven by the need for greater efficiency in our country’s water systems,” explained DeBenedictis, the company’s longest-serving chairman.
“The United States has more than 50,000 water systems, and less than one percent of these systems serve more than 100,000 people. Much of the infrastructure dates back to the early 1900s. A huge capital investment is necessary over the next 20 years for our country’s systems to meet more stringent federal and state drinking-water regulations and standards. By acquiring smaller, less efficient, less well-capitalized companies and investing in improvements, Aqua is helping to meet this need.
“At the same time, this growth strategy benefits our customers and employees, as well as our investors,” he added. “Since 1992, we’ve increased our value to shareholders from $100 million market capitalization to about $4.5 billion market capitalization.”
For more information about Aqua America & Nicholas DeBenedictis check out:
What it Means to Lead: Nicholas DeBenedictis, Chairman, CEO, and President of Aqua America, Inc.
Pennoni Honors Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis with Award
Aqua America NY Times Section