Aqua Illinois Focuses on Carrying Out Our Mission

World Water Day was one week ago today! This annual event, which focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of fresh water resources, falls on March 22 every year. It is Aqua’s mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource: water. In recognition of World Water Day, we are spotlighting the efforts being put forth by one of Aqua’s eight state operations. Aqua Illinois Regional Environmental Compliance Manager Kevin Culver is passionate about Aqua Illinois’ efforts to execute our mission; this is his story.

 

Water quality and water sustainability are incredibly important to the team at Aqua Illinois. As the regional environmental compliance manager, I am responsible for maintaining a high standard of water quality, carrying out our source water protection plan, and overseeing our company’s environmental efforts to improve the water sources close to home. 

 

At Aqua, we believe that the cleaner the source water, the better the drinking water quality for our customers. At most of our facilities, we do not control the water sources or land adjacent to them, so we must rely on our customers and partners to assist us with keeping our water as clean as possible. To better ensure success in this area, Aqua Illinois organizes and participates in various outreach and education efforts. Some of these are specifically aimed at local youth, because we believe that children can get involved and bring home a lasting message that what they do in their back yard will impact their water or someone else’s water downstream.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and The Pause for Patriotism community event.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and the Pause for Patriotism community event. 

 

Specifically, Aqua Illinois focuses a lot of attention on maintaining and enhancing the water quality of the Kankakee River. The Kankakee River is our water source for nearly 80,000 customers. Aqua Illinois works to raise awareness and educate the local community, lawmakers and the farming community, about the importance of the Kankakee River, not only as a water source, but as a natural resource to the entire area. Among the valuable information we have shared with the community about the river is the impact that nutrient runoff has on drinking water quality. One example of how our education efforts have worked is that farmers in our local areas are now planting cover crops and significantly reducing nutrient runoff.

Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes.

 Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes. 

 

To expand our education efforts and reach a larger audience, Aqua Illinois participates in various watershed conferences, including the recent Kankakee River Watershed Conference, which took place Feb. 10 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. These types of events give us great exposure and allow us to send our operators, engineers and area managers to connect with attendees and share their knowledge with larger groups of people. Aqua is serious about its commitment to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource, and the company as a whole takes pride in all of its efforts to achieve this commitment.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Reminder on World Water Day

A flow test is completed for a proposed water supply for a school in Waslala, Nicaragua.

By Aqua President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Franklin

Every year, the United Nations’ World Water Day serves as a reminder that access to clean, safe water is a struggle for many communities throughout the world. For 663 million people – double the number of people living in the United States – water sources may be scarce, contaminated or far away. In fact, many people trek to streams and rivers with buckets and horses to carry home enough water for just one day.

This World Water Day, I’m reflecting on Aqua America’s mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource - water, and the part our employees are playing to bring quality drinking water to homes in other areas of the world.

Our efforts to make a positive difference stem from a combination of our corporate giving and volunteerism programs. It’s part of my commitment, our senior team’s commitment, and our employees’ commitment to be caring corporate citizens for the neighborhoods we serve, and those internationally that can benefit from our expertise.

So in 2016, we took our mission global and partnered with Villanova University to provide better access to water in communities in Nicaragua and Panama.  

In Nicaragua, we are working with Villanova engineering professors and students, as well as the local community, to build a water distribution system for the people in Kasquita. Currently, the 140 people living in this very isolated town use surface water from one of three nearby streams for all their needs.

A flow test is completed on the two springs that combined make up one water source for Kasquita, Nicaragua.

Aqua employees were on site in Kasquita earlier this month to participate in the groundbreaking on this project. During the trip, we worked to provide the rock base for two spring sources, which will act as the main water supply for the town, and surveyed the town to see if higher elevation homes could potentially be served by the system.

The location where our group stayed, which is home to a couple and their seven children. 

While this project will take a while to complete, we are excited at the prospect of providing a fully-functioning water distribution system to people who need it. For the people of Kasquita, this project is life-changing. Not only will it eliminate the need to use surface water, it will create a household connection to each home in the town. It’s also transformative for the Aqua employees participating in the project. They have lived and worked with the families who will be served by the water system, learning from them and listening to the appreciation they have firsthand.

The backyard and water source of a home in Kasquita, Nicaragua.

While this project is just in the beginning stages, it certainty won’t be the last project we have in Nicaragua. Aqua team members are already participating in project evaluations to provide reliable, clean water to the children’s local school centers. 

In Panama, we are working with Villanova to enhance a water system currently providing water on an alternating basis to half the population in the town of Agua Fría every other day. Over the 2016 holiday season, we provided supervision as Villanova students and local community members fixed a water collection tank, removing concerns of structural integrity and the potential for leaks. Now that the tank repairs are in place, we plan to join Villanova in an upcoming trip to Panama to replace supply lines that will allow each household in the community to have access to water each and every day.

Not only will the people of these remote regions in Nicaragua and Panama have daily access to running water in their homes, but the water will also be filtered to ensure it is potable for cooking, drinking, cleaning, bathing and so on. This eliminates any potential health risks from surface water that can be contaminated with chemicals, particulates and bacteria.

It’s important to me that we share our time, treasure and talents to make the world a better place. It’s is humbling to work with Villanova University to provide mentorship to the next generation of engineers and to bring water to more people.  Last week, four students presented their project work at a lunch n’ learn event for our employees. Hearing these budding engineers talk about how our projects are leading them down new service-oriented paths they never imagined allows us to recognize that we’re making a difference in central America, and also, in the lives of these students.

The next generation of Villanova University engineers shared their experiences with Aqua in Bryn Mawr.

Access to clean, safe water is something many of us take for granted. On World Water Day, I challenge you to consider the ways you use water, and reflect on how you can join with us to protect Earth’s most essential resource.

 

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What to Plant on the First Day of Spring

Happy Spring! Now is the exciting time when we prepare for warmer weather, gorgeous colors to sprout, and wonder what greenery will be the first to debut in our gardens?

While the best time for plants to thrive may change based on the Plant Hardiness Zone in various areas, the following flowers and crops are happiest when planted in the earlier days of spring.

 

1. Hellebores

Hellebores are an excellent way to jumpstart a spring garden. These hearty evergreens come in a variety of colors and thrive in colder temperatures, sometimes blooming before the snow has even melted!

Here’s the secret to these eager bloomers: They don’t have true flowers. Hellebores have a modified calyx, or a protective covering of a typical flower bud. This makes the plant simple to care for and a welcome sight early in the season.

 

2. Pansies

Pansies are another colorful choice that handle cold temperatures well. If you’re still hesitant to spend too long in the cold, though, seedlings will thrive indoors for six to eight weeks.

One lesser-known perk of pansies is that certain species make a tasty, minty garnish. But be careful: To avoid consuming dangerous pesticides, it’s best to grow edible pansies from organic seeds.

 

3. Wildflowers

Wildflowers are one of the simplest flowers to take care of since they can be sown at almost any time of the year. Plus, once they grow four to six inches in height, natural rains will sustain them.

Most importantly, wildflowers attract honeybees, which are responsible for 80 percent of crop pollination in the United States. While you may be tempted to spray pesticides to avoid stings, enticing honeybees is vital to the long-term health of your garden—and yourself!

 

4. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a versatile crop that grows best when temperatures consistently reach the 60s, although you can plant the seeds while the ground is still frosty.

Cauliflower can be consumed in a variety of delicious ways, which makes this plant particularly alluring to grow. You can serve it raw, as cauliflower rice or even as a pizza crust!

 

5. Salad Greens

Salad greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale and arugula all favor beating the summer heat. Best of all, some of these crops will be ready for your plate in less than two months.

If the cold lingers or you are unsure about the quality of your soil, salad greens will grow well in pots or other raised containers. Just remember that all spring seedlings rely on warmer soil temperatures, not just air.

 

What plants will you try out in your garden this Spring? Let us know!

 

 

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5 Things You Never Knew About Rainbows

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! With festivities in full swing, we thought now would be a good time to discuss one thing frequently associated with the Irish holiday. No, not four-leaf clovers. We’re talking about the breathtaking optical trick that cannot exist without water: a rainbow!

Did you know it’s impossible to reach the end of a rainbow? We’ll explain all that and more.

 

Connection to St. Patrick’s Day

Why are leprechauns and rainbows commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, anyway? In Irish folklore, leprechauns are often seen urging people to seek out the pot of gold they’ve left at the end of a rainbow.

Here’s the thing, though: The end of a rainbow in unreachable, because whenever you move, the rainbow moves with you! Despite the fact that a leprechaun’s gold is unattainable, rainbows remain a staple of St. Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish.

 

A Complex Science of Water and Light

Every rainbow is made up of two simple ingredients: water and sunlight. However, the process of creating a rainbow isn’t as simple as merely mixing water with light and expecting a colorful arc. The sun’s rays are made up of many different colors, but we most often perceive them as white light. When the colorful rays of light hit raindrops at a specific angle, the light both reflects and refracts through each individual raindrop as it passes through. This allows the beautiful colors of the rainbow to disperse and become visible to the human eye. Yay, science!

 

Double Rainbow? Triple Rainbow? Quadruple Rainbow

Double rainbows occur when the light passing through a raindrop refracts more than once. It’s even possible for three or four refractions to occur within a single drop, resulting in multiple rainbows. This is incredibly rare, though, so consider yourself extremely lucky if you witness one.

 

You Can Make Your Own! 

If you don’t feel like waiting for a rainstorm to pass in order to see a rainbow, you’re in luck. As mentioned earlier, all it takes to create a brilliant rainbow is a bit of water and sunlight. Grab your garden hose on a sunny day, face away from the sun and spray a fine mist—a rainbow is more than likely to form before your eyes!

 

Exclusively Earthly Wonder…Maybe?

Arguably one of the coolest and most unique facts about rainbows is that only Earth’s atmosphere is capable of creating and sustaining the optical visual of a rainbow. Some scientists think Saturn’s moon, Titan, is wet and humid enough for the creation of rainbows, but there likely isn’t enough direct sunlight for it to happen. For the time being, us Earthlings have some serious solar system bragging rights.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all of us at Aqua! Wherever you are, we hope you catch a glimpse of a rainbow very soon. Just remember: Don’t go chasing it and expecting to find gold!

 

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Snow Storms, Road Salt and Drinking Water Quality – What’s the Connection?

Most people don’t make a connection between salting their sidewalks, driveways and roads, and their drinking water, but there is a connection.

Believe it or not, road salts were not used in the U.S. until after 1942. Prior to then, abrasives (ash and cinders, sand) were typically used. After World War II, the expansion of the federal highway system helped facilitate the widespread use of road salts in highway safety. Today, 8 to 12 million tons of road salts are applied on highways every year. In 2016 alone, highway deicing consumed about 44 percent of the 42 million tons of total salt produced in the U.S.  


So, what does the salt placed on roads, highways and sidewalks have to do with drinking water? Well, it’s simple. When the snow melts, the road salt eventually runs off into storm drains and ends up in a local stream or river. As a result, sometimes water might taste a little salty immediately after the snow melts. It can also eventually make its way into the groundwater.

Over the past several decades, there has been an increasing trend in the levels of sodium and chloride in fresh water streams and rivers. Salt is very difficult to remove from water without using desalination equipment, which is not a practical technology for most water supplies that are not in desert areas. Salt in streams and other fresh water sources has a major impact on the fish and other aquatic life that cannot tolerate the salt levels. Salt actually sticks around in the streams and rivers and gradually makes them more salty over time.

So, what can we do? We need salt to keep our roads, highways and sidewalks safe. Balancing the need for safety with protecting drinking water supplies has been a challenge water suppliers, environmental organizations, and highway administrators, from the Great Lakes to New England, have been working to solve for some time now. Here are a couple of things you can do because every spoonful of salt counts. 

  • Use salt brine application prior to a snow event. Many highway organizations already do this, which saves money and makes roads safer.
  • Do not dump deicing salts onto storm drains to unblock a frozen drain. If you can’t clear them by hand, use hot water instead.
  • Don’t dump left over rock salt and deicing chemicals onto the ground or down storm drains. Talk to your local municipality about the best way to dispose these leftover chemicals.
  • Consider alternatives, such as beet juice, to salt pavements and driveways when possible. The sugars in beet juice have been used for deicing in areas around the Great Lakes. These are also typically pet-friendly as well, although, you should always check the label to confirm.
  • Try shoveling your sidewalk or driveway first, and let the sun to melt the sidewalk. Use salt on hard-to-melt areas.

The following articles by Steve Corsi from United States Geological Survey provide a more in-depth look at the science of road salt and its impact on streams, rivers and aquatic organisms:

Evaluating chloride trends due to road-salt use and its impacts on water quality and aquatic organisms

River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons

 

 

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