Winter is Freezing—But Your Pipes Don’t Have to Be

As we all know, winter is here, and that means it’s cold outside. While you can keep yourself warm by throwing on another jacket or blanket, it’s important to remember that your pipes don’t have the same option. The water inside them can freeze and expand, causing major problems throughout the winter season.

Want to avoid that nightmare? We want to help you do so. We’ve recruited the help of our old friends Fred Wags and Felicia Fluff to help teach you the steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes.  

Step One: Thaw

If your pipes are starting to freeze, follow Fred’s lead and grab a hair dryer. Hold it about six inches away from the frozen area of the pipe, and move it back and forth to thaw out the pipes and get your water flowing again.

Step Two: Insulate 

Fred and Felicia are keeping warm, but that’s because they have fur. Pipes don’t have jackets or fur, so insulation is the next best thing! If you’re unsure about how to insulate your pipes, check out this video by the U.S. Department of Energy. Make sure you follow the step-by-step instructions to insulate the pipes in the cold areas of your house so you don’t have to worry about breaking out the hair dryer again.

Step Three: Open Doors

While we aren’t telling you to keep any major entry or exit points open, there are a few doors in your house that should stay ajar this winter season. Any cabinet doors underneath a sink should be left open to allow hot air to flow in and warm up the pipes. Just make sure Fred and Felicia don’t get their paws on anything they shouldn’t!

Step Four: Remove Hoses

Before it gets too cold, make sure to go outside and pack your hoses away for the winter. It sounds simple, but this quick action will keep hoses from getting exposed to the elements, freezing or getting damaged over the winter months.

Step Five: Keep Water Running

Felicia and Fred are thirsty little creatures, and if you want to keep them hydrated, listen up. Make sure to keep the water source furthest away from your heater running with a small stream if the temperature outside gets below 10 degrees. Moving water doesn’t freeze, so this trick will ensure that your pipes don’t, either.

Step Six: Eliminate Drafts 

If you want to keep Fred, Felicia and your pipes warm, it’s important to eliminate any drafts you have coming into your house. Your pets will be happier, and you will be too. If you’re not quite sure how to fix drafts, this guide from This Old House should send you in the right direction.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about ways to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter season. Fred and Felicia are feeling confident the pipes won't freeze this winter, and you should too.

Stay warm, and stay safe!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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