Monsoon madness: What’s this watery summer weather?

Photo by Flickr user John Fowler

It’s easy to forget about types of weather that occur outside of our own backyards, especially during the summer months of sunshine. The wonders of our planet and its most essential resource never seize to amaze us, though, and that’s why we’re so fascinated by a summer weather phenomenon called monsoons.  

A monsoon, according to National Geographic, is a seasonal change in the winds of the area that alter the climate of the region. This phenomenon is common in areas close to the Indian Ocean, like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladeshand Myanmar, but it also occurs in the southwestern United States. Clearly, our eight Aqua states don’t typically see this type of weather, so we’re extra curious about it! 

A monsoon in New Mexico

There are two kinds of monsoons: dry and wet. A wet monsoon causes heavy rain in a region, while a dry monsoon does the opposite. This video from NASA does a great job of explaining how and why monsoons form. 

 

Monsoons mostly affect North America in the middle of summer, from July to September. In fact, states like New Mexico and Arizona get half of their annual rainfall during monsoon season. Fun fact: The wettest monsoon recorded in U.S. history was in 1984, with 9.56 inches of fallen rain. These records include numbers traced back to 1896. 

Usually, monsoons are beneficial to the areas they affect. Because these storms often occur after long periods of drought, the moisture they bring is replenishing and fruitful to the plants in the ecosystem. The high levels of rain can also aid firefighters battling wildfires in extremely dry areas.

Not all effects of monsoons are simple and benign, though. Since the affected land has often been bone-dry for so long, it can only soak up so much water at once. The rest of the water sits on top of the parched land, causing flash floods even from small amounts of rain. On top of flooding, monsoons can also bring lightning storms and massive dust storms called haboobs that can pose additional safety concerns for the affected communities, especially for people caught off guard while driving.

People who live in parts of the U.S. where monsoons occur are usually aware of necessary precautions. But for tourists, business travelers, or even new neighbors in the southwest, it’s important to know how to prep for monsoon season. In fact, paying attention to weather forecasts and having an emergency supply kit on hand are good summer weather tips for people living in any part of the country, especially during Hurricane Season.

What other types of watery weather pique your interest? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter

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What does it take to acquire and upgrade a water system?

 

Let’s be frank: Operating and maintaining water systems is not an easy task, especially when they need tons of infrastructural improvements.  

Earlier in our Aquastructure blog series, we shed a bit of light on the state of our nation’s water infrastructureand pointed out that most of the pipelines we depend on each and every day were built at the start of the 20thcentury. In the present day, all of that infrastructure is near the end of its life, which means that upkeep and updates are a pressing need. 

Considering those challenges, how does a company like Aqua continue to provide efficient and affordable service? It all comes down to the water systems Aqua acquires, along with regular updates to existing infrastructure.

Craig Blanchette, president of Aqua Illinois, checked in to give us some insight into Aqua’s acquisition and upgrade processes. 


Blanchette (third from right in sunglasses) with fellow Aqua Illinois employees during a local volunteer project.

More water, less problems

Since 1995, Aqua has acquired more than 300 water systems, most of which are from municipalities (which own 85 percent of the nation’s water systems). However, sometimes those systems come from other sources, such as smaller regulated utilities, homeowners associations, water and sewer districts, and developer-owned systems. 

As the number of water systems in Aqua’s network grows, the efficiency and affordability of its services grow, too. The theory at play here is “economies of scale,” which is the economic principle that the more goods or services can be produced at a larger scale, the higher the savings in costs.

“By adding customers, Aqua is able to spread these fixed costs over a larger customer base, alleviating much of the burden from our new and existing customers,” Blanchette explains. 

What happens if Aqua wants to acquire a new system?

When Aqua is preparing to acquire a new system, typically Aqua and the other party—whether it’s a municipality or some other organization—begin by sitting down and talking shop (think inspections and negotiations). This can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. The goal is to create a partnership which benefits the community.

After that, an asset purchase agreement is created, which outlines all the details of the transaction, such as pricing and inclusion of assets. The APA must then be approved by the state public utility commission, which takes about six months to a year. During the PUC approval process, an administrative law judge takes on the case, and expert witnesses, like engineers, accountants and financial advisors, must evaluate and vouch for the legitimacy and benefits of the proposed acquisition. 

Once the agreement is reviewed, modified and approved by the administrative law judge it is then forwarded to the PUC for its final approval. Once this is complete, Aqua can sit down with the seller and officially take ownership.  

And then it’s smooth sailing?

With the right due diligence, yes! A lot of these existing water systems must be assessed to ensure everything is up to speed. In most cases, many of the system’s assets are underground and cannot be easily inspected.

“In these cases, we rely heavily on the maintenance records of the municipality in determining where future replacements are needed,” Blanchette notes. 

The most common upgrade is water main replacements, which are predominantly located underground and are often left out of a municipality’s investment plan. Blanchette adds that water service lines, main line valves and fire hydrants are also among the areas of a water system that may need more attention. 

“These assets are incredibly important because they are the backbone of any community,” Blanchette says. “Reliability of a water system is important in providing Earth’s most essential resource.” 

Whenever Aqua acquires a new system, they prepare a new capital investment plan to help determine where and when adjustments and updates are needed in each system’s infrastructure. Aqua then reevaluates that plan to determine future improvement needs. From that point forward, investment in the existing infrastructure is constant. 

It seems to be a team effort.

Very much so! Aqua works closely with the communities it serves andregularly meets with community members to coordinate all these infrastructure improvement projects. 

For example, if Aqua wants to do a water main or sewer replacement, they’ll first run it by the local road authority to plan resources accordingly. 

 

“If a road authority is planning to resurface a roadway where Aqua is also looking to replace a water or sewer main, it saves our customers the cost of restoring the roadway,” Blanchette explains.  

Now that is what we call synergy. 

Thanks for tuning in, water and sewer connoisseurs! We’ll see you next month! 

 

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Waterful Tips for a Wonderful Vacation

Ah, summer: The perfect time to take a break from reality with a quick getaway surrounded by loved ones. Though plenty of vacation destinations this time of year revolve around water (think: beaches, pools and lakes), there are several other ways in which Earth’s most essential resource factors into your plans for getting out of town. 

Not sure what we’re talking about? Read on to see how you can ensure your summer vacation is a waterful one. 

Before you hit the road: 

●      This one’s obvious: Make sure any of your furry or feathered friends who are staying home are taken care of when it comes to food and water. Hydrated pets are happy pets!

●      While you’re at it, see if your pet sitter, a friend or a neighbor can stop by the house to water your plants. Different plants have different water needs, so do your research in advance to know how many visits to plan. 

●      Want to keep the yard in tip-top shape while you’re away? See if you can put your sprinklers on a timer system so that they automatically turn on throughout your trip. 

●      Does your swimming pool have an automatic cleaning pump? If so, ensure the pool is filled up with water before you head out so that the motor runs smoothly and doesn’t burn out. 

●      Take a walk through the house and make sure none of your faucets are leaking water. You certainly don’t want those leaks adding up while you’re away. 

●      Sign up for WaterSmart alerts from Aqua to stay up-to-date about any changes to your water service while you’re away so you’re not caught off-guard when you return. 

For the drive or flight:

●      If you drive to your destination, bring along a reusable water bottle that you fill up at home. That way, any time you stop somewhere for a bite to eat or to stretch your legs, you can refill it at a soda machine or water fountain. 

●      If you fly, you can still bring a reusable water bottle with you—just make sure it’s empty when you go through airport security! Afterward, you can fill it up at any food vendor’s soda machine or water fountain so you have plenty of water for the flight. 

●      Don’t forget: Plenty of foods contain water, too. Pack fruits and veggies to snack on during your trip so you stay hydrated—the tasty way. 

During the trip:

●      Remember that reusable water bottle you brought along? Always throw it in your beach bag or backpack no matter where you go.

●      Don’t forget to drink plenty of water even though you’ve pressed pause on your usual routine. For example, if you’re used to drinking water at your desk all day, it’s easy to forget to do so when you’re away from the office! Try setting reminders on your phone to make sure you — and the whole family — drink plenty of water on each day of your trip.

●      If you hit the beach, pool or lake, make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses to keep your skin safe from the bright sun. 

●      If you plan to be super active during your trip (think: hiking, surfing or other kinds of adventuring), consider bringing packets of powdered sports drink mixes to drop into your water bottle to keep your energy levels up.

●      Just for fun: Keep track of how many different types of water you encounter if you visit a new place. Between pools, oceans, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, the world is full of watery wonders! 

Whether your summer travels take you to the other side of the state or the other side of the world, remember that water is an invaluable part of everyday life, from the day-to-day tasks of home, to the adventures of a vacation. 

Have a safe, enjoyable and waterful trip! 

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Sweeten Your Summer with DIY Fruit-Filled Water Popsicles

With Memorial Day weekend just days away, people all across the country are dreaming up ways to stay cool and have some fun in the sun while celebrating the (unofficial) start to summer.

You might remember that during last year’s Drinking Water Week, we whipped up some tasty and healthy recipes to bring fruity flavors into your regular drinking water. Now, to shake things up a bit, we’re back with some ideas for how to transform those refreshing drinks into icy popsicles.

Here are four different types of water-based fruit popsicles to quench your thirst—and your sweet tooth!

What you need:

●      16 ounces of prickly pears

●      6 cups of water

●      Popsicle molds

What to do:

The first step is to get the juice out of the prickly pear. You can do this with a juicer or by scooping out the insides. Put the fruit and the water into a blender or food processor and blend everything to a smooth, watery consistency. Pour mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze. Once frozen, remove the popsicles from the mold and enjoy!

What you need:

●      6 cups of water

●      2 cups of blackberries

●      ½ cup of mint leaves

●      Popsicle molds

What to do:

Cut one and a half cups of blackberries in half. Mash one half cup of blackberries. Lightly chop all mint leaves. Combine mashed blackberries and lightly chopped mint leaves with water and warm over low heat for about 5 minutes to allow the mint to infuse with the water. Let the mixture cool and mix in halved blackberries. Pour everything into popsicle molds and let sit overnight before eating.

What you need:

●      2 limes

●      8 mint leaves

●      6 cups of water

●      Popsicle molds

What to do:

Juice and zest both limes. Lightly chop mint leaves. Combine the juice, zest, mint leaves and water. Warm over low heat for about 5 minutes to allow for the mint to infuse into the mixture. Allow everything to cool, and then pour into popsicle molds.

What you need:

●      6 cups of water

●      2 mandarin oranges, sliced into wedges

●      Handful of blueberries

●      Ice

●      Popsicle molds

What to do:

Juice one mandarin orange. Peel the other mandarin orange and slice into small wedges. Mix the juice, water, orange wedges and blueberries. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze overnight.

Get excited: You’re heading into Memorial Day weekend with four different types of popsicles to keep you and your family hydrated and happy. Tap into our Facebook and Twitter pages to stay updated on more fun activities to do with water all summer long.

 

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Shedding light on the state of U.S. water infrastructure

 

From filling up the bathtub to boiling a pot of water to watering the plants, we rely on a ton of water for our daily needs and activities. 

And because water utilities like Aqua work so hard behind the scenes to make it seamless, it can be easy to take Earth’s most essential resource for granted. However, there’s a lot more that goes into our steady and reliable water supply than meets the eye. In fact, sometimes you have to go hundreds of feet underground to see it. 

The intricacies of water infrastructure tend to be out of sight and out of mind for many of us, and we wanted to shed a bit of light on the state of all those systems. So, we talked with Aqua Chairman and CEO Chris Franklin to get the scoop on the state of water infrastructure systems across the United States. 


Aqua Chairman and CEO Chris Franklin (left), employees and board members tour an Aqua facility in Illinois.

You mentioned water infrastructure. What does that look like?

First, let’s go back in time to the beginning of the 20thcentury, which is when the U.S. started laying miles and miles of pipelines deep within the Earth (one million miles, to be exact). These are the pipes that collect water from the ground and surface sources and transport it all the way to your tap. 

The good news is that underground water pipes last up to 100 years, so this infrastructure has provided us with reliable drinking water throughout the past century. The bad news, though, is that a lot of time has passed and those pipes desperately need to be replaced. 

How desperately? 

Well, every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers issues a report card on the current status of water and wastewater infrastructure across the nation. Let’s just say it wasn’t a report card you’d want to bring home to mom and dad. (Spoiler alert: the United States got a D). 

Here’s the thing: we are facing a very serious water quality challenge in the U.S. due to aging water systems, stringent drinking water and wastewater regulations, and budgetary constraints. The time to take action is now.

Tell me more about this dilemma…

According to Franklin, many aging water systems are falling behind because it’s simply too pricey for communities to upgrade or replace all those old, deteriorating pipelines. And we’re talking big bucks: according to the American Water Works Association, we need about $1 trillion over the next 20 years to get water infrastructure to where it should be. 

Most of the country’s water systems are municipally managed, and the truth of the matter is that municipalities having competing priorities for funds to improve and replace the pipes. They have to prioritize water projects with other needs like schools, police and fire departments, roadways, and bridges, which can be rather tricky. However, prolonging investment in water infrastructure improvements can have serious consequences on the safety and quality of our drinking water over time. 

“Although the challenge to the U.S. water infrastructure is less visible than other infrastructure concerns, it’s no less important,” Franklin reminds us.  


Pipes, pipes, and more pipes: Looks like infrastructure! 

What about Aqua’s water? 

“Since Aqua’s only focus is on water, Aqua customers can feel confident that we are actively updating and upgrading infrastructure to meet the needs of their families and communities,” Franklin says. 

This means new pipes, efficient treatments from the source through the plant, and sturdy storage tanks for all. Additionally, Franklin assures us that because investment in water infrastructure is a key pillar of Aqua’s business strategy, Aqua customers can continue to expect clean, safe, and reliable drinking water and wastewater services

Back to the infrastructure dilemma. There has to be a solution, right?

Thankfully, yes, and that’s where Aqua comes into play. Over the past several decades, Aqua has teamed up with and acquired many municipal and private water companies that are struggling to keep up with their water and wastewater systems and injected some much-needed capital into their aging water systems. 

Plus, when Aqua makes these infrastructure improvements, cost-effectiveness is always kept in mind. That means that we take measures like purchasing pipes in bulk and using scientific approaches to tracking main break history, pipe age and more to ensure that rate increases are kept to a minimum for the benefit of our customers.  

 Our board looks forward to any opportunity to learn more about Aqua’s infrastructure systems.

In just 2017 alone, Aqua invested a ton of money (as in more than $450 million) in water and wastewater infrastructure, and since 2007, Aqua has acquired (and drastically improved) 174 water and wastewater systems. Looking forward, you can expect Aqua to play a leading role in fixing up many of these deteriorating water systems. 

“Aqua is committed to renewing and improving water and wastewater infrastructure through thoughtful and continuous capital investment,” Franklin adds.

 The next time you take a sip of water or wash your hands in the sink, try to remember all the hard-working Aqua team members that are dedicated every day to bring you clean and safe water. See you back here next month, where we’ll reveal the best kept secret to safe, reliable drinking water.  

 

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