7 Tips to Make Your Neighbors Green With Envy

These water-conservation tips help create beautiful, eco-friendly gardens. Follow the list, save water, show up your neighbors.  

1. Locals know best. Just ask the plants.

 

Help your garden go back to its roots. In their eons of existence, native plants have cultivated an entire heritage. They fought the fight, adapted to the climate, and victoriously flourished—essentially, they know the land better than any other plants. Visit your nearby cooperative extension or botanical garden to research species! 

 

2. You cut grass. Grass cuts mulch costs. Mulch cuts water-loss.

With stuffed nose and balled fist, you may have cursed a pile of no-good grass clippings. But if used right, all that fresh-cut grass serves as a productive citizen of your yard. Spread mowed grass and ground-up leaves in flower and vegetable gardens for a free mulch supplement. 

 

3. Sorry James, imagination won’t get you your giant peach.

 

Now is the team to start watering your trees! If you want plump fruits, be sure to provide adequate soil moisture during April and May. 

 

4. Keep your plants social drinkers.

Some flowers enjoy the occasional sip of H20. Plant them far way in a “natural zone” where they can survive on rainfall. Others guzzle water down like a frat boys. Keep the thirsty guys together. Near the house, they can drink roof runoff. Think of it as Greek row, only the red cups contain water.

 

5. Do donuts. 

 

No, not in the grocery parking lot at 2 a.m., reliving your Jack-and-Diane days. Tending to shrubbery is a much safer, greener, and socially acceptable mid-life crisis. Form donut-shaped soil berms around young trees and shrubs. Then fill it up with water. The donut will let the roots absorb water slowly, a must for adolescent trees. 

 

6. April ______ bring May flowers. 

Something might be missing from the old nursery rhyme. We associate spring with rain, but don’t be an April fool—as the weather warms up and the days grow longer, you still should water your plants

 

7. Xeriscaping saves up to 80% of water.

 

Xeriscape” rolls off the tongue and flows like the water it saves. The water-conscious gardening technique can decrease consumption by 150 gallons a day. Avoid any water loss, use drought-tolerant plants and design gardens according to your location (see #1).

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Let’s Get Social Raffle Winners

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the announcement of the Lets Get Social raffle! We’d like to thank all of our customers for participating in the raffle, reading your bill inserts and helping to build our Facebook community and Twitter following during our first sweepstakes campaign. And now … the winners of three brand spankin’ new iPad Airs:

Congratulations to our winners:

Vikki R. from Bourbonnais, IL 

Noreen L. from Shamokin, PA

Lauren S. from Malvern, PA 

Even if you didn’t win, you’ve still technically won because now that you like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, you have even more options to get your customer service questions answered and learn about the most essential elements on the planet, water. So while you’re here, feel free to poke around and read a few blog posts to see what our extraordinary employees are up to, how we’re serving community or how we’re evolving to better serve our customers.

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Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future

I believe our commitment to sustainability is critical across all sectors. We can all help build the foundation for a sustainable future.

- Nicholas DeBenedictis, Chairman, President and CEO of Aqua America in a commentary titled “Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future published* in the spring issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine 

Companies all across America are evaluating how to reduce their environmental impact as it becomes clearer that we all need to take action to protect our environment for future generations. For some, this might mean using recycled materials for packaging, developing safer materials, using alternative fuel sources or streamlining operations to reduce waste. Private utilities, such as water companies, are no exception.

Water and energy share a close relationship – every process of the water system requires energy from initial treatment, delivery through pipes, the transportation of resources, and service representatives to keep systems up-to-date and address problems. Weighing in at eight pounds per gallon, keeping America’s water systems flowing is no small feat.

At Aqua America, we are pursuing different avenues to do our part. For instance, we are investing in vehicles for our fleet that will run on clean-burning compressed natural gas(CNG). CNG fuel can replace gasoline and diesel fuel and produces less undesirable air emissions when used. It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and dispenses quickly when released. 

Supplementing the environmental benefits, CNG is credited with creating more than 88,000 jobs in Pennsylvania to date, enhancing air quality and lowering energy costs, all while generating more than $389 million in state and local tax revenue.

At Aqua, we led the charge to utilize this resource nearly two decades ago. Aqua purchased its first bi-fuel pick-up truck in 1997. Today, we continue to add new vehicles to our fleet and plan to have a full fleet of CNG-fueled vehicles within the next five years.

To prepare for our upcoming transition to a full CNG fleet, we built a time-fill station at Aqua’s Springfield, Pa., operations center last year and we are working to install time-fill in four additional nearby operations centers. You can learn more about how natural gas vehicles operate here.

We also announced last week the receipt of a $225,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Act 13 fund. The grant will fund the purchase of nine dump trucks that run off of CNG to add to our growing alternative energy fleet. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett awarded the grant as a part of $7.7 million in total funding given to 25 companies and organizations in the state for natural gas vehicle conversion.

In 2013, Aqua received an Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) of $86,812 from the DEP for the purchase of 14 new CNG-fueled vans. Aqua also received two grants for approximately $70,000 for infrastructure and plans to install private fueling stations at its West Chester and Willow Grove Operations Centers. To date, we have invested $675,000 in CNG through vehicle purchases and infrastructure upgrades, including the construction of slow-fill fueling stations.

Our new CNG vans will be used to serve water customers in the inspection of pipeline restoration. So if you see us driving around, give us a honk or a wave!

* Access the full commentary from Nick DeBenedictis in the Spring Issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine

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Water for Elephants

Ann Lewis has been fascinated by elephants – or “ellies” as she affectionately calls them – ever since she was a child.

Before she joined Aqua’s Human Resources Department and became responsible for employee training and development, Ann began a personal mission to educate the public on the ivory trade crisis and elephant welfare.

For several years, Ann has supported the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a field organization in Kenya dedicated to rescuing orphaned elephants wandering alone in the wild after their families - tragically - have been killed by poachers for their tusks. These orphans are the youngest victims of the poaching crisis. She will be traveling to Africa this Fall to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and to also go on a safari, where she is excited about seeing wild elephants in their natural habitat.

Last year, Ann had the opportunity to volunteer at the world-renowned sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, where she personally interacted with elephants. This experience was life-changing and strengthened her already deep passion for saving elephants from extinction.

After her trip to Thailand, Ann participated in the International March for Elephants, held in Washington, D.C. last year. The march was as part of the iWorry campaign organized by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It was there that Ann and fellow activists decided to form Elephants DC, a non-profit organization, which aims to end the ivory trade and promote elephant welfare through education, advocacy and awareness.

Ann is also an active member of Animal ACTivists of Philly, where she protests the use of captive elephants in circuses.

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Ebb and Flow: Managing the Aging Water Infrastructure

All across America we have uninhibited access to clean and safe water. We often take this for granted because it is so accessible. Think of all the things you and your family use water for each and every day.

At the end of the day, it is estimated that the average American family uses 300 gallons of water at the cost of just one penny per gallon. Our water infrastructure is what makes all of this possible. However, it’s quickly becoming clear that our infrastructure is headed for trouble.

Most underground water pipes are expected to last up to 100 years. Unfortunately, America has over 700,000 miles of aging water pipes, including many of which are still in service well beyond their useful life. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes the necessary repairs to these water pipes are projected to cost $384 billion. Funding these repairs is complicated by the fact that the water industry is the most fragmented within our nation’s utility industry.

 

Currently we have 53,000 individual water systems that serve relatively small populations. The EPA found that more than 83 percent of them supply fewer than 3,300 people. Municipalities own the majority of these systems, but nearly 15 percent are privately owned. Both types of water system owners struggle to maintain their systems due to tight budgets and limited resources. Many of these water systems are falling behind because they cannot afford upgrades and/or they don’t have the resources to meet the increasingly rigid environmental and health regulations.

The good news is there are at least two solutions that can help get our water infrastructure where it needs to be. One such solution is a public-private partnership (PPP). Through this type of partnership, private funds are more readily available to municipalities to update infrastructure and invest in improvements and renovations to their aging water systems. Even better, the funds brought in through a PPP benefit more than just the water companies and consumers.

For example, the municipality of West Chester, PA entered a PPP back in 1996 when they were faced with needing to drastically increase water rates to afford a $15 million upgrade. They sold their system for $25 million and used the revenue to make the necessary upgrade, as well as retire existing debt and fund a desperately needed parking garage.

The second possible solution is an operations and maintenance (O&M) contract. An O&M contract focuses more on the day-to-day required maintenance of water systems. The private entity in this contract takes on routine tasks necessary to operate and maintain the utility in exchange for a service fee. One continuing success story is in Horsham, PA. The Horsham Water Authority began an O&M contract in 1997 that they have renewed annually since then. They’ve also expanded it to include additional services like water treatment, meter operations and system maintenance and repairs.

Maintaining clean and safe water is not just a goal, it’s a necessity. However, the government cannot bear all the costs of making these necessary repairs, nor should it have to. Teaming up with private water companies will save our infrastructure and keep clean water flowing to our taps. 

More Information: 

Keep It Flowing: Maintaining Municipal Water Systems

More PPP success stories here

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