​Employees feeling a ripple effect

At Aqua, we believe our mission, vision and core values shape us as an exceptional company. They enable us to go above and beyond, making a positive impact on water, the environment, our communities and our work together. The Ripple Effect initiative represents our continued commitment to reinforcing these ideals – now and in the future. There are four areas that contribute to these efforts: volunteering, Aqua's charitable trust, work-life balance and knowledge sharing. Here are stories from just a few of the Aqua employees who are feeling a ripple effect.

Steve Dunnahoe
Aqua Texas 
Work-life balance
Aqua understands encouraging healthy work-life balance is good for employees and their families.

Aqua Texas Business Development Manager Steve Dunnahoe and his family celebrated a milestone this year when his son Chase graduated from high school as valedictorian. When Steve and his wife, Susan, sent a letter to the school thanking everyone who taught their son over the years, the principal told Steve that his regular visits to Chase's elementary school helped set a foundation for his son's success.

"Chase's teachers told me that a big part of any young person's success is support from their parents," Dunnahoe said. "When Chase was in first through sixth grades, I made it a priority to go to his school cafeteria and have lunch with him and his classmates as often as I could. I believe his current success is in part because of my consistent presence at school, and I was able to do that because Aqua's Fort Worth office is less than a mile from his school." 

Chase's teachers said his father's support helped motivate him to become a stronger student.

"This isn't a utility success story," said Dunnahoe, "but it's a success story about how my working at Aqua helped my son get where he is."

Chase Dunnahoe will attend the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas this fall.

Steve Dunnahoe and family at son Chase's high school graduation.

Shenita St. Clair
Aqua America
Work-life balance
Aqua Call Center Representative Shenita St. Clair celebrates her first anniversary at Aqua this month. Having worked in other call centers for more than 10 years, St. Clair, who works in Cary, North Carolina, said she feels like her dream has come true at Aqua.

"Aqua puts in the effort to help employees succeed," said St. Clair. "I have flexibility in terms of handling operations and making changes. My work here is recognized, and I feel appreciated and valued." St. Clair said she appreciates Aqua's training and direct interaction with supervisors.

St. Clair has two boys, aged 10 and 11. As a single parent, she said she appreciates Aqua's Monday through Friday work week for call center representatives. St. Clair also attends Durham Technical Community College, where she's pursuing a degree in office administration with a minor in accounting.

St. Clair was one of the representatives who temporarily relocated to Bryn Mawr when a fire in the building that houses Aqua's southern call center was uninhabitable due to the smell of smoke. While in Bryn Mawr, St. Clair and her co-workers had the opportunity to meet Aqua's Chairman and CEO Chris Franklin, who thanked them for their extraordinary service. St. Clair noted that this is the first job where she's been able to meet senior leaders. 

"It's comforting to say I work at a company that really cares for me," she said.
 
Shenita St. Clair
 
Jeff Bickel
Aqua Pennsylvania
Knowledge sharing & Aqua Charitable Trust
Aqua donates money from its charitable trust to enrich lives throughout the communities it serves and in developing countries, and to advocate for the environment. Over the years, Aqua has formed important partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations such as Villanova University.

Aqua's partnership with Villanova University's College of Engineering provides engineering resources, water infrastructure expertise and financial support for the school's international service work. As part of this partnership, senior leadership, engineers and water quality experts with Aqua traveled with Villanova faculty and students to Nicaragua and Panama to provide mentorship opportunities, hands-on water quality expertise and foundation support.

Aqua Pennsylvania's Director of Production Jeff Bickel traveled twice to Nicaragua to help build water systems for a community and a school. Bickel said he was glad to have the chance to serve. 

"When I was asked if I'd like to go to Nicaragua with the Villanova students, I thought, when will you ever have an opportunity to see Nicaragua? And I liked the idea of helping the community deliver clean water to its families," he said.

Bickel said the work was difficult but rewarding, and he enjoyed the experience. 

"The students and the Nicaraguans were awesome," said Bickel. "The community has the most resourceful people I've ever met." 

Bickel also noted that he formed bonds with the other two Aqua employees on his trips.
 
Jeff Bickel and Aqua Illinois Director of Operations Colton Janes in Nicaragua.

Jennifer Knotts
Aqua Indiana
Volunteering
Aqua Indiana employees and their family members have made the Water for People 5K Run & Walk in Indianapolis an annual tradition. Water for People is a nonprofit international organization founded by the American Water Works Association to support developing countries in creating sustainable drinking water and sanitation facilities, and in general health and hygiene education.

Jennifer Knotts, administrative assistant for Aqua Indiana President Tom Bruns, spearheads this effort for Aqua employees statewide. 

"Tom has been an active participant for many years," said Knotts. "He asked me if I wanted to help, and I said yes! I've enjoyed knowing we help raise money for clean water for those who don't have it. It's an amazing feeling knowing you can help others with something most take for granted." 

Knotts handles all of the registrations for Aqua Indiana employees and their families. She also designs tee shirts for their team and coordinates meet-up times and locations. More than 50 Aqua participants took part in last year's event.

Bruns and his wife Sandy first took part in the Water for People walk in 2012. 

"I was so inspired by the cause and event that I invited employees from all of Aqua Indiana to participate in the following years," said Bruns. "We eventually entered the Aqua team in the corporate challenge competition. This has been a very rewarding experience for myself, my family and my colleagues. It's always well attended, and everyone enjoys a great morning walk along the canal in downtown Indianapolis."

Aqua Indiana sponsors the event and pays for all registrations for Aqua employees and their families and friends.
Jennifer Knotts and her family at the Water for People 5K Run & Walk.

Aqua's Ripple Effect initiative was introduced in November 2017. Read more about Aqua's Ripple Effect initiative.
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Monsoon madness: What’s this watery summer weather?

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 cease 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! 

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 infrastructure and 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 and regularly 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. 

What does this look like in your neighborhood?

Once an acquisition is complete and upgrades are underway, how does this affect the new communities Aqua serves?

View two town success stories in Manteno, IL, and Media, PA, to see how Aqua works with community leaders to ensure water quality and service to customers. 

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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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