Every Day is Earth Day at Aqua!

Aqua employees participate in stream clean up efforts throughout our eight states.

 By Aqua Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett

It’s always a good time to consider how we can be better stewards of our environment. At Aqua, we think about this question every day as we strive to carry out our mission of protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource. With Earth Day tomorrow, Saturday, April 22, we hope this question is on everyone’s minds, at Aqua and beyond.


As the vice president and chief environmental officer, I am routinely asked how Aqua is helping the planet and what we could be doing better. Let me take a moment to explain some specific things we’re doing and how they’ve made a difference in the environment. I’ll also explain our efforts to develop a sustainability plan for Aqua to help guide and improve our environmental impacts moving forward.

Believe it or not, there are more than 100 activities Aqua does company-wide to help protect the planet, and we do some of them every day.

Reducing Lost Water

Since only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh water, and only about a third of that, or less than one percent, is accessible, it’s our most significant responsibility as a water utility to manage our water resources carefully. One key daily activity that’s fundamental to our company’s sustainability is our ability to reduce water loss. We’re experts at replacing pipes, changing meters and re-using water in various ways. 

Keeping our Streams and Rivers Clean

Another aspect of our daily work is treating wastewater. Our nearly 175 wastewater plants return 26 million gallons of wastewater per day back into our streams and rivers cleaner than it came out. This water is not only critical to water supplies, but it’s also critical to the multitude of fish and flora that need it to survive. 

Aqua employees at the Media Wastewater Plant in PA.

Protecting our Water Supplies for Future Generations

Protecting the aquifers, streams and rivers that supply our water is also a critical daily function. In Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, teams work to manage lakes and reservoirs and protect the streams that feed them to keep their quantity and quality sustainable. This involves preserving lands, monitoring our streams, planting trees, educating communities and local leaders, partnering with environmental or watershed groups, conducting stream cleanups, or providing input on local development and local ordinances. Aqua Illinois recently won the American Water Works Association (AWWA) source water protection award for their efforts.  

Reducing Waste From Our Business

Treating water also creates waste from the things we take out of the water and wastewater to clean it. At our water plants, we use belt filter presses to drain water from the sludge from treatment to reduce the amount we need to send to landfills. We have also explored and use efforts to beneficially reuse the waste from wastewater treatment to put nutrients on farm fields. In some areas, we use spray irrigation to apply treated wastewater to fields to recharge the groundwater and avoid impacts on local streams.

Using Energy Wisely

Aqua uses many innovative approaches to reduce our energy use. These activities include LED lighting, pump-curve calibrations, variable-flow (VFD) pumps, peak-demand response, air blower and diffuser improvements and solar panels. We also manage energy through our fleet. We measure idling times to reduce gas waste and air emissions and look for efficiency improvements when we buy new cars and trucks. 

   

Aqua solar fields benefit the environment across some of our eight states. One of which is at our Pickering Water Treatment Plant in PA, which is 6.5 acres and reduces our usage by 2.2 million kWh annually. This is the equivalent of avoiding 51,450 gallons of gasoline per year or the equivalent emissions as 380 passenger cars.

Sustainability Planning

Aqua is embarking on a multi-year effort to develop a sustainability plan. This effort involves a couple of steps, starting with benchmarking Aqua’s sustainability metrics against other utilities and developing a sustainability activity inventory. This will take most of 2017 to complete as we look at more than 34 different standard metrics from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). 

In 2018, we’ll begin to understand which sustainability metrics are important to our employees and our customers to help determine which areas will become our core focus. Next, we’ll develop a governance structure to help drive the achievement and measurement of our sustainability effort. Finally, in 2019, we’ll develop a plan that sets the goals, objectives, and short- and long-term actions we need to take to improve our sustainability as a company. We know Aqua does many things that are sustainable, but we can and need to do better if we want to catch up to our peers in the industry.

We’ll be soliciting ideas and feedback in the future, so please keep an eye out for ways you can share your thoughts.

Last, I want to thank everyone at Aqua for protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource every day! There is no greater responsibility to our communities, our families and our planet!

Did you know? Other ways Aqua is making a difference:

  • Some of Aqua’s reservoirs have preserved land around them. This land is home to threatened and endangered species. By preserving land to protect our water supplies, we are also helping to protect and re-establish threatened and endangered species
  • Aqua has been participating in TreeVitalize in Pennsylvania since 2005. In total, Aqua has planted more than 43,658 trees for 277 projects, equal to 302 acres of trees. What does this mean for the environment? Well, each tree sequesters 26 to 48 pounds of carbon per year depending on size. Each acre of trees counters about 26,000 miles of driving roughly, so in total, these trees counter about 7.8 million miles of driving per year. Aqua’s fleet drives about 17.4 million miles per year, so these trees counter roughly 45 percent of Aqua’s carbon footprint from driving.
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DIY Cleaning Products: Creating a Cleaner Spring

Spring cleaning season is here! It’s time for opening windows, reorganizing clutter and freshening up our homes.

Surprisingly, many of the products we use to clean our living spaces do just the opposite: They make our homes a less fresh place to live. Some materials contained in household cleaners are among the top environmental dangers threatening our health, and manufacturers often use harsh or toxic chemicals in their products, putting consumers at risk.

Here’s the good news, though: You can create your own cleaning products using natural ingredients—like water—from home. These supplies can disinfect and eliminate messes as needed, and they’re better for your health and safety. Plus, these simple recipes also help you save money!

 

What You’ll Need

Many ingredients used in DIY cleaning products are probably in your cupboards already. Common household cleaning agents include:

·      White vinegar

·      Baking soda

·      Castile soap

·      Essential oils

·      Lemons

·      Olive oil

·      Natural dish soap

·      Citric acid

·      Hydrogen peroxide

 

What to Do

There are dozens of creative options to make the cleaning solution that’s right for you, but here are three of our favorites.

 

Drain Cleaner: Some commercial drain cleaners can damage your pipes and cause chemical burns. To avoid these products, pour equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar into your drain. Allow time for these gentle ingredients to break down clogs, and then flush with boiling water.

 

Mold and Mildew Remover: While your instinct may be to use harsh cleaners to combat unhealthy mold and mildew, this simple mixture will do the trick. In a 24-ounce spray bottle, mix two cups of water and two teaspoons of tea-tree oil. Generously spray the affected area and let sit for 24 hours. Next, mix the solution into 1/4 cup of baking soda until a paste forms. Scrub the area with the paste and rinse.

 

Water Bottle Fizzies: Reusable water bottles are great for the environment, but their tall physique can make them difficult to clean. In a small bowl, mix one cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of citric acid and 1/4 cup of salt. Next, gradually mix in one teaspoon of natural dish soap and 1/2 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Scoop into equal pieces on parchment paper and let dry overnight.

When you’re ready to clean, simply drop a tablet in your water bottle, give it a shake, and rinse!

 

Tips and Tricks

Be careful what you mix. The pH balance of some ingredients can cancel the effects of others, making your mixture ineffective. If you’re recycling old product containers, be certain to clean out bottles and spray nozzles thoroughly to prevent unwanted chemical reactions.

Label your creations and keep them out of reach of children and pets. This is a good precaution with all cleaning products. Unlabeled bottles can also lead you to make frustrating mistakes like spraying furniture polish on your windows.

Don’t make more than what you need. The average shelf life of natural cleaning products is one month or less. Store ingredients separately and mix as needed for a fresher clean.

 

Which DIY cleaner are you eager to try? Have any cleaning recipes of your own? Tell us in a Facebook comment or on Twitter!

 

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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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