Breaking ground and beating droughts in Texas

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It’s summertime, and staying hydrated is a top priority. But what about hydrating the ground we walk on?

At Aqua, we work carefully to address drought conditions that affect our service areas. That’s why we are so excited about the upcoming completion of our first surface water treatment plant in Barton Creek, Texas, a state that last year experienced its most severe drought since 2015.

To learn more about the importance of this project, we reached out to Scot Foltz, environmental compliance manager at Aqua Texas.

What’s the big deal?

“There’s significant concern over the long-term viability of the groundwater supply for the growing Barton Creek Lakeside community,” says Foltz. With the help of this project, he says, Aqua will be able to “manage the available resources more effectively and ensure an adequate supply of water for the service area.”

Macintosh HD:Users:valeriehoke:Desktop:images:AQUA:Aquastructure:2019:June:961CBB08.jpgBehind-the-scenes as crews prepare to begin laying block for the walls

These efforts should alleviate a great deal of stress for families, farmers, and all other customers in Texas. Since the area has proven to be “highly susceptible to drought,” Foltz explains that the construction of this plant is “intended to reduce the impacts of drought and increase source reliability.”

What’s in it for the customers?

The completion of this project will produce several notable benefits for our customers. Aqua recognizes the necessary community restrictions on water intended to aid conservation efforts. However, Foltz says “the surface water plant will help alleviate some restrictions as we work with LCRA [Lower Colorado River Authority] to ensure conservation measures are followed.”

Customers may also notice improvements in the general aesthetic quality of the water. “The water hardness and dissolved mineral content of the lake water is naturally lower than groundwater in the area,” says Foltz. “While looks aren’t everything, we’re happy to be a part of efforts to improve overall experiences for our customers.”

Another glimpse at the work site

So when can you expect to start seeing all of these benefits? We’ve got great news for you. After conducting preliminary studies on the groundwater and determining that surface water supply was the best alternative for long-term source reliability, the team received approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and began construction in late 2018. He expects construction to be completed by the end of 2019.

But wait—there’s more!

Barton Creek, Texas event

Front row: Terry Franks, Aqua Texas Business Development Director; Scot Foltz, Aqua Texas Environmental Compliance Manger; State Representative Vikki Goodwin; Bob Laughman, Aqua Texas President; Michael Fruge, Barton Creek Lakeside POA Board President; Carol Birsa, Barton Creek Lakeside POA Board Secretary.  
Back row: Shawn Hammons, Aqua Texas Safety Specialist; Brent Reeh, Aqua Texas Regional Manager; Matt Morgan, Peyton Construction Project Manager; Mark Wetzel, Barton Creek POA Board Member; Marty Kurtz, Barton Creek POA Board Member; David Lee, Barton Creek POA Board Member.  

As part of our commitment to the effective management of water resources, Aqua Texas acknowledges the state’s increasing demand for water services. “Aqua is committed to effectively managing our water resources by encouraging conservation, making capital investments to improve efficiency within our systems, and working with our community partners to develop solutions to the increasing demand for water,” Foltz adds.

Whether we’re working in Texas or any of the eight states we serve, we are dedicated to providing safe, reliable water to all of our customers. Stay tuned to learn about another recent infrastructure project in our next Aquastructure blog! 



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Aqua Ohio Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

Aqua continues to highlight each of our eight states for a month at a time. Throughout July, our focus has been on sharing all about Aqua Ohio. One way we’re sharing our story, is by sharing our employees’ stories. 

When Aqua Ohio Area Manager Jennifer Johnson was preparing to graduate from Youngstown State University in the spring of 1998, she wasn’t expecting her first job to be with a water utility.

“When I was first hired by Aqua Ohio in the spring of my senior year of college, I used to think that I just had a job with a utility company,” said Johnson. “Now, after many years in the field and holding different positions within Aqua, I consider myself a utility professional.”

Johnson started as communications coordinator for Aqua Ohio in 1998 and held the position for seven years. But the desire to explore beyond eastern Ohio was strong and she moved with her family (husband Kevin and son, Kevin Jr.) to Columbus. For five years she was the director of human resources at a law firm before she felt the pull to move back home.

Johnson and her family moved back to her hometown of Lowellville, Ohio in 2010 when she began her second position at Aqua as Ohio’s Customer Field Services Manager. In 2015, Johnson became the area manager for the Struthers Division at Aqua Ohio, her current position today.

As area manager, Johnson is responsible for the overall management and operations of the water and wastewater facilities within her division, including operational efficiency, financial viability, quality customer service, employee engagement, regulatory compliance, and community relationships.

Johnson’s first two years as area manager have been busy and productive. Not only did Aqua purchase land and break ground on a new building in Struthers, but Johnson hired and on-boarded 11 new employees and negotiated a five-year rate plan with 10 municipal authorities in the Struthers Division service territory.

As one of the few female area managers, Johnson is well aware that she is in a traditionally male profession and role. She is grateful to be surrounded by a very supportive group of colleagues and division team at Aqua.

“The overwhelming majority of feedback I receive in the community is very supportive, especially from other women,” said Johnson. “As a female in a traditionally male role, I feel pride and a responsibility to be a role model for young girls; to show them women can do anything.”

While Johnson’s work life is demanding, she is appreciative to have time to take part in another passion – giving back.

“I was very fortunate during my early years at Aqua to have the opportunity to be involved in local community organizations,” said Johnson. “Now, as an area manager, I am able to direct my community involvement and Aqua’s philanthropic support to local community events and organizations that directly benefit our customer base. The Struthers Division is very visible in the community and we go beyond ‘writing a check.’”

Johnson serves on the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Community Leadership Council and serves as co-chair of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley Breakfast with Santa event, which raises more than $10,000 each year for the hospital. The hospital services the Struthers service territory and Johnson believes it’s important to give back to such a prominent hospital that provides such a vital service to the community.

Johnson also serves as president of the Rotary Club of Struthers, chairperson of the Lowellville Schools Foundation and is a member of the Youngstown Business Incubator Women’s Entrepreneurship Program Steering Committee.

“This job has showed me that it is possible to have a family, successful career and time to give back,” said Johnson. “I am thankful to work for Aqua, a company that believes in supporting a work-life balance, which allows me to grow in my career and support community efforts that I am passionate about.”

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