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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Aqua America CEO Chris Franklin Shares His Leadership Advice

 

July marked my first full year as CEO of Aqua America– and what a year it was! After serving in various roles over more than two decades within Aqua, the opportunity to be able to lead this great company has been the ultimate privilege and honor.

Looking back, this first year has been filled with wonderful experiences, unexpected challenges, exciting accomplishments, and most importantly, lessons learned. I wanted to share three of these key lessons because I believe they will not only make a difference in the way in which I’ll lead moving forward, but will also have a positive impact on the continued success of Aqua – and hopefully, by extension, to our customers, investors and the communities we serve.

1.     Time is often a leader’s biggest adversary.

Like so many people, I have often felt that there just isn’t enough time in the day for everything that needs to get done. Regardless of the industry you work in, time management is a crucial skill to develop and incredibly important if you want to become an effective leader. While I don’t pretend to have fully mastered this skill, it is something I work toward every day. It’s why, early on, I introduced a series of meeting guidelines at Aqua such as starting and ending on time, requiring agendas, and putting away mobile phones during meetings, which can serve as distractions. While these guidelines may seem simple, they go a long way toward increasing efficiency, respecting and saving associates’ time, and maximizing productivity in the workplace.

 

2.     Aim for both short-term wins and long-term success.

I came into my new role at Aqua with a long list of goals. While I’ve been fortunate to see many come to fruition in this first year thanks in large part to the invaluable support of my team, there is still much more I’m looking forward to accomplishing together. It can be easy to grow frustrated when the pace of progress doesn’t match the deadlines you’ve set or when obstacles occur along the way. However, I’ve learned that setting a series of goals helps keep us focused and more firmly on the path to success. Some are milestone goals that can be accomplished in a few short weeks and others lay the groundwork for supporting other long-term business objectives that will take a significant investment in time to achieve. For me, a major part of establishing this groundwork has been taking the time to build a strong senior leadership team with the right experience and skillsets to turn our goals into reality.

 

3.     A thoughtful balance between internal and external priorities is key.

In the utility industry, leaders must divide their time appropriately between internal and external stakeholders. Our employees remain among my highest priorities and I have spent an enormous amount of time working to improve the employee experience at Aqua – and there is much more to do. Additionally, it’s important to protect the strong reputation we have with regulators and legislators where we do business. As a result, I continue to spend a significant portion of my time in state capitals with our management team to commemorate the good things Aqua America is doing and also ask for support on issues where we need help. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a management team, throughout Aqua, that works to divide their time in a similar way. This is a very exciting time to be on the Aqua team.

I am very proud of Aqua’s associates and all we have accomplished together this past year. They have taught me a great deal about being a better leader and have only strengthened my resolve to grow Aqua into an even stronger company in the years to come.

 

By: Chris Franklin, CEO, Aqua America

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Crockett Joins Aqua as Chief Environmental Officer

 

Aqua has welcomed a 20-year planning and environmental services expert to its ranks as the company’s new chief environmental officer. Christopher S. Crockett joined Aqua America June 15, reporting directly to Chief Operating Officer Rick Fox. 

Crockett was previously deputy commissioner for planning and environmental services at the Philadelphia Water Department, where he has worked since 1995.

In his new role, Crockett is responsible for overseeing water quality and environmental compliance for all of Aqua's drinking water and wastewater systems in eight states. Crockett will also manage Aqua's in-house water and wastewater laboratory as well as the company's water quality services and water resources engineering departments.

“We are excited to have someone with Chris’ depth of experience and knowledge join our team,” said Fox. “In addition to his experience in the water, storm water and wastewater industry, he is a well-known thought leader.  He has led many innovative projects that improve the environment and have a positive impact on water quality and operations performance, and we are certain his experiences will have benefits across our states.”

Crockett, a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania, is a Drexel University alumnus who earned his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering, and his Master of Science and Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the university where he is also an adjunct professor.

Crockett is an active member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and is a member of the organization’s Journal AWWA Peer Review Editorial Board. He is chairman of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ Climate Change and ResilienceCommittee and a board member of the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin.

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