Asset Management Program Helps us Invest in Water Infrastructure

 

By Aqua President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Franklin

Chris Franklin spoke to industry experts who visited Philadelphia from around the world at the recent American Water Works Association annual conference. Here’s a synopsis of what he shared during his panel.

Aqua works every day across our eight states to deliver safe drinking water to customers, and to return wastewater responsibly to the environment. But as the nation’s water infrastructure ages, there is a greater need for significant investment in rebuilding or replacing the systems that deliver and store water and wastewater. As a best practice, Aqua constantly repairs and replaces old, outdated facilities, water main, water and wastewater plants, and well stations across service territories.

To help face the challenges of repairing and replacing infrastructure on a large scale, Aqua began developing a formal, enterprise-wide asset management program. Aqua’s asset management program tracks assets based on risk  and ensures that the appropriate proactive maintenance, repairs and upgrades occur based on those risk scores.  Aqua is developing plans across a variety of assets including wells, water distribution systems, wastewater facilities, wastewater collection systems and surface water treatment plants. Having a robust asset management program in place ensures that all systems remain in good working order, can improve response to emergencies and helps meet customer expectations for good service. 

  

Aqua based the company-wide program on the U.S. EPA Asset Management Framework, which is widely used by water and wastewater utilities. This framework asks:

·   What is the current state of the assets?

·   What is the required sustainable level of service?

·   Which assets are critical to sustained performance?

·   What are the minimum life-cycle costs?

·   What is the best long-term funding strategy?

By developing the program with the EPA’s guidance, Aqua is able to extend the life of assets and make more informed decisions about maintenance, repair or replacement. Aqua Pennsylvania has successfully used this framework for more than 20 years and continues to see improvements in its infrastructure improvement efforts, thanks to the employees who contribute every day to our asset management program. Over the last 10 years, Aqua Pennsylvania has averaged 128 miles of water main replacements per year, and over that time, we’ve seen customer complaints about water quality significantly decrease. There’s a clear connection there. And we’ve got plans to invest $292 million in replacements, improvements, and a significant water meter exchange program by the end of 2017. 

At Aqua, we see it as a great responsibility to replace aging infrastructure and deliver reliable drinking water and wastewater services to our customers. We will continue to build valuable internal processes like asset management that allow us to continue our mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource.

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Drinking Water Week Highlights the Vital Role of Water


By Aqua President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Franklin

Every day of the year, the Aqua team works to ensure the drinking water we provide in the communities we serve is clean and safe. That responsibility is something we take extremely seriously.

Water is a precious resource that plays a critical role in sustaining life. This year, American Water Works Association’s annual Drinking Water Week serves to highlight the vital part drinking water plays in our daily lives.

According to the EPA, the United States has one of the most reliable and safest supplies of drinking water in the world. While this is something to be proud of, we must be mindful that as a nation, we are facing significant challenges to our aging water infrastructure, much of which needs to be upgraded or replaced. Cracked pipes, water main breaks and other age-related issues, including lead service lines, can impact water quality and increase the risk for contamination.  

 

Aqua actively works to replace our mains to ensure we maintain our customers’ water quality and reliable service. In fact, just last year, we replaced about 150 miles of aged water mains throughout our eight states.  

Similarly, the types of service lines on our customers’ property can impact the quality of the drinking water inside. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder, and this can cause lead exposure in a homeowner’s water supply. It is important that homeowners understand their individual situation.

We invest millions of dollars each year to improve our plants, tanks, distribution systems and other infrastructure, including removing Aqua-owned lead service lines when present, so that we can better provide quality, reliable drinking water to all of our customers.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch our lead education video to help you better understand this national issue, and also, to reflect on just how essential water is in your daily lives, on the occasion of Drinking Water Week, and every week.

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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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Aqua Gives Back with Community Volunteerism Program

As a company, Aqua believes in giving back to the communities we serve, and recognizes the value that volunteer service has for both local organizations as well as our employees. It is with this mindset, that an initiative to roll out a Community Volunteerism Pilot Program at Aqua was created. Through this program, employees will be able to participate in company-sponsored community outreach events, and build camaraderie at the same time.

"I am very excited that we are piloting a volunteer program across Aqua," said Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Heisler. "This year, our goal is to set up various company-sponsored events at local community organizations in the areas where we serve and live. This is a great program that complements our United Way corporate giving program. Actively engaging and assisting the organization makes the activities personally fulfilling. In addition, these activities enable Aqua employees to interact with other colleagues in departments with which they might not have regular interaction."


To ensure the program is as successful as possible, the pilot is being rolled out slowly in a few locations, while exploring how to expand it across all of Aqua's states. To kick things off, Ohio and Pennsylvania locations participated in a few volunteerism events. 

In Ohio, Aqua employees volunteered at a local food bank, the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Employees from Aqua Pennsylvania made two trips to Philabundance, the region's largest hunger relief organization. Among the volunteers assisting with sorting, packaging and preparing food items for distribution, was Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin.


"This is great, we're getting a chance to help other people, get reacquainted with friends, get a little exercise, all good things," said Franklin.

This new program allows Aqua to expand our corporate social responsibility and emphasizes our company's commitment to community service. The overwhelming response from those involved in this initiative so far has been positive, and volunteers are getting a lot out of their experiences, including a feeling of teamwork.


"This is a really good way to give back to the communities we serve, and to come together as a team," said HRIS Analyst Andrew Calhoun. "One moment that really resonated with me was when I took a second to stop and look around the room and saw the entire group working as a team. For one day, we weren't from different departments, we weren't supervisors or supervisees; we were all equals with a common job title – volunteer."

 

 

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