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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World Toilet Day highlights global need for sanitation

By Aqua Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett 

Today, 4.5 billion people in the world live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste, according to the United Nations. In communities with weak sanitation infrastructure, pipework can break and raw sewage can be emptied into the environment. This puts waste into the open air where it is spread by flies, or contaminates farmland and water sources to make people seriously ill.

World Toilet Day, a day of observation designated by the United Nations General Assembly, provides an opportunity for global entities to work together to inspire action and tackle this sanitation crisis.

 

In the United States, it’s easy for consumers to take for granted the intense wastewater treatment process that occurs when water goes down a drain or toilet. Aqua, for instance, provides wastewater services to more than 250,000 people throughout the eight states we serve, and we operate 185 wastewater treatment plants and collection systems to safely treat this water.

Our company uses a stringent seven-step wastewater treatment process before returning the water to rivers and streams using the highest environmental standards. The wastewater is first transported from homes, schools and businesses to one of our treatment plants via underground pipes, where screens and other mechanisms remove materials like paper, rocks and sand. The third step, known as primary clarification, occurs when oil and grease float to the top of the water and are skimmed off, while heavier materials sink to the bottom of the tanks and are removed.

The water then moves to biological treatment and final clarification, during which microscopic organisms break down organic material in the wastewater. After this point, the primarily clear liquid flows through final clarification before it is sent through filtration, where the majority of remaining suspended particles are removed from the water. In the sixth step, disinfection, ultraviolet light and other treatment methods are used to kill all disease-causing organisms. The seventh step occurs when the treated water is discharged either for irrigation or put back into local rivers and streams.

Each day, Aqua returns 29 million gallons of wastewater into bodies of water cleaner than it came out. This clean water is critical to our water supplies, and is also critical to the fish and flora that need it to survive.

But in so many other areas of the world, countries are struggling to properly dispose of and treat the water to keep their human population healthy. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure that everyone across the globe has access to a safely managed household toilet by 2030.

Aqua works to help developing countries by providing water infrastructure expertise in Central America each year, and there are ways we all can help to promote the importance of wastewater treatment during World Toilet Day. By visiting the World Toilet Day website, you can learn more about the issue and share information with your networks to promote this important cause.

 

 

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Hurricane Season: Stay Prepared and Stay Safe

Sometimes, water service can be affected by hurricane conditions. Aqua wants to help you ensure you're prepared.

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How to Prepare for Hurricane Season Before Diving into Summer Fun

We know you’re excited for the summer season. You have everything prepared: extra sunscreen, beach towels, sunglasses and plenty of water.

What about hurricane season though?

The National Weather Service  classifies hurricane season as June 1 through November 30. Although extreme weather can be daunting, don’t panic: There are simple ways to be prepared for interruptions in water service.

If your local meteorologist warns of a looming hurricane, here’s what you need to know to make sure you and your family remain safe and secure.  

Make a Hurricane Kit

If your water and power go out, chances are you will need some supplies to keep you and your family as comfortable as possible. Make sure to keep up to 72 hours worth of supplies in a safe, dry place. This includes bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, candles and even some fun items like decks of cards or board games. Click here for a full list compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Save Water

Make sure to save water in advance of a hurricane. Pitchers, pots and bathtubs are good places to store extra water from your faucets in case water service is indeed interrupted.

How to Boil Water

Once water service is restored, Aqua will likely issue a precautionary boil advisory to ensure your water is purified and safe to use. Boiling your water before using it for drinking or cooking is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of you and your family.

Here’s a handy instructional guide:

If possible, infants and pregnant women should use bottled or stored water instead of boiled tap water for drinking and cooking during a boil advisory.

Stay Connected

Make sure to keep an eye on the following channels to ensure you receive any updates from Aqua about boil advisories or water services.

After the storm has passed, Aqua will collect water samples once service is restored and will run tests to ensure that no bacteriological contamination took place during repairs or periods of pressure loss. These laboratory tests might take a couple of days to complete.

With a stocked hurricane kit, extra water on hand and a pledge not to panic, you’re as prepared for hurricane season as one can be. Now it’s time to get back to the beach!

For additional information, reach out to our customer service representatives at 887-987-2782, or visit us at AquaAmerica.com to sign up to sign up for WaterSmart alerts.

 

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Aqua Cares About Bugs, and You Should Too

Why would a compliance guy at Aqua America care about bugs in the IllinoisKankakee River when most people try to avoid or kill bugs?

 

Kevin M. Culver of Aqua America

First off, I am not an entomologist (aka a bug expert) so why do I care about bugs? This is the first question I ask when conducting a source water presentation or manning our source water display booth at events.

Most of the responses I receive, depending on the age of the participant, are that:

·      Bugs are bad and need to be eliminated

·      Bugs are part of the food chain necessary to sustain life in the river

Both responses are somewhat correct but not exactly why I care. We do not want bugs in our drinking water but they are an important part of the food chain.

I care about the bugs because one can determine the health of a stream by the number and type of bugs living in the stream. Not only can the bugs be used to determine water quality, but fish and fresh water mussels can also be used as biological indicators of water quality.

 

Bugs And Your Water   

So what are macro-invertebrates (macros)? These include aquatic insect such as larvae, worms, leeches and snails that can be found under rocks, attached to plants and in the bottom sediments of rivers and streams.

Not all macros that are found indicate species of water quality. In fact, only 36 different groups of macros make up the specimens used to determine water quality.

 

The 36 Groups: What You Need to Know

As a citizen scientist through the River Watch program, I have been trained on techniques on how to properly collect and identify the water quality indicator of macro-invertebrates. 

I collect bugs at four assigned sites annually within the Kankakee watershed, located in the northeastern part of Illinois. The same sites are used each year to determine water quality at that instant and to trend this result against previous sampling events.

Each of the 36 indicator species is assigned a tolerance value (TV) to pollution between “0” being completely intolerant to pollution and “11” being highly tolerant to pollution.

The weighted average tolerance value of all the bugs collected at a site is the water quality indicator, officially known as the Macro-invertebrate Biological Index (MBI).

If a bug is intolerant to pollution, it means it hasn't acclimated to pollution, which mean the river is clean. If a bug is tolerant to pollution, it means the bug has indeed been exposed to pollution - so much so that its body has changed its reaction to pollution. 

So when Aqua tells everyone that the Kankakee River is one of the “cleanest” rivers in the Midwest, it's the bugs that prove it. The water quality in Rock Creek in the Kankakee State Park is one of the few sites in Illinois that are statistically getting cleaner, according to the bug results.

This year I also collected 849 bugs from my Kankakee River site that had the lowest ever average tolerance value (MBI) at 4.29.

 

Why Should You Care About the Bugs?  

Along with just being cool, they are an integral part of our source water protection plan. You can determine water quality by which bugs are present or absent and they are a great way to educate and demonstrate to young and old about the importance of source water protection.

 

 

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