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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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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Water: The Real Olympic Superstar

The Olympic Games are one of the world’s oldest traditions. For thousands of years, athletes of all shapes, sizes, nations and creeds have come together to prove their prowess. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that many of the water-based competitions we know and love today joined the ranks. Now, as some of the most popular sporting events to watch, it’s hard to imagine the Olympics without them.

Since we're nearing the end of the Rio 2016 Olympics, we have a lot of questions on our mind. If you’re like us and want to know how many gallons of water a regulation-size pool holds, check out the fun facts below.

 

 Image via Pexels.com

Swimming:

  • When the swimming competition was founded in 1896, the only two stroke styles were freestyle and breaststroke.
  • Regulated pools weren’t around until 1908. Up to that point, the competitions took place in open water.

 

 Image via Pixabay.com 

Diving:

  • Diving was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Olympic games. Springboard and platform events were added in 1908.

Water polo:

  • In the early days of European Water Polo, players would ride on barrels that resembled horses, and hit the ball with mallets. America had its own version more similar to rugby.
  • Water polo was introduced at the Olympics in 1900. At that time, it was only a men’s competition. It took until 2000 for women to have their own division.

Synchronized swimming:

  • Synchronized swimming is one of the newest Olympic sports, having debuted in the 1984 Los Angeles games.
  • Synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are the only Olympic sports with no male equivalent team.

The pool:

  • Olympic pools hold about 660,000 gallons of water
  • Each pool is required to be 50 meters long and 25 meters wide in order to meet regulations.
  • The Rio swimming facility is gorgeous. (OK, this one is our opinion!)

The athletes:

  • If you follow the Olympics at all, you’ve most likely heard of Michael Phelps. Holding 18 gold, two silver and two bronze medals, he’s not only the best swimmer in the world, but also the most decorated Olympic athlete in history.
  • For women’s swimming, Jenny Thompson (now retired), holds 12 medals – eight of which are gold. She currently holds more medals than any other female swimmer in history.

Now that you’re an expert on everything water in the Olympics, you’re ready to cheer on your favorite team (USA of course). Show off your newfound knowledge to your friends and prepare your victory dance for when Phelps takes all the medals. We’ll be on the edge of our seats the entire time. How about you?

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6 Ways to Hydrate Like an Olympian

Ever wonder how Olympic athletes stay hydrated? With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway, that question has been on our minds a lot. Sometimes we just want to know how many glasses of water it takes Michael Phelps to swim in peak condition. That’s why we decided to do a little digging to discover exactly how Olympic superstars like Phelps replenish their energy in order to take the home the gold.

Sweat it off

Olympic athletes need to drink before, during and after their training sessions and competitions. Sweating is the body’s way of controlling temperature, and athletes do a lot of it over the course of a day. Constant water breaks are a surefire way to recharge your system and keep you at peak performance. 

Don’t go for the gold

What exactly does healthy, hydrated urine look like? Mostly clear! The more water you drink, the more diluted your pee urine becomes. If your urine is darker in color and has a strong odor, then you’re definitely dehydrated. No worries, though: All you need to do to fix the problem is have a couple more glasses of water a day.

Burn, baby, burn

Consuming thousands of calories a day is a necessity for Olympians. They burn off most of what they eat while competing and then need to replenish themselves in order to keep up muscle mass. Drinking more water not only helps athletes stay refreshed, but it also improves digestion and reduces stomach pains. (That must be a nice bonus after eating all that food.)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Glass half full

Athletes may give it 110 percent when racing, swimming or pole vaulting, but their bodies are only made up of about half that percentage in water. If an Olympian loses more than two percent of their weight in water, they will begin to lose their mental edge. Staying hydrated both prevents fatigue and keeps the mind and reflexes sharp for optimal Olympic performance.

Drink more than you think

One of the biggest misconceptions about hydration is that you only need to drink water when you physically feel thirsty. In reality it’s already too late. By drinking water (or other beverages with high water content) every so often you can prevent dehydration from sneaking up on you. This is especially important if you’re out in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Pro tip: By carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times, you’ll be more likely to take sips throughout the day.

Be a good sport

We know we talk a lot about water, but hey, that’s what we do best. However, one of the best ways to make sure you stay as healthy as possible is to consume sports drinks in addition to your regular water intake. Sports drinks contain electrolytes that help to replace the sodium athletes lose when they sweat.

 

We all need to stay hydrated, but athletes need to work on it a little bit more than the rest of us. To keep yourself hydrated, check out these hacks. If you take these hydration tips to heart, who knows — maybe you’ll be up on a podium wearing the gold one day!

 

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How to Observe AND Preserve for Water Quality Month

Did you know August is National Water Quality Month? Not many people do, but that’s why we’re here — to spread the word. You can make simple changes in your water usage that will have a huge impact on local ecosystems and watersheds.

Think about all the little critters that play in the neighborhood creek or the pond by the park. Their health is literally in your hands. Your own water supply is one of the many places where polluted runoff occurs. Follow some of the helpful tips below to be on your way toward a cleaner and happier watershed.

 

·      Remember when you were six years old and your pet goldfish passed away? Your parents probably had a nice little toilet funeral for it. Well, believe it or not, flushing Goldie wasn’t too good for the environment. Let’s stop flushing anything that the toilet isn’t meant for. This includes medications, goldfish and leftover cleaning products.

 

·      Speaking of pets, we all know cleaning up after them is a cumbersome task. However, if their waste is left where it falls, it can get washed down storm drains, spreading  that bacteria into your drinking water.

 

·      Cars can create a huge mess if not tended to properly. You can still work on that old Corvette in the garage, but make sure you lay down some plastic liners to collect any dripping oil or other fluids first.

 

·      Gardens can be quite harmful to watersheds. If you use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, the runoff is some of the worst. If you have a patch of land dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables or flowers, you should take extra precautions and use organic repellents.

 

·      The same idea goes for toxic household products. One way or another, they get rinsed down the drain. To avoid contaminating your water, consider buying non-toxic, organic cleaners.

 

·      Finally, if you’re thinking about paving your driveway or other parts of your property, you might want to reconsider. Rainwater rinses off pavement and drags any pollutants it comes in contact with straight into the nearest drain. Without the pavement, water soaks into the ground, diluting contaminants and preventing flooding.

 

Over the past decade, watershed purity has declined. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ 2005-2015, “Every day, more than 2 million tons of sewage drain into the world’s waters.” 

It’s never been more important to stay conscious, keep updated and be proactive about water quality.

Not sure where your watershed is located or what condition it’s in? Just input your zip code or town name to Surf Your Watershed to find out.

Go out and start saving the planet – one flush at a time.

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