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 Leadership Travels to Panama to Provide Water Quality Expertise

Aqua’s leadership team recently joined forces with Villanova University to provide hands-on water quality expertise in Panama. The trip is one of the first in a new partnership between Aqua and the University’s College of Engineering to provide water infrastructure expertise in developing countries.

 

The team from Aqua traveled with representatives from Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL) to inspect water sites and meet with local community members and non-governmental organization partners. The six-day trip to the Alto Bayano region of Panama took place from August 11 to 16.

 

Aqua’s Rick Fox, Chief Operating Officer, Peter Virag (Corporate Energy Manager), Ryan Coombs (Chemist) and Deborah Watkins (Director, Water Quality & Environmental Compliance traveled to Panama with Jim O’Brien and Frank Falcone of the University’s College of Engineering.

 

 

A Panamanian representative, Father “Wally” Pablo Kasuboski, a Capuchin missionary priest from Wisconsin that has been serving in Panama for more than 30 years, led the representatives from Aqua and Villanova. Father Wally was the trip's visionary leader and works tirelessly on improving community conditions through ministry; building churches, roads, bridges, and water systems; and leading an agriculture cooperative while preserving the rain forests.

 

There were three specific goals defined by Aqua and Villanova going into the trip. These goals included:

·      developing an understanding of local culture and the four water systems in the Alto Bayano region;

·      evaluating existing water system challenges in the region including five leaking storage tanks and water quality concerns associated with chlorination and turbidity control during the rainy season; and

·      brainstorming ideas to address these challenges while understanding the capabilities of the local operators, materials available, and the economy of the region.  

 

Each day the team participated in different projects, including visiting a reservoir and dam, evaluating water storage and treatment methods, and analyzing samples from customers’ premises, storage tanks, and water sources in the region. The team attained a better understanding of the region's water systems and, throughout the course of their visit, collected samples for more detailed analysis at Aqua’s laboratory in Bryn Mawr.

 

While Aqua and the Villanova team were able to provide their expertise and services to one of the largest rural water supply systems in Central America, they also found time to experience the culture surrounding the Alto Bayano region. The team enjoyed a region filled with a beautiful mosaic of farmland, pastures, jungles, and city life. Life at the mission, the team’s home base, was delightful (and hot) with a smorgasbord of bunkhouses surrounded with wild animal noises, open air, copious amounts of rainfall, and great home cooking. The participants had the delight of trying the local cuisine including plantains, yucca root, beans, rice, Panamanian pizza, and Panamanian-influenced Chinese food.

 

The Panama trip participants enjoyed lending their expertise, learning about a new culture, and cautiously exploring the wildlife that calls the region home. Aqua and Villanova are looking forward to continuing their partnership and initiative to help international communities in desperate need of clean, safe drinking water. 

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Diary of an Aqua Water Drop: Chloe (Wastewater From Homes)

Hey there! It’s Chloe again. Last time we talked I told you about my epic journey from being a groundwater water drop to a clean, ready-to-be-used water drop. Well, do I have a story for you about where I’ve been since then! 

Wastewater From Homes

 

Today was a wakeup call for me. I was sitting in my tank minding my own business when woosh! I’m being shot through pipes and used to clean little Tommy who obviously had way too much fun at the beach today. Now I’m covered in sand, greasy sunscreen, a runaway beach tag, and soap — an uncomfortable situation — and am now considered wastewater. Goodbye my old friends who are wanted water drops. I’m now unsuitable to go home where I had just settled down. So alone and disgusting, it’s time to make my journey through these pipes into a world unknown.

 

Screening

 

As you know,  I feel completely and utterly yucky covered in grease, sand, and this darn beach tag.. If you’ve ever met plastics before, you know they can clog things up. Luckily our first stop is the screening process, so this freeloader jerk gets held back by a screen as I rush on through. It’s like a weight off my shoulder. 

 

Primary Clarification

Although I’m glad  my buddy the beach tag is gone, I’m still quite greasy, sandy, and soapy. Now soap is a fun thing to hang out with It’s bubbly and clean, but not the type of clean I want to be. Also all those bubbles have me feeling a bit gassy (not to mention the grease and the sand aren’t making things easier). After the screening, we were rushed along to primary clarification where the sand and grease finally sunk to the bottom – good riddance. They were clogging up my style. Meanwhile, my sweet soapy friend was whisked off by a skimmer. It was tough saying goodbye to such a fun thing as soap, but I have a feeling I’ll see it again.

 

Biological Treatment and Final Clarification

In the next tank I’m suddenly swarmed by microscopic organisms. Their job is to break down the organic material inside me. It tickles as they nibble away at the leftovers. Suddenly, I look around and realize everything is clear again. I hadn’t realized how dirty I’d become since the beginning of this journey, but it felt great to be more like myself again. 

 

 Filtration

Although I felt better, after all this time some particles were still clinging to me during this journey. Couldn’t they tell that this club was for water only? Thank goodness we got to the filtration tank because as I carelessly swam through, these clingy guys got held back. 

 

Disinfection

 

At this point things got weird. My fellow water droplets and I thought we were in the clear, but we were swiftly informed that harmful organisms that could cause people to get sick were possibly hiding in our ranks. It was scary. I wanted them to be gone so I could be pure again. Suddenly there was a blinding ultraviolet light shining on us – makes me wish I had Tommy’s sun glasses. We could hear as the harmful organisms left this world forever – the saying that only the good die young doesn’t apply here.

 

 Discharge

We’re finally home free! Who knew life could be this good? Now that we’re perfectly purified, we were gently poured into a river. Here I ran into some old friends from way back in the Jurassic years. It’s amazing how time does little to us aqua drops. We’re hoping this river leads us to Mexico or Hawaii. I’d love to come back to humanity as crushed ice in a mixed drink – I’ve done my time cleaning other people up and deserve some “me” time! Peace out!

 

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