Aqua and Villanova University teams return to Central America for water improvement projects

 

Volunteers from Aqua and Villanova University’s Engineering Service Learning Program students and faculty returned to Nicaragua and Panama last week, continuing their work to provide engineering resources and water infrastructure expertise for key water improvement projects in the two countries.

The group returned to Waslala, Nicaragua and Panama’s Wacuco region to provide hands-on water quality expertise and foundational support to improve water infrastructure. This partnership is part of Aqua’s “Ripple Effect,” the company’s continued commitment to making a positive impact on water, the environment and in communities. The last time the group traveled together was in August 2016.

Several  areas comprise the Ripple Effect including volunteering, Aqua’s Charitable Trust,  and knowledge sharing, according to Kimberly Joyce, vice president of regulatory, government and external affairs.

“Our partnership with Villanova University allows our employees to volunteer their time and expertise to help shape future engineers, while making a real difference for communities that need clean running water,” Joyce said.

Aqua Pennsylvania’s Jeff Bickel and Aqua Illinois’ Colton Janes went to assist VESL in Nicaragua to celebrate the culmination of last year’s capital project and assist in troubleshooting a non-functioning water well located near a Waslala school.

 

Janes was excited to work with Villanova students and provide his expertise.

“I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with Villanova students and taking on a mentor role,” said Janes prior to departure. “I think it’s going to be great to bounce ideas off of the students and find a solution together. Anytime we are able to give the essential resource of water to someone who has to work for it, or go through a hardship to maintain it, is a great opportunity for us – especially when we can help lead students looking to make a difference, as well.”

The goal of the Panama project is to provide guidance to students on  designing a water treatment solution for the existing system, which services 800 people and is expanding to add a school with 125 students. The team evaluated the system demand, water quality and yield of a newly installed shallow well. The end-state will be a solution that integrates the well into the existing system and provides safe water to the systems existing residents and to the new school.

“These projects help Aqua employees lend their knowledge, immerse themselves in a new culture and make a positive impact in the world,” Joyce said. “

You can click here to read the story about Aqua’s 2016 trip.

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Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin talks water infrastructure with national media, congress

 

By Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin

Over the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of talking with some national news outlets as well as congressional subcommittee members about the state of water infrastructure in America and Aqua’s commitment to investing in our aging water systems.

As you can see in my CNBC’s Squawk Box segment, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, giving U.S. water infrastructure a “D” grade and wastewater infrastructure a “D+.” The reality is that our country has more than 1 million miles of water pipe, much of which was laid in the early 20th century and in critical need of replacement.

While this is a major challenge facing our country, Aqua is working to be a part of the solution. We are committed to renewing and improving water and wastewater infrastructure through thoughtful and continuous capital investment. It’s why Aqua will invest more than $450 million in water and wastewater infrastructure in 2017 alone, after having invested $1.5 billion in capital improvements over the past five years. 

I also spoke with national infrastructure reporters about the importance of letting private capital go to work to assist municipalities struggling with aging water systems, instead of providing federal financing for infrastructure projects. Aqua has a proven record of purchasing both municipal and private water systems, injecting needed capital into the systems and developing the infrastructure required for clean drinking water and wastewater. You can read more about that in my interview with Hilary Russ of Reuters.

As then president-elect of the National Association of Water Companies, I also had the opportunity last month to provide testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment. I underscored with our elected officials that companies like Aqua and our fellow NAWC member organizations are well-positioned to help cities and towns address long-neglected water and wastewater infrastructure maintenance. It’s my firm belief that we will continue to be part of the solution.

I’m proud that Aqua is playing a leading role in providing solutions for struggling water and wastewater systems. In speaking out on these issues, I hope to continue to raise awareness on the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure in our country and of Aqua’s role as a leader in protecting and providing Earth’s most valuable resource.

 

 

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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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Aqua America Partners with Villanova University College of Engineering on International Water Infrastructure Projects

Aqua America, Inc. today announced a partnership with Villanova University’s College of Engineering to provide mentorship opportunities, hands-on water quality expertise and foundation support for the college’s international service work. As part of this partnership, Aqua leadership and engineers will travel with Villanova faculty and students to various projects internationally to provide engineering and water infrastructure expertise.

Aqua’s on-site engagement with Villanova begins with a trip to Nicaragua on August 4 and a visit to Panama on August 11. Members of Aqua’s leadership team will accompany the Aqua team that includes engineers and water quality experts. They will travel with Villanova Engineering Service Learning (VESL) representatives to inspect water project sites, meet with community members and connect with local nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners. The partnership reflects Aqua’s greater initiative of partnering with community-based nonprofit organizations that advocate for the environment.

An important part of the success of the Villanova program has been working with in-country partners who have the capacity to implement these projects. In the Alto Bayano region of Panama, VESL has been providing engineering support on water-related infrastructure projects for 25 years. In collaboration with local NGO’s, they have helped to develop one of the largest rural water supply systems in Central America. Similarly, over the past decade, the college has worked with local partners in Waslala, Nicaragua to design and implement water supply networks that provide safe drinking water for rural communities. Through the Aqua America partnership, VESL hopes to improve the sustainability of water delivery services in these areas, while creating unique learning opportunities for its local partners and student participants.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Aqua America in what is a true partnership,” said Villanova’s Dr. Gary A. Gabriele, Drosdick-Endowed Dean of Engineering. “Aqua is VESL’s first corporate partner to put boots on the ground, and we look forward to the continued growth of this partnership.”

Aqua’s President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Franklin highlighted that the company has a long history of demonstrating commitment to the communities it serves.

“Because this commitment has become part of our culture, it will continue long into the future,” Franklin said. “When we consider how fortunate we are to live in the United States where clean drinking water is almost taken for granted, we must consider what other human beings in other countries endure each day to find clean water for their children to drink.”

Franklin noted that with this in mind, Aqua made the decision to take a small portion of the Aqua foundation budget and combine it with the talents its employees possess to make a meaningful difference for those who live in these countries.

He added, “As one of the nation’s leading water companies, our mission is to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource. In our own small way, we will demonstrate our commitment in a few communities outside the U.S. where clean, safe drinking water is so desperately needed. We look forward to leveraging our expertise and partnering with Villanova’s distinguished College of Engineering faculty and students on this program.” 

Aqua supports environmental projects through the Aqua Charitable Trust and forming important partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations within the company’s territory. This partnership with Villanova marks the first time Aqua will be taking its commitment internationally.

Villanova is highly regarded in the area of water resource management and sustainability. In addition to offering graduate degrees in sustainable engineering and water resources and environmental engineering, the university is home to the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering and the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership. Given this area of expertise, in addition to Panama and Nicaragua, VESL water projects are underway in Ghana, Honduras, India and Madagascar. The college’s other service projects include robotics for unexploded ordnance removal in Cambodia, and mobile health programs in Nicaragua. More than half of Villanova’s engineering undergraduates participate in service-learning projects or experiences.

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Get the (Earth Day) Party Started with Aqua!

 

At Aqua, we’re obsessed with all things related to our most precious resource: water

Since we’re also obsessed with the source of that water (Earth) it should come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Earth Day

In anticipation of the upcoming occasion, which eco-conscious folks all over the world will celebrate on April 22, we thought we’d take an inside look at the ways Aqua is committed to acting as a sustainable steward to the environment.

Read our thought-provoking conversation below with Network Control Engineer Dan Kirchheimer, our Aqua employee responsible for compiling Aqua’s sustainability report.

 

 

Dan Kirchheimer

With Earth Day just around the corner, what does Aqua do as a company to celebrate or recognize the occasion?

Aqua sponsors a number of stream cleanup days throughout March and April where employees and other volunteers walk along streams, creeks and rivers and pick up trash and debris that have collected along the shoreline and in the water. Each year, volunteers pull hundreds of tons of trash across numerous cleanup sites.

The final mountains of trash bags contain more than just plastic bags, paper and soda cans. Volunteers find tires, engines, refrigerators, shopping carts, scrap metal and just about anything you can imagine. Aqua partners with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, the Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association (CRC), and the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, just to name a few. The annual CRC cleanup alone has removed more than 600,000 pounds of debris over the last 18 years.

Aqua Illinois customers in Kankakee depend solely on the Kankakee River to serve more than 80,000 residents. Aqua Illinois employees and local volunteers are now entering their 34th annual river cleanup as part of the Adopt-a-River program. The company is responsible for a one mile portion of the river that employees clean twice a year. This is one of the oldest continuous river clean-ups in the country.

Aqua Pennsylvania has also supported the TreeVitalize Watersheds program since 2005. This group has assisted in the planting of more than 40,000 trees along the banks of key watersheds for the last decade.

By investing in reforesting stream banks, this natural infrastructure helps reduce the amount of contaminants reaching our source water and helps slow natural erosion and soil degradation. This greatly improves stream water quality, improves the habitat for local environments and decreases storm water runoff.

 

Aqua Illinois employees during the annual Kankakee River Clean Up

What can Aqua customers do to make a sustainable difference this Earth Day? 

Carry a Nalgene, thermos or other water bottle around with you – even a simple cup with a lid. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to save money and still have fresh, cold water at hand.

Other ideas for how to help in a positive way on Earth Day include:

·      Volunteering for a local stream cleaning event. It will only take a few hours, and your actions will make a huge difference and make you feel great.

·      Planting trees along a creek, in a park or even your own backyard.

·      Composting your old food scraps and feeding that to your hungry plants.

·      Replacing a shower head to a low flow variety. If you live in a drought-prone area, this can save thousands of gallons of water over its lifetime for only a few dollars.

Just keep in mind, if you do nothing, expect nothing to change. One person may not make a difference, but if everybody just helped a little bit, things would start to look a lot better.

How would you like to see Aqua and similar organizations continue to practice and improve sustainability efforts in the future? 

Ever since the Industrial Revolution,  man has created amazing machines and technology to increase efficiency, production and our way of life. However, for too long, the environment has paid the price for our actions. In this modern era, we have the knowledge and ability to do things better and keep the environment in mind. Being sustainable doesn’t always have to cost more. I’d like to see more companies get creative and create mutually beneficial partnerships that both save money and help protect the environment.

“Going green” shouldn’t be a catch phrase or a way to simply cut costs. Companies have the power to inspire and create change. They can and should find opportunities that help everyone involved.

We don’t always have to keep doing things because we’ve always done them that way. Change can be good. We should embrace technology, new ideas, methods, viewpoints and ways of thinking.

Inspired to make a change this Earth Day? Remember what Dan said – everyone pitching in a little bit can make a big difference.

 

What will you pledge to do for your planet on Earth Day 2016?

 

 

 

 

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