Bringing e-Billing Ease to Aqua

As the decade comes to a close, we can’t help but look back and reflect on all of the growth of the company and the new services and projects we’ve introduced to our customers over the past 10 years.

Speaking of new services, did you know that we have multiple new e-Billing features that make it easier than ever to pay your water bill? To learn even more, we spoke with Manager of Collections, Billing, and Cash Applications Jack Farnsworth to get the details of four newly improved features and how they benefit Aqua customers across all eight of the states we serve.

Payment arrangement

We’re pleased to say that our payment arrangement feature is now active in all Aqua states. Payment arrangements are available to any Aqua customer who has fallen behind on their payments, and the feature allows customers to take the past due months and stretch them out for several months until they are caught up.

“The invoices were modified to clearly provide the monthly installment, the number of payments remaining and the total balance of the payment arrangement,” Farnsworth added. “At Aqua, we listen and value our customers—this change came directly from customer feedback. We’re glad that these new invoices help customers better understand their payment arrangements for a stress-free experience.”

Text reminders

Constantly worried about missing a payment? Never fear! Aqua has partnered with Speedpay to give our customers the option to receive text reminders to easily avoid late charges. The text feature sends a message five days before the payment is due, the day it is due, and five days after.

The text reminders also provide a hyperlink that customers can click through to make their payments. Head here to become one of the 14,000 and counting Aqua customers utilizing this convenient text option! 

Daily account balance

You asked, we listened. Our call centers have received a large volume of customers asking for their current account balance over the years, so Aqua decided to make it even easier to check your bill. Simply log onto the Aqua WaterSmart website to view your daily balance. Easy peasy!

One-time payment availability

Previously, only Aqua customers enrolled in e-Billing were able to make a one-time payment via the WaterSmart website. Now, all customers can use this feature to pay bills electronically as many times as they please. We’ve seen an increase in customers utilizing this feature in 2019, and we hope to continue this growth through 2020. 

“Everything proposed, achieved, or rejected is for a better customer experience,” Farnsworth said of all these e-Billing improvements. “These features were all created to provide our customers with more information, faster information, and ease of payment.”

“I am very excited about all the customer enhancements we have implemented this year,” said Georgetta Parisi-Knup, vice president, customer operations. “Offering our customers a wide range of options across multiple platforms is important as we continue to focus on improving our customers’ experience with Aqua.” 

Our customers are always our priority, and we hope these efficient new features make life just a little bit easier. Cheers to a great 2019 and an even better 2020!

 

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Inside the Lake Vermillion Dam Restoration

Sure, the weather is getting colder, and it’s the time of year when we all spend a little more time indoors. But did you know that our Aqua Illinois team has entered the initial stages of a dam restoration project in Danville, Illinois to improve the reliability and quality of the water in Lake Vermilion

As the Aqua Illinois team prepares for excavation, Bob Ervin, director of operations for Illinois, spoke with us to dig a little deeper into what exactly this major renovation project means for Danville, Illinois, and the surrounding area.

Why restore the dam?

While we regularly complete routine maintenance work on all of our systems, including the Lake Vermilion Dam, Ervin says that this specific renovation “will ensure a reliable water source for residents of Danville and Vermilion County for generations to come.”

Ervin went on to explain that the dam “creates a man-made impoundment of water, which is critical to meeting the water demands of the Danville area” and that the renovation project will continue to allow the water within the dam to exceed the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. 

What’s the status?

In preparation for the construction phase, crew members set up cranes, boats, air compressors, generators, ramps, barges, and more. After this initial stage, the project moved into construction, which  entailed the removal and replacement of six of the 10 tainter gates in 2019. The remaining four tainter gates and the high-level sluice gate will be completed in 2020.

To complete the renovation, workers will use anchoring to perform post-tension support work, followed by a teardown, clean up and removal of all worksite equipment and materials. We’re dedicated to keeping the Danville service area clean and functional, and we’re committed to minimizing any potential inconveniences to local customers.

What about customers who want to use the lake recreationally?

During construction, our crews reduce potential disruptions by installing a high visibility safety float barrier on the lake from shoreline to shoreline, stretching 650 feet in length with orange buoys as markers. This safety measure is an effort to protect those who wish to use the lake recreationally over the course of the dam restoration.

Aqua Illinois recognizes Lake Vermilion’s role as the primary water source for Danville and Vermilion County as well as its many recreational purposes. Ervin ensures that Aqua will provide regular communications to the public, including residents who live along Wilkin Road, which leads to the dam site, and to residents living around the lake itself.

Whether we’re working in Illinois or any of the eight states we serve, we’re dedicated to improving our infrastructure systems on a continual basis in order to provide safe, reliable water to all of our customers. Stay tuned to learn more about our infrastructure improvement projects in our next Aquastructure blog!  

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How much water is in your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

Water is all around us—even on Thanksgiving! Before the big meal, take a second to learn about how much water is in all of your favorite dishes.

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Breaking Down the 2019 Backhoe Challenge

 

Our team at Aqua has provided safe, reliable water service for our customers across the country for more than 130 years, and it wouldn’t be possible without each and every one of our employees. That’s why every year we celebrate everyone from our engineers to our customer service representatives at our annual company picnic.

In 2016, we kicked things up a notch with our now-famous Backhoe Challenge, and we continued the tradition this year on September 19 in Newtown Square.

So, what’s the backhoe challenge anyway? Let’s start from the beginning: It was designed by construction equipment vendor John Deere, and this year, it was coordinated by our very own Southern Maintenance Manager Paul Alberici and Field Supervisor Larry Weaver.

This challenge requires major skills and focus. While the competition is just for fun, the talent on display shows the finess and precision our team uses when they excavate streets to access and replace broken mains and other buried infrastructure.

Round 1: Balancing Balls

The first event in the Backhoe Challenge requires tons of precision and patience. In this challenge, operators remove 10-inch bouncy balls from the top of a traffic cone and place them in a small bucket.

The team then returns the bucket to the starting board, but if any mistakes are made, they have to start all over again. The pressure was high, but our Aqua team is made for this kind of thing. On to the next task!

Round 2: The egg challenge

 The second event requires operators to pick up an egg from a sand mound and place it on a tiny bale of hay. Though that doesn’t sound too complicated, try doing it using a tablespoon attached to a backhoe bucket! If the egg doesn’t stay intact, it’s back to the beginning. Needless to say, this challenge is always a bit of a nail-biter.

 

Round 3: The wine pour

That’s right—operators get to play bartender in the last challenge! This event asks teams to fill three wine glasses from a bottle hooked to the teeth of the backhoe in the fastest time, but naturally, pouring a glass of wine is a lot harder in this situation.

Now it's trophy time...

 

The first place winner of the 2019 Aqua Backhoe Challenge was Rob Delio, leader of our Springfield maintenance team, with an astounding collective time of 2:26 for all three events. Congratulations, Rob!

In second and third place, respectively, were Jesse Batyko, leader of our Great Valley maintenance team (3:06) and Dennis Wiley, foreman of our Willow Grove maintenance team (5:01). We’re proud of all of our operators and their ability to have fun and prove their skills with some friendly competition.

Our maintenance employees serve an integral role within our larger team—it’s safe to say they’re a vital part of our Aquastructure. All competition aside, each and every member of our team is a winner in our book!

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Inside the Witch’s Cauldron: The Science of Dry Ice

It’s the season for all things spooky and scary! From witches and warlocks to jack o'lanterns and sweet treats, there’s so much wonder to behold during the Halloween season.

Looking for a fun activity to get in the festive spirit? With a few simple ingredients, you can make your very own witch’s cauldron for decoration. All you’ll need is some dry ice—and water, of course!

How can ice be dry?

At Aqua, we’re always fascinated (but never surprised) by water’s versatility and the ways that it can teach us new lessons about the world around us. Though there’s nothing spooky about water, it’s a key ingredient in a DIY witch’s cauldron that’s sure to wow trick or treaters.

 The other key ingredient is dry ice, which is exactly what it sounds like: ice without water. That may be hard to imagine, but it’s possible because of carbon dioxide.

Believe it or not, dry ice is colder than ice made with frozen water. Essentially, dry ice is carbon dioxide (with no moisture or air) that’s frozen at -109.3°F, while regular ice freezes at 32°F. So what happens if water and dry ice meet? Let’s just say things can get spooky.

When the dry ice meets water, it immediately undergoes sublimation, which means it changes from a solid to a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The best part of it all? Water is a catalyst that helps to create this phenomenon!

How to make a DIY witch's cauldron

First and foremost, you’ll need the main ingredient: dry ice. If you aren’t sure where to buy it, call your local grocery store to see if they carry it. If not, search online for a supplier near you.

 Next, look for a cauldron at a Halloween store, or use a large cooking pot from your kitchen. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like a witch’s cauldron, your bubbling potions will still look festive.

Fill the cauldron about halfway with hot water and a dash of dish soap, which will help to give you bubbles. Then, using tongs, place small chunks of dry ice into your soapy water mixture and watch as the kettle starts to gurgle and bubble. Remember to handle the dry ice with care—due to its negative temperature, touching it with bare hands can give you frostbite.

To keep the potion going, add more hot water when needed. Your neighbors and friends will surely be wowed by your crafty decor.

Whether you’re trying this craft out in your kitchen with the kids, in the classroom with students, or at a party with friends, we hope you enjoy watching this fascinating scientific reaction unfold.

Happy Halloween!

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