Every Day is Earth Day at Aqua!

Aqua employees participate in stream clean up efforts throughout our eight states.

 By Aqua Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett

It’s always a good time to consider how we can be better stewards of our environment. At Aqua, we think about this question every day as we strive to carry out our mission of protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource. With Earth Day tomorrow, Saturday, April 22, we hope this question is on everyone’s minds, at Aqua and beyond.


As the vice president and chief environmental officer, I am routinely asked how Aqua is helping the planet and what we could be doing better. Let me take a moment to explain some specific things we’re doing and how they’ve made a difference in the environment. I’ll also explain our efforts to develop a sustainability plan for Aqua to help guide and improve our environmental impacts moving forward.

Believe it or not, there are more than 100 activities Aqua does company-wide to help protect the planet, and we do some of them every day.

Reducing Lost Water

Since only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh water, and only about a third of that, or less than one percent, is accessible, it’s our most significant responsibility as a water utility to manage our water resources carefully. One key daily activity that’s fundamental to our company’s sustainability is our ability to reduce water loss. We’re experts at replacing pipes, changing meters and re-using water in various ways. 

Keeping our Streams and Rivers Clean

Another aspect of our daily work is treating wastewater. Our nearly 175 wastewater plants return 26 million gallons of wastewater per day back into our streams and rivers cleaner than it came out. This water is not only critical to water supplies, but it’s also critical to the multitude of fish and flora that need it to survive. 

Aqua employees at the Media Wastewater Plant in PA.

Protecting our Water Supplies for Future Generations

Protecting the aquifers, streams and rivers that supply our water is also a critical daily function. In Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, teams work to manage lakes and reservoirs and protect the streams that feed them to keep their quantity and quality sustainable. This involves preserving lands, monitoring our streams, planting trees, educating communities and local leaders, partnering with environmental or watershed groups, conducting stream cleanups, or providing input on local development and local ordinances. Aqua Illinois recently won the American Water Works Association (AWWA) source water protection award for their efforts.  

Reducing Waste From Our Business

Treating water also creates waste from the things we take out of the water and wastewater to clean it. At our water plants, we use belt filter presses to drain water from the sludge from treatment to reduce the amount we need to send to landfills. We have also explored and use efforts to beneficially reuse the waste from wastewater treatment to put nutrients on farm fields. In some areas, we use spray irrigation to apply treated wastewater to fields to recharge the groundwater and avoid impacts on local streams.

Using Energy Wisely

Aqua uses many innovative approaches to reduce our energy use. These activities include LED lighting, pump-curve calibrations, variable-flow (VFD) pumps, peak-demand response, air blower and diffuser improvements and solar panels. We also manage energy through our fleet. We measure idling times to reduce gas waste and air emissions and look for efficiency improvements when we buy new cars and trucks. 

   

Aqua solar fields benefit the environment across some of our eight states. One of which is at our Pickering Water Treatment Plant in PA, which is 6.5 acres and reduces our usage by 2.2 million kWh annually. This is the equivalent of avoiding 51,450 gallons of gasoline per year or the equivalent emissions as 380 passenger cars.

Sustainability Planning

Aqua is embarking on a multi-year effort to develop a sustainability plan. This effort involves a couple of steps, starting with benchmarking Aqua’s sustainability metrics against other utilities and developing a sustainability activity inventory. This will take most of 2017 to complete as we look at more than 34 different standard metrics from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). 

In 2018, we’ll begin to understand which sustainability metrics are important to our employees and our customers to help determine which areas will become our core focus. Next, we’ll develop a governance structure to help drive the achievement and measurement of our sustainability effort. Finally, in 2019, we’ll develop a plan that sets the goals, objectives, and short- and long-term actions we need to take to improve our sustainability as a company. We know Aqua does many things that are sustainable, but we can and need to do better if we want to catch up to our peers in the industry.

We’ll be soliciting ideas and feedback in the future, so please keep an eye out for ways you can share your thoughts.

Last, I want to thank everyone at Aqua for protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource every day! There is no greater responsibility to our communities, our families and our planet!

Did you know? Other ways Aqua is making a difference:

  • Some of Aqua’s reservoirs have preserved land around them. This land is home to threatened and endangered species. By preserving land to protect our water supplies, we are also helping to protect and re-establish threatened and endangered species
  • Aqua has been participating in TreeVitalize in Pennsylvania since 2005. In total, Aqua has planted more than 43,658 trees for 277 projects, equal to 302 acres of trees. What does this mean for the environment? Well, each tree sequesters 26 to 48 pounds of carbon per year depending on size. Each acre of trees counters about 26,000 miles of driving roughly, so in total, these trees counter about 7.8 million miles of driving per year. Aqua’s fleet drives about 17.4 million miles per year, so these trees counter roughly 45 percent of Aqua’s carbon footprint from driving.
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5 Water Hacks You Won’t Believe

Plenty of tasks are made possible through water: travelling, cooking, cleaning, survivingand everything in between. However, sometimes a burst of pure genius strikes and we discover new, innovative ways to utilize Earth’s most precious resource. Below you will find five out-of-the-box, water-based solutions to everyday problems.

 

Disclaimer: Though these uses for water are fascinating and mesmerizing, we have not tested them ourselves, and therefore, we are not encouraging you to try them. Instead, we only want to showcase the unique and unconventional ways in which people have utilized water to address ordinary challenges.

 

Keep Reusable Water Bottles Cool

Few things are more infuriating than attempting to force ice cubes into a water bottle. Many bottles are just too narrow, and nobody wants to drink lukewarm water. So, is there a solution to this dilemma? Apart from crushing the ice cubes or buying a reusable bottle with a bigger opening, there may be a surefire smart solution for those water bottle woes. Just fill the bottle a quarter of the way full, rest it on its side in the freezer overnight and fill the remainder of the bottle up with water in the morning. Ahhhh, refreshingly cool hydration for hours!

 

Car Dented? No Problem!

Stressed out over the fender bender that's left a dent in your rear bumper? One innovative fixer-upper discovered a way to remove dents with little more than boiling water and plunger. It seems this method would only work for newer models of cars with plastic bumpers, as it is quite unlikely that steel cold be shaped by a toiler plunger, but it's still a fascinating concept.

 

Speed Dry a Manicure

Waiting around for a manicure to dry is both a frustrating and boring use of time. What if you get an itch on your nose or desperately need to go to the bathroom? Any sudden movements are a potential threat to newly polished nails. Interestingly, some people have turned to water—really, really cold water—to dry manicures quickly. Apparently, placing your fresh manicure into a bowl of ice cold water for three minutes is one way to dry the polish all the way through.

 

DIY Storm Lanterns

When the power goes out, smartphone flashlights tend to come on. However, the light from a cellphone only beams upward and provides minimal lighting at best. Shining a phone's flashlight beam through a clear container full of water makes for much more efficient storm lighting since the light beam refracts through the water molecules and disperses.

 

(Safely!) Start a Fire

Did you know it's possible to start a fire with a water bottle and a piece of paper? They may not teach this in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, but some have figured out how to ignite a fire using the rays of the sun and a bottle of water. While it certainly isn't as simple as using a lighter, this strategy for starting a campfire is definitely impressive. (But be careful, OK?)

 

New, creative and innovative ways to solve problems with water come to light every single day. What are some of the coolest things you or someone you know has done with water?

 

 

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5 Things You Never Knew About Rainbows

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! With festivities in full swing, we thought now would be a good time to discuss one thing frequently associated with the Irish holiday. No, not four-leaf clovers. We’re talking about the breathtaking optical trick that cannot exist without water: a rainbow!

Did you know it’s impossible to reach the end of a rainbow? We’ll explain all that and more.

 

Connection to St. Patrick’s Day

Why are leprechauns and rainbows commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, anyway? In Irish folklore, leprechauns are often seen urging people to seek out the pot of gold they’ve left at the end of a rainbow.

Here’s the thing, though: The end of a rainbow in unreachable, because whenever you move, the rainbow moves with you! Despite the fact that a leprechaun’s gold is unattainable, rainbows remain a staple of St. Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish.

 

A Complex Science of Water and Light

Every rainbow is made up of two simple ingredients: water and sunlight. However, the process of creating a rainbow isn’t as simple as merely mixing water with light and expecting a colorful arc. The sun’s rays are made up of many different colors, but we most often perceive them as white light. When the colorful rays of light hit raindrops at a specific angle, the light both reflects and refracts through each individual raindrop as it passes through. This allows the beautiful colors of the rainbow to disperse and become visible to the human eye. Yay, science!

 

Double Rainbow? Triple Rainbow? Quadruple Rainbow

Double rainbows occur when the light passing through a raindrop refracts more than once. It’s even possible for three or four refractions to occur within a single drop, resulting in multiple rainbows. This is incredibly rare, though, so consider yourself extremely lucky if you witness one.

 

You Can Make Your Own! 

If you don’t feel like waiting for a rainstorm to pass in order to see a rainbow, you’re in luck. As mentioned earlier, all it takes to create a brilliant rainbow is a bit of water and sunlight. Grab your garden hose on a sunny day, face away from the sun and spray a fine mist—a rainbow is more than likely to form before your eyes!

 

Exclusively Earthly Wonder…Maybe?

Arguably one of the coolest and most unique facts about rainbows is that only Earth’s atmosphere is capable of creating and sustaining the optical visual of a rainbow. Some scientists think Saturn’s moon, Titan, is wet and humid enough for the creation of rainbows, but there likely isn’t enough direct sunlight for it to happen. For the time being, us Earthlings have some serious solar system bragging rights.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all of us at Aqua! Wherever you are, we hope you catch a glimpse of a rainbow very soon. Just remember: Don’t go chasing it and expecting to find gold!

 

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QUIZ: How Well Do You Know the Water Cycle?

How much do you remember about the water cycle? The process is vital to life on Earth, yet we often only think of the water cycle when weather gets in the way of our plans. The water cycle also plays a major part in long-term climate change and global economics.

To test your knowledge of the process, we put a little quiz together. And if you have little ones at home, you can take this quiz with them for added fun, especially since the water cycle is typically taught in elementary school.

 

For the title of Aqua Expert:

1. Water covers approximately how much of the Earth’s surface?

a. The whole thing

b. One half

c. Three quarters

d. Two thirds

2. Clouds form during which step of the water cycle?

a. Melting

b. Evaporation

c. Condensation

d. Fluffing

3. Why is ocean water so salty?

a. So that boats can float

b. Salt cannot evaporate with water

c. A chef seasoned it that way

d. There are large natural salt blocks along the ocean floor

4. What is the proper name for the process of water evaporating from plants?

a. Transpiration

b. Perspiration

c. A temperate tantrum

d. Sweating greens

5. Which of the following is NOT a form of precipitation?

a. Sleet

b. Drought

c. Rain

d. Snow

 

Answers

 

Image via NASA

 

1. (c) Three quarters. Water covers about 71 percent of Earth, or just under three quarters. It’s no wonder most evaporation occurs on ocean surfaces!

 

2. (c) Condensation. Clouds form when water vapor condenses back into a liquid. The water droplets gather in the sky until they become too heavy, then fall back to earth as precipitation.

 

3. (b) Salt cannot evaporate with water. Small amounts of salt are released into fresh water rivers that naturally flow out to oceans and seas. The salt is left behind when water evaporates or freezes. Therefore, the ocean is always getting saltier!

 

4. (a) Transpiration. Humans lose water through breathing, and so do plants. In fact, 10 percent of water in the atmosphere is believed to come from transpiration.

 

5. (b) Drought. Drought refers to a lack of precipitation. While drought doesn’t immediately threaten us like other natural disasters, it can be one of the most expensive weather-related events to affect an area.

 

How did you do? Which questions did you find simple or surprising? Let us know!

 

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DIY Terrariums: Put Some Spring in Your Step!

Happy March! We’ve entered the final stretch of winter—some areas are still experiencing cold temperatures, but spring officially begins this month.

 

Now is the time to reintroduce green to your life by building your own terrarium. This simple and low-maintenance indoor garden will freshen up your home and spirit for the upcoming season.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • Sturdy, clear container
  • Pebbles for drainage
  • Potting soil or sand (no fertilizer)
  • Plants (succulents or mosses work well)
  • Decorations (optional)
  • Water and spray bottle for maintenance

 

What to Do:

 1. Consider using fun, unique containers to house your terrarium. Unexpected displays such as a domed glass cake tray, large conch shell or even a hollowed lightbulb can make your mini-garden reflect your style and fit in wherever you need more greenery.

 

2. Layer the bottom of your container with pebbles. This creates a drainage system for plant roots in case of overwatering. Adding potting charcoal can also be beneficial to some terrarium styles. This layer will help keep water free of impurities and prevent mold growth.

 

3. Fill your container with soil or sand, leaving enough space to house your plants or any decorations you plan on using. Fertilizer is not recommended for terrariums, since plants need to adjust to permanent soil and have limited space to grow.

 

4. Pick your plants. While many types of plants can thrive inside a terrarium, they have vastly different needs in soil, sunlight and water. It’s important to pick plants that best suit your living environment for stress-free care.


5. Make it your own! There’s an endless amount of accessories that can bring some personality to your new terrarium. Consider a woodland fantasy or Easter theme for spring. 

Aquatic Tips and Tricks

 

Keep a spray bottle full of water nearby to hydrate and refresh your plants. The force of water can easily disturb terrarium settings when it is poured from above.

Closed terrariums thrive in a humid environment. While some plant varieties can be fully self-sustaining, it’s important to keep an eye out for mold and occasionally allow the container to air out.

For a more aquatic look, plants like Anubias can be planted in tall vases and submerged in water. Once spring flowers begin to bloom, you can also preserve them in water and bring their beauty inside.

 

How will you personalize your spring terrarium? Share your homemade ecosystems with us!

 

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