At Aqua, municipal fair market value legislation helps us help you

 

You may think that here at Aqua, our day-to-day operations revolve almost entirely around the intersection of science and engineering. We’re a water company, after all! 

What may surprise you, though, is that even though those fields are paramount to our mission to provide and protect Earth’s most essential resource, plenty of our work is intertwined with the worlds of finance and public policy.

Think about it: When Aqua acquires a water system from a municipality, we go through extensive legal processes in order to ensure the handoff goes smoothly. And one of the many factors that can improve those processes for all involved parties is the presence of municipal fair market value (MFMV) legislation. 

We spoke to Aqua Ohio President Ed Kolodziej to learn more about MFMV legislation and how it benefits both communities and customers. 

Ed Kolodziej (second from left) and colleagues at the opening of a new facility in Ohio

What’s the benefit to my town? 

In January 2019, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed legislation allowing companies like Aqua to pay fair market value for the purchase of water and wastewater systems. Before these changes, system values were determined by their depreciated original cost, which generally did not reflect a reasonable market value for those assets.

Think of it this way: If the value of a home was established under the old Ohio formula, you would only consider the original purchase price of the home and the cost of improvements you did, minus their depreciation over time. Under the new fair market value system, the value of a home also considers things like the recent selling prices of similar homes nearby, curb appeal, replacement cost, and desirablility of the neighborhood. All of these items can have a significant impact on the true value of the home.

When we apply this logic to the sale of water systems, it’s clear why local municipalities benefit from fair market value legislation. When Aqua purchases the system, themunicipality receives a reasonable market value in return, which can then go toward numerous other local projects, from schools to parks to fire departments. 

“By partnering with a regulated utility through a purchase agreement, an Ohio community can shed the burdens of utility operation and maintenance, immediately improve their financial position, and potentially create a new source of revenue for their general fund,” Kolodziej explained. “The regulated utility brings operational efficiencies and economies of scale along with sorely needed investment dollars to the table and therefore earns a return on their investments.”

What’s the benefit to customers like me? 

If you’ve been following our Aquastructure series since its inception, you know one thing for sure: better water infrastructure leads to better water quality. 

“Around our state, water and wastewater infrastructure is in disrepair, reliability is suffering, compliance with health and environmental regulations is at risk and government-owned utilities across the state are behind the eight ball,” said Kolodziej. 

“The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says Ohio communities need to spend $26.78 billion on water and wastewater systems in the next 20 years. There are no easy answers, and most have no idea where the resources will come from.”

Kolodziej is right: The answers aren’t always easy. But that’s where Aqua can help. By working with municipal officials to acquire the municipal water and wastewater systems, we’re able to ease the burden of these necessary improvements for communities like yours. 

The acquisition process allows us to carefully assess the state of aging water and wastewater systems and then implement crucial upgrades, many of which are long overdue. Replacing water mains, service lines, main line valves, and fire hydrants are often among the first order of business. 

Because water infrastructure, water quality, and public health are inherently linked, these upgrades lead to delivering better drinking water, therefore leading to healthier communities as a whole. That’s something everyone can get behind. 

Anything else? 

Ohio is our sixth Aqua state to enact this type of fair market value legislation, joining states like Illinois and Pennsylvania in giving municipalities even more reason to ease the burden of water and wastewater operations. 

“I encourage elected leaders across the state, especially those with budget or environmental compliance challenges, to explore the new opportunities created by the new Municipal Fair Market Value rules,” Kolodziej added. “More and more communities are benefiting by unleashing the power of regulated utility investment.” 

 

To learn even more about how Aqua can help improve local finances in a community like yours, visit WaterByAqua.com.

 

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Bringing a fresh filtration system to North Carolina

At Aqua, we’re always proud of our projects that help to improve water quality for our customers, but this week, we have a special reason to highlight these positive changes: It’s Infrastructure Week!

As we all know by now, water infrastructure greatly impacts both the quality of your water and the quality of your life. By investing in new infrastructure in our service areas, we’re making strides to change our communities for the better. That’s why our team has been hard at work implementing a new filtration system in Upchurch Place, a community in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What’s the deal with filtration?

Filtration systems, when necessary, are a crucial part of water infrastructure—after all, they help to remove unwanted naturally occurring minerals. Aqua has provided water to Upchurch Place since 2002, and we’ve built quite a relationship with our North Carolina community.

We spoke to Aqua North Carolina’s Michael Melton, engineering manager, and Amanda Berger, environmental compliance director, to learn more about the recently completed project. Melton noted that the goal of the new filtration system is the removal of iron and manganese. While both elements are naturally present in tap water, keeping their levels below the secondary standard is important.

Changes in Upchurch Place

After hearing reports of discolored water from customers in the Upchurch area, we identified the problem and got to work on implementing a solution.

“Since installing the new filters, the treated water has iron and manganese levels well below the secondary drinking water standard,” Melton said. “In addition, we’re proud to announce that Aqua is the first privately owned water provider in North Carolina to utilize a non-discharge backwash system.” (Aqua developed the first recycle water system in 2010.)

What’s a non-discharge backwash system? Long story short: It allows us to eliminate water loss in the filtration process, therefore upholding our mission to provide and protect Earth’s most essential resource. The best part is that our customers will only see a .70 cent increase in their annual water bill for this major improvement—and it’s well worth it.

Aqua’s commitment to excellence

Providing our Upchurch customers with a new and improved filtration system was no small feat.

“On average, a filter project like the one in Upchurch can take up to nine months to engineer and construct,” Melton said. “At Aqua, we also make it a priority to work with local financial and environmental regulators to improve every aspect of our service and reliability.”

“This project is a good example of how Aqua is working with its stakeholders to achieve the goal of improving our customer’s water quality,” Berger added.

Although these projects take a good amount of time, money, and resources, they’re necessary in order to improve the state of our country's infrastructure. As water providers, it’s our goal to supply our customers with safe and reliable water—and it doesn’t hurt that we’re helping to restore our nation’s infrastructure in the process.

Stay tuned for our next Aquastructure blog to see what we’re up to next, and in the meantime, we’re wishing our customers and professional peers a very happy (and productive) Infrastructure Week!

 

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6 Ways to Improve Water Quality Right In Your Backyard

August is National Water Quality Month, which is a great reason to remember that clean water is an invaluable resource to our communities both big and small. Aqua is committed to ensuring water quality. Our efforts to update and maintain infrastructure are one way Aqua helps make a difference, but we like celebrating the simple ways individuals can make a difference, too.

Here are six easy ways you can stand with us in our pledge to protect the water in our communities.

Wash the Days of Disposing of Chemicals in Your Sink or Toilet Down the Drain

If you need to get rid of paint, chemical cleaners or any other questionable liquids, do not dispose of them in your sink! Some of the chemicals in these products can be toxic, so you do not want them to get into your water supply. Instead, it’s easy to find a proper way to dispose of these hazardous waste materials by searching Earth911 or by contacting your local sanitation, public works or environmental health department.

Additionally, non-biodegradable objects such as baby wipes, feminine hygiene products and medicines should never be flushed down the toilet as a method of disposal. Instead, dispose these items in their proper trash receptacles or see if your local pharmacy has a take-back program to safely get rid of pills.

Hit the Road with Improper Car-Washing Techniques

You might think washing your car at home is a no-brainer, but you may be surprised to know that because many car-washing soaps contain mixtures of various chemicals, you could be unknowingly contaminating your water supply.

When you use cleaning products inside your home, the used water goes straight to a treatment plant through sanitary sewer systems. The leftover water from washing a car outside, however, often goes down storm drains and ends up in water supply systems without undergoing proper treatment.

Instead, consider getting your car washed at a commercial business designed to handle all the watery runoff. Professional car washes tend to use 60 percent less water than at-home methods, too. If you prefer to wash your own car, make sure to invest in biodegradable and phosphate-free cleaners. Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass, and use a trigger nozzle on your hose to conserve water. 

Put Your Banana Peels To Good Use

 

Common lawn chemicals such as fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and insecticides are often used to care for gardens and yards. When they aren’t used correctly, though, they can enter into streams where they can harm critters and contaminate drinking water.

Instead, consider using compost as a natural fertilizer. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a helpful guide to how to get started. Composting adds nutrients and organic matter back into soil without relying on harmful chemicals found in synthetic fertilizers. 

Make Picking Up Your Pet’s Number Two Your Number One Priority

When you don’t pick up your pet’s waste, you put yourself and your water supply at risk. During rain storms, a lot of this waste runs straight into storm drains that—you guessed it—do not get treated to ensure water quality.

Did you know you can make it a priority for your neighborhood to clean up after its four-legged friends by coming together to install a community waste bag station? Consider fundraising to buy a ready-made waste station, or rise to the challenge building your own.

Throw Litter For a Loop

Litter on streets, sidewalks and parking lots easily washes into our water systems. Even if you would never dream of littering, it’s important to note that it still happens all the time. People are less likely to litter when it isn’t the norm, so instead of relying on others to pick up trash, challenge yourself to lead by example. 

Organize a Community Clean-Up 

The most effective way to protect water quality in your community is to go straight to the source. Enacting a community clean-up of your local watershed can do wonders for your local ecosystem and water supply. There are plenty of existing toolkits that make it as easy as possible for community members to organize clean-up efforts at local rivers or streams.

You can also search for established clean-up projects in your area. Most groups are always looking for volunteers and would be happy to include you in their efforts.

Clearly, a great deal of planning goes into a community clean-up, but a commitment to water quality in the long-run is beneficial to all.

There are so many ways to protect the water in your community. Together we can ensure that the quality of our water remains a priority for ourselves, our families and generations to come. 

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Aqua Illinois Focuses on Carrying Out Our Mission

World Water Day was one week ago today! This annual event, which focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of fresh water resources, falls on March 22 every year. It is Aqua’s mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource: water. In recognition of World Water Day, we are spotlighting the efforts being put forth by one of Aqua’s eight state operations. Aqua Illinois Regional Environmental Compliance Manager Kevin Culver is passionate about Aqua Illinois’ efforts to execute our mission; this is his story.

 

Water quality and water sustainability are incredibly important to the team at Aqua Illinois. As the regional environmental compliance manager, I am responsible for maintaining a high standard of water quality, carrying out our source water protection plan, and overseeing our company’s environmental efforts to improve the water sources close to home. 

 

At Aqua, we believe that the cleaner the source water, the better the drinking water quality for our customers. At most of our facilities, we do not control the water sources or land adjacent to them, so we must rely on our customers and partners to assist us with keeping our water as clean as possible. To better ensure success in this area, Aqua Illinois organizes and participates in various outreach and education efforts. Some of these are specifically aimed at local youth, because we believe that children can get involved and bring home a lasting message that what they do in their back yard will impact their water or someone else’s water downstream.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and The Pause for Patriotism community event.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and the Pause for Patriotism community event. 

 

Specifically, Aqua Illinois focuses a lot of attention on maintaining and enhancing the water quality of the Kankakee River. The Kankakee River is our water source for nearly 80,000 customers. Aqua Illinois works to raise awareness and educate the local community, lawmakers and the farming community, about the importance of the Kankakee River, not only as a water source, but as a natural resource to the entire area. Among the valuable information we have shared with the community about the river is the impact that nutrient runoff has on drinking water quality. One example of how our education efforts have worked is that farmers in our local areas are now planting cover crops and significantly reducing nutrient runoff.

Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes.

 Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes. 

 

To expand our education efforts and reach a larger audience, Aqua Illinois participates in various watershed conferences, including the recent Kankakee River Watershed Conference, which took place Feb. 10 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. These types of events give us great exposure and allow us to send our operators, engineers and area managers to connect with attendees and share their knowledge with larger groups of people. Aqua is serious about its commitment to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource, and the company as a whole takes pride in all of its efforts to achieve this commitment.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snow Storms, Road Salt and Drinking Water Quality – What’s the Connection?

Most people don’t make a connection between salting their sidewalks, driveways and roads, and their drinking water, but there is a connection.

Believe it or not, road salts were not used in the U.S. until after 1942. Prior to then, abrasives (ash and cinders, sand) were typically used. After World War II, the expansion of the federal highway system helped facilitate the widespread use of road salts in highway safety. Today, 8 to 12 million tons of road salts are applied on highways every year. In 2016 alone, highway deicing consumed about 44 percent of the 42 million tons of total salt produced in the U.S.  


So, what does the salt placed on roads, highways and sidewalks have to do with drinking water? Well, it’s simple. When the snow melts, the road salt eventually runs off into storm drains and ends up in a local stream or river. As a result, sometimes water might taste a little salty immediately after the snow melts. It can also eventually make its way into the groundwater.

Over the past several decades, there has been an increasing trend in the levels of sodium and chloride in fresh water streams and rivers. Salt is very difficult to remove from water without using desalination equipment, which is not a practical technology for most water supplies that are not in desert areas. Salt in streams and other fresh water sources has a major impact on the fish and other aquatic life that cannot tolerate the salt levels. Salt actually sticks around in the streams and rivers and gradually makes them more salty over time.

So, what can we do? We need salt to keep our roads, highways and sidewalks safe. Balancing the need for safety with protecting drinking water supplies has been a challenge water suppliers, environmental organizations, and highway administrators, from the Great Lakes to New England, have been working to solve for some time now. Here are a couple of things you can do because every spoonful of salt counts. 

  • Use salt brine application prior to a snow event. Many highway organizations already do this, which saves money and makes roads safer.
  • Do not dump deicing salts onto storm drains to unblock a frozen drain. If you can’t clear them by hand, use hot water instead.
  • Don’t dump left over rock salt and deicing chemicals onto the ground or down storm drains. Talk to your local municipality about the best way to dispose these leftover chemicals.
  • Consider alternatives, such as beet juice, to salt pavements and driveways when possible. The sugars in beet juice have been used for deicing in areas around the Great Lakes. These are also typically pet-friendly as well, although, you should always check the label to confirm.
  • Try shoveling your sidewalk or driveway first, and let the sun to melt the sidewalk. Use salt on hard-to-melt areas.

The following articles by Steve Corsi from United States Geological Survey provide a more in-depth look at the science of road salt and its impact on streams, rivers and aquatic organisms:

Evaluating chloride trends due to road-salt use and its impacts on water quality and aquatic organisms

River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons

 

 

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