At Aqua, we recognize that our operations can ultimately impact the climate – and in turn, climate change affects our operations. Climate change models predict not only warmer weather but changing precipitation patterns, where droughts can have a profound effect on river and groundwater levels, or extreme rain can result in flooding of developed areas. Lower river levels will require additional energy usage for water treatment, while lower groundwater levels will require more energy to extract water deeper from the Earth. Extreme weather events combined with increased urbanization can result in increased flooding, threatening existing water and wastewater infrastructure.
Moving forward, these changes will necessitate innovative solutions and enhanced infrastructure to carry new sources of water greater distances. Climate change will likely require more energy for building such infrastructure, as well as processing and distributing water.
In 2017, Aqua’s total GHG emissions were 147,240 metric tons. Of this, 90 percent are classified as Scope 2 GHG emissions (indirect emissions, such as those that result from the generation of electricity) and 10 percent are Scope 1 GHG (direct emissions from fleet operations and natural gas consumption for heating facilities).
While we are proud of the efforts we’ve made to date when it comes to investing in sustainable energy, we would like to do more. With this in mind, Aqua is committed to further reduce our GHG emissions and energy consumption, improving upon these metrics.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
As a company, it is our goal to continue to reduce our energy consumption and GHG emissions. One area where we can make an immediate impact is by reducing our fleet footprint.
Aqua has a diverse geographical footprint across our eight states, covering over 3,000 square miles of service area over 1,700 locations. Many of the locations require visits from employees daily or several times a week, which requires frequent vehicle usage. Aqua has also traditionally utilized its vehicles for meter reading, but we are instituting automated meter reading solutions that will greatly reduce the vehicle use for this purpose.
Aqua’s fleet is made up of more than 1,000 vehicles, ranging from cars to heavy duty dump trucks. In 2017, Aqua’s fleet traveled more than 18 million miles and consumed more than 1.25 million gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel and CNG.
In 2017, we also improved our fleet’s average mileage by 0.5 miles per gallon over the previous year, and reduced our total motor fuel usage by more than 42,000 gallons. We accomplished this by constantly reevaluating our vehicle needs to help ensure we have the right vehicle for the job, including utilizing smaller, more effect vehicles when possible, and retiring vehicles due to age.
In recent years, Aqua has invested in more than 30 heavy duty vehicles and dump trucks that run on CNG, as well as several CNG fueling stations, to support its operations in southeastern Pennsylvania. The investment has not only reduced our fuel cost in comparison to gasoline and diesel, but because natural gas is a low-carbon, cleaner-burning fuel, switching to natural gas has resulted in substantial reductions of hydrocarbon, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and GHG emissions. In 2017, our use of CNG reduced GHG emissions by 110 metric tons, the equivalent of removing 24 cars from the road!
In 2017, approximately 76,000 Aqua Texas customers, 120 Aqua employees and 146 of our water systems in southeastern Texas were in the direct path of historic Hurricane Harvey. For several days in late August, the storm wreaked havoc on the region, causing catastrophic flooding and more than $125 billion in damage.
Throughout the storm, our dedicated employees worked long hours in challenging conditions to maintain and restore service to our customers. Although we had standby generators ready to deploy after the hurricane hit, we were fortunate that many systems remained powered and in full operation during the storm. However, the devastating flood conditions impeded Aqua Texas employees from safely traveling to some communities to determine if water safety had been compromised by the storm. As a result, we issued a precautionary boil water advisory to 121 of our systems, lifting these advisories as soon as our operators were able to confirm the safety of each system's water.
The experience demonstrated the important responsibility that utilities like Aqua have to plan for extreme weather events. Thanks to our dedicated employees, and efforts ahead of the storm to ensure operational best practices were in place, including choosing strategic infrastructure locations, we were able to ride out the storm with minimal damage or impact to our customers.