Aqua’s reservoirs and the surrounding lands are home to many native species of concern. For example, the Pickering Reservoir in Chester County, Pennsylvania attracts rare and endangered species including the redbelly turtle, nesting bald eagles and great blue herons, as well as rare plants like the netted chainfern.
Aqua plays an active role in protecting and restoring these land and water habitats in the communities we serve. Such habitats are essential for biodiversity, as well as for source water protection. Currently, we protect more than 7,600 acres of lands and habitats at over a dozen locations across our eight states.
Restoration by the numbers
We are committed to doing all we can to preserve natural habitats, from planting trees and participating in stream cleanups to supporting grant programs that serve to improve water and habitat quality. Aqua staff also volunteer their time to restore natural habitats by removing invasive plants and planting natives.
Additionally, our Green Lane Bird Sanctuary in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania aims to protect resident and migrating waterfowl in an Audubon Important Bird Area, where more than 270 bird species have been recorded.
Freshwater Mussel Recovery Program
Aqua is working with partners in the Delaware River Basin to bring back native freshwater mussel populations. Aqua is aiding the Freshwater Mussel Recovery Program being conducted at its Green Lane Reservoir by researchers at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. If successful, these mussels will help restore natural populations and enhance habitat quality.
Aqua also has strict boating and quarantine policies, which have successfully prevented invasive mussel species, such as zebra mussels, from infesting these waters.
In Illinois, Aqua has taken a leadership role in working to protect water sources from nutrient runoff, which can negatively impact drinking water quality. Efforts have included working with local farmers to reduce nitrate runoff from agricultural activity into streams, rivers and lakes, including the Kankakee River, our water source for nearly 80,000 customers.
Aqua Illinois raises awareness and educates the local communities, lawmakers and the farmers about the importance of the Kankakee River, not only as a water source, but as a natural resource to the region. As a result, local farmers now plant cover crops, which significantly reduce nutrient runoff.
We have also partnered with the Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Company to reduce nitrate runoff into Lake Vermilion.
Aqua Illinois, in association with the Lake Vermilion Water Quality Coalition, has hosted an annual Lake Vermilion Clean-Up Day for 14 years in a row. The event, which kicks off each year at Lake Vermilion County Park, was instituted to enhance the natural beauty and overall cleanliness of one of Vermilion County’s most vital natural resources.
2017 was the inaugural “Urban Turtle Festival," hosted by the Little River Wetland Project at Eagle Marsh in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Aqua Indiana's Midwest Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges into the Graham McCullough Ditch, which during high flow events flows into the wetland area.
In addition to Aqua Indiana's financial support for the event, we also participated, by educating attendees about the discovery of three endangered Blandings turtles in the marsh. “The presence of the endangered turtles in the backyard of our treatment facility is an affirmation that our wastewater treatment process is second to none," said Area Manager Jeff Gard who, along with his team, runs the plant.