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Villanova Engineering–Aqua Partnership Improves Access to Clean Water Abroad

Aqua President Colleen Arnold and a group of students in Madagascar

Since 2016, a key mentorship program between Villanova’s College of Engineering and Aqua has helped students assist communities abroad by improving infrastructure and access to clean drinking water.

Working in partnership with Villanova’s Center for Humanitarian Engineering and International Development, staff members from Aqua, a division of Essential Utilities, have lent their expertise to engineering students through projects aimed at increasing the availability of sustainable water supplies in developing communities.

“The Villanova-Essential partnership has significantly impacted the educational experience of our students, as well as the quality of life for the people in the communities where our students serve,” said Jordan Ermilio, PhD, ’98 ME, ’06 MSWREE, director of the Center for Humanitarian Engineering and International Development.

Those communities include Waslala, Nicaragua, where the team has provided technical and financial assistance for the construction of a new water system, working alongside the nonprofit El Porvenir. In Ghana, the partners have worked with Lifetime Wells International (LWI) to deploy a geographic information system to monitor handpump operation and maintenance; over the past 15 years, LWI has installed more than 1,500 wells in Ghana, each serving 30 to 40 families.

This summer, Aqua President Colleen Arnold ’19 EMBA accompanied students to Madagascar to assist with a water infrastructure project, Rural Access to New Opportunities in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (RANOWASH), working with a consortium of organizations including Catholic Relief Services. Additionally, Essential’s Chief Operating Officer, Rick Fox ’02 MBA, traveled to Panama to help with the rehabilitation of a 120,000-gallon water tank, providing safe drinking water for 10,000 people.

“We truly enjoy our partnership with Villanova,” says Kimberly Joyce, JD, ’96 CLAS, ’11 MBA, Essential’s vice president of regulatory and government affairs and corporate secretary. “As we are both mission-based organizations, our Aqua team of water experts get the opportunity to mentor Villanova student engineers as the next generation of stewards of the environment.”