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Welcome to the latest edition of American Water's the Pipeline, a quarterly resource for all things water. We see this as one more way to stay connected.


A Note from Val Armstrong

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Safe, Quality Drinking Water: The Role Research and Development Plays

As a national water utility, it is important that our water supply is safe, efficient, reliable and affordable. To do this, it takes a skilled workforce that is committed to continuing to improve how we do business. One way we do this is through our research and development (R&D) initiatives.

Cutting Edge Research and Development

Securing Our Water Award

The needs of our customers inform our R&D efforts and dictate what we do and how we do it. Our customers are top of mind with each new research project and technology advancement we deploy.

Innovation and excellence are an American Water tradition. Over the last three decades, we've built a robust and diverse R&D team designed to maintain and improve the quality of water and wastewater service, support the company’s compliance efforts, improve operational effectiveness, and lead the way on environmental solutions.

Following are just a few examples of our R&D work in action:

  • Incubator labs in the field are trial testing the latest innovation in efficient detection of water leaks and underground lead service lines for efficient and minimal disruptive replacements.
  • Deployment of granular activated carbon technology to remove PFAS compounds.
  • Use of energy efficient pumps to reduce electric consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

American Water’s R&D efforts better enable the company to optimize the life and operational efficiency of our water assets, and our scale allows us to implement such cutting-edge techniques rapidly and efficiently.

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Building Pipeline of Next Generation Researchers

Talent development is an important aspect of American Water’s R&D efforts. We pursue partnerships throughout our footprint to promote STEM careers. We work with universities to develop internships and co-op programs and regularly engage with middle and high schools to inspire youth and foster an interest in the sciences. We also partner with diverse organizations, such as American Corporate Partners, where we pair mentors with military service individuals re-entering the workforce. We work to attract a workforce that reflects the communities we serve. To learn about American Water's Inclusion and Diversity priorities, view our 2020 Inclusion & Diversity Report.

Through these collective efforts, many of which are described in more detail in this issue of the Pipeline, we are ready to take on the challenges of today and those of the future to continue to provide safe, reliable, and affordable water and wastewater service to our customers.

Sincerely, Val Armstrong Signature


Water Quality and Safety

American Water Lab specialist

While the crises in Flint and Newark have drawn media attention to the issue of water safety nationwide, other less covered, but critical, water quality challenges exist. One of these challenges relates to emerging contaminants.

This is why monitoring and treating known and emerging contaminants is among the top priorities being addressed by American Water’s R&D teams.

The company’s commitment bears out in the results. American Water routinely scores among the highest of all water companies when it comes to water quality. This in part is due to innovative approaches spearheaded by our R&D departments, which are aimed at identifying new ways to combat emerging challenges in the water industry, such as lead pipe erosion and corrosion and emerging contaminants.


American Water Treatment Facility

Researching New Ways of Treating Emerging Contaminants

American Water’s R&D team develops solutions to contaminants of emerging concern, including PFAS, Legionella, cyanotoxin-forming algal blooms and more. The company’s commitment to water quality is exemplified by its Central Lab in Belleville, Illinois, which houses an industry-leading water research program, in addition to its forward-leaning efforts in PFAS treatment utilizing granular activated carbon to compare PFAS removal and media performance. Learn more about Reducing PFAS in Drinking Water with Treatment Technologies.


Spotlight: A Conversation with Dr. Lauren Weinrich Senior Scientist, Environmental & Analytical Products

Dr. Lauren Weinrich has been a senior scientist in the Water Research and Development team for over a decade. She works on projects related to treatment, water monitoring, optimization in drinking water, water reuse and seawater desalination.

What are the critical aspects of American Water’s Research & Development team that have contributed to the company’s industry-leading success? The R&D team’s passion and commitment to public health are two of the aspects that contribute to our success. That commitment is reflected by our expert scientists, with 7 PhDs on the team and other advanced degrees. Moreover, our collaborations with our colleagues both inside and outside of the business enables us to better understand and prioritize those challenges.

What are some of the next great challenges in the water space with regards to water optimization and/or treatment? How is the R&D team pursuing solutions to these challenges? Much of our work has been, and continues to focus on, technologies for monitoring changes in source water quality at our treatment plants throughout our distribution systems. We are testing emerging and current technologies for the removal and/or destruction of contaminants, like PFAS and other unregulated contaminants. Additionally, in addressing the water supply shortage issue, reuse and desalination are important research topics for our R&D team. We believe these alternative sources will be critical to augmentation of our existing fresh water supply.

How do American Water customers and the regulatory landscape factor into your work? American Water is customer-focused and committed to providing safe and reliable water and wastewater services. In doing so, we look at existing water quality challenges and find improved and cost-effective treatment options. By engaging directly with our customers, our scientists can provide unbiased perspectives to their questions or concerns. Additionally, there is no doubt that regulations catalyze research. With that said, American Water focuses on identifying alternative solutions that allow treatment goals to be met in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. But, the landscape of emerging contaminants continue to evolve at a faster pace than regulations.

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Dr. Lauren Weinrich
Senior Scientist, Environmental & Analytical Products

Are there any major advances on the horizon with regards to water reuse or desalination? What technologies are contributing to innovative responses to this issue? Both reuse and desalination are important research topics for R&D. We believe these alternative sources will be critical to augmentation of our existing fresh water supply. Technologies such as membrane filtration and advanced oxidation have been examined; however, there are many technological and economical impediments that still need to be navigated. Take membrane filtration for potable reuse applications- while this may be able to remove large levels of contaminants, it can be energy intensive and produce a waste stream of salts that can be expensive to dispose. Our research has been exploring more user-friendly alternatives that can meet the same water quality goals without the associated costs. Similarly, in desalination where membranes are also used, membrane fouling can occur, which subsequently reduces their performance and increases operational costs. This is particularly problematic where water is drawn directly from the ocean and can cause rapid fouling. Our recent research illustrated that drawing water through the sand on the beach using subsurface intakes can improve water quality substantially, which helps reduce reliance on downstream treatment options. This approach can substantially reduce variability in the water quality compared to directly drawing water from the oceans.


American Water’s R&D team
Crucial to the Company’s Future Successes

From the consistent delivery of quality water, shoring up our infrastructure, to empowering our customers with the latest technology, our R&D team’s efforts have resulted in American Water being an industry leader with a proven track record. The company continues to invest in and develop innovative technologies and processes, while building a talent pool and pipeline of the next generation of research scientists, engineers and water chemical experts.


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American Water’s Commitment to Environmental, Social Responsibility and Governance

American Water recently published our sixth biennial Sustainability Report covering our industry leading performance in 2019 and 2020. Our President and CEO Walter Lynch said, ”It is because of this ongoing commitment to integrating environmental, social and governance principles throughout our business that American Water continues to be recognized for our leadership. We are committed to limiting our impact on the environment while strengthening the communities we serve.”




American Water wants to be a resource of information for you. Through active outreach and engagement with a variety of stakeholders, American Water has taken part in a great exchange of ideas, issues and insights about challenges and opportunities impacting the water and wastewater industry. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us on any water or wastewater topic. Here are just a few examples of resources that provide background on the topics we covered:

We're here if you need us.

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Valoria Armstrong
Chief Inclusion Officer & VP, External Affairs
American Water

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