For those who live and work in Erie, Pennsylvania, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the fact that water — our region’s greatest natural resource — is in abundant supply and clean drinking water is always within reach.
“I always say if people take their water for granted, we are doing our job,” insists Paul Vojtek, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the Erie Water Works (EWW), which provides water service to more than 62,000 customers — residences and businesses — throughout the Erie region.
These customers use water for a multitude of purposes. And, for businesses, clean, potable water can be essential to their operation and production line, as well as employee health and sanitation. Equally important, the availability of water for fire protection can mean the difference between staying in business or a catastrophic loss.
Since April 2016, the City of Erie has been rated a Class 1 in the Public Protection Classification from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). In 2015, of the 48,000 fire protection areas in the United States, only 132 communities achieved a Class 1, the ISO’s highest rating.
“What many people don’t realize is that we also provide fire protection,” explains Vojtek. “If the power grid goes down, one of the things you have to worry about is fire. With the combination of emergency backup power generators and millions of gallons of storage, the ability to pump water and keep our system pressurized mitigates that threat.”
In 1865, the Erie Water and Gas Company was incorporated to do just that — provide both safe drinking water and readily available fire hydrant water for the City of Erie. It wasn’t until January 1, 1992, that the EWW, also known as the Erie City Water Authority, assumed operation of the City of Erie’s water system. It operates independent of city government, and is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors appointed by the mayor and members of Erie City Council.
For the past 25 years, the EWW has been the organization making sure water is properly treated to meet clean water standards. EWW’s primary goal is to: “To guarantee a continuous, uninterrupted, reasonably priced supply of quality water to its customers which assures public health while promoting regional stability and future development.”