Aqua Terra Consultants

Specialty: Computer modeling for water resource clients nationwide
Owner/president: Anthony Donigian
Fiscal 2001 revenues (ending June 30): $2.3 million
2002 projected: $2.8 million
Location: Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., plus offices in five other cities, including Everett and Olympia.

Doug Beyerlein says Aqua Terra Consultants is in the “cheap insurance” business. And business is good.

“As water becomes more of a scarce resource, planning for how to more efficiently use water is going to become more and more important and the type of work we do is going to be a bigger priority for people,” says Beyerlein, vice president for the company’s Pacific Northwest region.

Founded in 1985, Aqua Terra is best-known for developing software and performing studies that simulate real-world conditions for water resource clients without generating real-world costs. “It’s a lot cheaper to set up a computer model and see how something works rather than go out there and see it fail,” explains Beyerlein.

Unlike some consultants who have had to play catch up with technology, Aqua Terra was founded with technology as its cornerstone. “That’s always been our focus, making use of the best technology out there,” says Beyerlein. “I think that’s what’s kept us ahead of the competition all these years.”

Although there are only 16 employees in the entire company, Aqua Terra makes a big impression by modeling and evaluating the functions and water quality of everything from entire drainage basins to single detention ponds for clients ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Army Corps of Engineers.

As masters of technology, “we can do an amazing amount of work quickly,” says Beyerlein. “People assume we are a much larger firm because of our presence working with government agencies and large engineering firms.”

Going forward, Beyerlein expects continuing advances in technology to keep the quality and quantity of Aqua Terra’s work climbing. “The speed of computers has changed so much,” he notes. “What once would literally take overnight on a computer now takes at most a couple of minutes. As a result, we can analyze a lot more details and look at a lot more scenarios.”

Recently, Aqua Terra aimed its technical expertise in a slightly new direction. The company developed a software program for the state Department of Ecology that lets developers know whether their projects meet the department’s new stormwater management standards.

Known as the Western Washington Hydrology Model, the program is available for free on the department’s Web site. Developers simply download the program into their computer, enter the appropriate details regarding their projects, then sit back and let the computer perform all the calculations.

Once the calculations are complete, the software produces documentation that says whether a project meets the new standards — all without any hands-on involvement from DOE. Developers can then use that documentation as proof that their project meets the new state standards when applying for permits from the city or county where the project will be built.

For now, the software runs a generic program basely solely on the new state standards. However, if a city or county wanted to, Aqua Terra could customize the program to also include local standards, automating the entire permitting process.

“I think this is the future in terms of making sure that particular polices and standards are met,” says Beyerlein.

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