Santa Claus Should Pack Up and Move!

We revisit a blog from Laurie Loftin, Program Specialist, who is clearly dating herself with this blog intro.

superman santa

“Superman’s Father,” by Funkwood. Won 4th place in The Secret Life of Santa 7 photo effects contest at

Look, up in the sky!  It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.  It’s an Amazon drone.  It’s Santa Claus!  Yes, it’s Santa Claus.  A jolly old elf from the North Pole who comes to visit good girls and boys with gift giving abilities far beyond those of mortal men.  Santa Claus, who can slide down the tightest of chimneys, make gazillions of toys with his bare hands, and fights a never-ending battle to promote consumerism, as it is the American way.

And now, take part in another exciting episode in the adventures of Santa Claus.  On Christmas Eve track his flight across the world, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).  Using radar, satellites, SantaCams, and jet fighters, the NORAD is sure to be the envy of the NSA this Christmas, as they keep children everywhere up to date with the surveillance of St. Nick.  The official tracking website allows your little ones to see how far the sleigh is from their home, play holiday games, and listen to well-loved Christmas carols.  Visit the library to learn how Santa functions in a different time-space continuum, making his amazing annual trek a reality for all children who keep Santa alive in their hearts.

Now to tie this blog to water.  Santa Claus’ legendary workshop is located in the North Pole.  I admit I only think of the North Pole in December.  The location brings to mind images of snowy white landscapes and mountains of ice.  Last winter I was curious as to what the North Pole looks like during the other seasons of the year.


Yes, Virginia, these trees don’t grow at the North Pole.

Much to my dismay, I once again confirmed how completely misinformed I am about most topics.  Relying only on the teachings of claymation classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Year Without Santa Claus,” I incorrectly believed Santa’s workshop in the North Pole to be a fixed location on snow-covered land with pine trees.  I have since learned a few things as shocking as if someone were to tell me Santa isn’t real.

First, there are two North Poles.  One is the North “Magnetic” Pole, the other is the geographic location.  No wonder no one has been able to find Santa’s legendary workshop!  Which area should one search?  To further add to the confusion, the  North Magnetic Pole is constantly moving – about 35 miles a year – due to magnetic changes in the Earth’s core.  Can you imagine the headache this must cause Santa?  He could leave to deliver presents and, because of the different time-space continuum he exists in, return to his workshop only to discover the whole setup has moved somewhere else!

The other thing I learned is the North Pole, be it the North Magnetic Pole or the Geographic North Pole, is not made up of any land mass.  It is made mostly out of shifting sea ice.  Santa’s magical workshop sits on top of solid WATER!  Without water the North Pole and Santa’s workshop would not exist.  I knew water was important, but I didn’t realize the legend of Santa Claus depends on this natural resource for his survival.

north pole

Images of North Pole at different times of the year.

Images from the summer of 2013 taken near the Geographic North Pole caused a bit of controversy.  The headline grabbing news shouted the North Pole is melting!  Climate change believers and non-believers sought to disprove each other.  But neither group could deny the image of a lake in the North Pole.  Ice was melting.  Apparently this is not out of the ordinary.  Axel Schweiger, who heads the Applied Physics Laboratory’s Polar Science Center, and other researchers explained in Science Daily that it is not unusual to find a melt pond on an ice floe during summer months.  I guess Santa Claus accepts the possibility of the ice below his workshop melting come mid-July?

I encourage you to use the NORAD Santa tracker to locate the North Pole and follow Mr. Claus on his epic journey.  NORAD should keep the tracker up and running after Christmas.  With the geographical headaches Santa must encounter every year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the jolly old elf himself needs to locate the North Pole.  I also wouldn’t blame him if he moved.

Happy Holidays to All – enjoy the gift of water.


Celebrate World Toilet Day with a Waffle

W. Clayton Street Waffle House

The W. Clayton Street Waffle House honors the “Waffle Wager” beginning at 7:00am on November 19, 2014.

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, WCO Program Specialist and lover of waffles

Have you heard of the “Waffle Wager”?  How about World Toilet Day?  Believe it or not, they both exist and this year they fall on the same day!

It is hard to beat a buttery Waffle House waffle dripping with syrup.  Throw in a hashbrown, scattered, smothered, and covered, and a warm cup of coffee and you have a melt in your mouth meal.  What is even better is this feast is available for FREE on November 19, 2014.

Yep!  You read right.  FREE!  Why is this incredible offer happening?  In what is becoming an annual tradition, a “Waffle Wager” was made between Waffle House suppliers.  This year the winner of the Auburn University vs. University of Georgia football game scored fans free waffles at a Waffle House location in their city.  Georgia’s 34-7 blowout against Auburn Saturday night earned the downtown Athens Clayton Street Waffle House the pleasure of honoring the “Waffle Wager”.

What could be better than these gratis, delectable, sweet circles of delight?  Porcelain in the shape of a toilet.

World Toilet Day happens to be the same day as the waffle giveaway.  This globally recognized day is set aside to raise awareness about all the people who do not have access to a toilet.  You may now be thinking to yourself, “Really?  There is a day set aside for this?”

If that thought floated to your mind, take a moment to guesstimate how many of our world’s 7 billion people do not have proper sanitation.

Did you guess 6 billion?  Then you have correctly estimated the number of people with access to mobile Printphones.  If your answer is 2.5 BILLION, then give yourself a pat on the back.  It is hard to believe that in this day and age, when the majority of people can get a cell phone, one out of three people still lacks access to improved sanitation.

The Worldbank estimates the global costs of inadequate sanitation at $260 billion a year.  The situation also greatly affects the health of a community.  Everyday, around 2,000 children die due to diarrhea caused by no access to safe toilets and clean water.  Only 45% of schools in the least developed low-income countries have adequate sanitation facilities.  I give 3 Reasons to Love a Toilet, which shares additional repercussions that the scarcity of toilets has on individuals.

I don’t want to bring you down while you are enjoying waffles.  Things don’t have to be this way.  Just as UGA beat Auburn, we can come together to defeat this situation.  The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District compiled 5 actions you can take now to celebrate World  Toilet Day.

1)  Share a post about #WorldToiletDay to raise awareness.

2)  Learn more.  Consider and

3)  Talk about it.  Make it a part of conversation.

4)  Donate.  Find a cause that supports sanitation efforts.

5)  Change behavior.  We have sanitation problems closer to home.  Like flushing unflushable garbage.  Put trash in the can, not the commode.

As you finish your waffle and eventually wander to the washroom, take a moment to appreciate and give thanks to Waffle House, the UGA Bulldogs, and the toilet.


Keep Showering Better, Athens

This week’s post was written by WCO intern Laura Keys.

October was “Shower Better” month, but even though it’s over, you don’t have to stop showering better!

A low-flow showerhead that puts out 1.25gpm of water

For about 3 weeks in October, the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office partnered with some local hardware stores to distribute 500 low-flow shower heads to county residents. It would have been for all 4 weeks of October, but we ran out of them before the end of the month! People were really excited about getting new showerheads, and it was surprising how many people who got one said, “Perfect timing, my old one just stopped working.”

So even though ACC isn’t distributing free showerheads at the moment, a new showerhead won’t set you back too far. They range in cost from about $6 to $50, about the same as non-low-flow ones, but they’ll help save you money starting immediately.

Take this back of the envelope calculation: assuming 4 showers a week, lasting 10 minutes each, with a 2.5 gallon per minute (gpm) showerhead, and a water cost of $4.84 per 1,000 gallons, you’d spend around $25.17 for a year’s worth of shower water. By switching to a low-flow 1.25 gpm showerhead, you’ll spend just $12.58 on shower water, which makes up for the new showerhead and saves you money in the future as well. (And we’re not even going into savings on heating costs.) If you have a really old showerhead or if you shower more frequently, your savings will be even bigger!watersense-label-300x230

For big savings on any appliances that use water, look for the EPA’s WaterSense label. (It’s like the EnergyStar certification, except for efficient water use.) If you already have a low-flow showerhead and want to take your water conservation to the next level, try taking shorter showers or turning off the water while lathering your hair. Or be a true daredevil and try cooler temperature showers, which are great for your hair and skin… if you can stand them! Instead of “Shower Better Month” let’s try for a “Shower Better Year.”

4 Reasons to have a “Water” Element in your Comprehensive Plan.

This week’s blog is by Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Water should be a central focus of your Comprehensive Plan because planning and water are inextricably tied together. If your community includes “Water” as an element of its comprehensive plan water managers, planners, elected officials, industries, the public, and other stakeholders will recognize that they have more in common than they think. Here are 4 reasons to include a “Water Element” in your Comprehensive Plan.

Rivers Alive! is one of the biggest volunteer events in Athens, GA. Love of the rivers unites people from different walks of life.

1)  Water Unites Us All

Water is essential to everything in your community. It provides public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, and quality of life. Without enough clean water, all of the other elements of your plan would be irrelevant.  The economic value of water is elusive, but we know that without adequate clean water there would be no economic development.

2) Water Needs Planning and Planning Needs Water

The essential components of any Comprehensive Plan are inextricably tied to water. Water affects landuse and landuse affects water. Many communities are trying to implement best practices such as compact, sustainable development to improve transportation choices and air quality.  These practices also support good water stewardship. For example, water savings can be realized if new urban and suburban developments incorporate mixed uses and higher densities. A Water Element in a Comprehensive Plan will support things that planners have been trying to implement for other reasons and can sometimes be difficult to implement.


People discuss their vision for their City at a Comprehensive Plan workshop in Winterville, Georgia.

3) Comp Plan Workshops are Friendly!

Public meetings about water management are often adversarial as stakeholders compete for the resource.  Discussions at Comprehensive Plan workshops are typically more cooperative and collaborative as participants create a vision for their community.  Comprehensive Plan workshops provide an opportunity for meaningful dialogue about water resources and can raise awareness of the nexus between water and human activity. Identifying the link between water and everything else in the Plan is important to developing support for planning best practices and costly, but desperately needed, water-related infrastructure improvements.

4) Drought Resiliency

What does planning have to do with drought?  Planning cannot influence rainfall, but it can influence consumption patterns, both over the long term and during drought.  Urban form, building codes, and landscaping choices influence water consumption. For example, large lots tend to encourage summertime lawn watering. More compact residential development reduces water use for lawns. A study in Portland estimated that a 25 percent reduction in the average building size for new single-family residential development in the study region is associated with a 6.6 MG reduction in water consumption per year.  In short, you need a “Water” element in your Comprehensive Plan to ensure that the other elements consider availability of water supply in goal setting and strategy development.  The “Water” element should answer the question, “What will you do during the next big drought?”

Luna Leopold wrote that “Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.” That means that water can be used as a gauge for how we are doing. Lets acknowledge the value of water by making it a central focus of our Comprehensive Plans!

Ebola Information Released for Water and Wastewater Utilities | TPO – Treatment Plant Operator Magazine

This week’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, with a link to an article from the Treatment Plant Operator (TPO) Magazine published October 9, 2014.

Edit 12/18/14:  The Georgia Association of Water Professionals has added a page of links to the latest on Ebola information as it relates to wastewater.  As new information becomes available, I will continue to add to this page.

Ebola.  The word has the power to strike fear in most people’s minds.  I experienced this firsthand on a recent trip to Las Vegas.  I gathered with other water professionals for a tour of the Venetian hotel’s extraordinary sustainability practices.  Almost at once, phones began to chirp with tweets and texts.  A plane was on lock down at the Las Vegas McCarran airport.  Reports stated a passenger on board had symptoms of Ebola.  Several in our tour group were scheduled to fly out of McCarran in a few hours.  The tour stopped as people discussed what this might mean to them. Could they fly back to their loved ones?  Would there be any risk of infection at the airport?  Fortunately, it was later determined the passenger did not meet the criteria for Ebola, but the fear of Ebola is contagious and it traveled home.

According to the CDC, Ebola spreads through direct contact with the blood or body fluids, including urine and feceebolas, of an infected person.  I indirectly work with wastewater.  I know wonderful, dedicated, and passionate people who work directly with wastewater.  Is there any risk to these unsung heroes?

TPO Magazine,  a publication dedicated to wastewater and water treatment professionals, recently addressed these concerns in a publication summarizing findings from the Water Research Foundation.  Per their request, I include and encourage you to click-through to their article find up to date research associated with the risks of Ebola for wastewater professionals:

Ebola Information Released for Water and Wastewater Utilities | TPO – Treatment Plant Operator Magazine.

Edit:  The CDC states there is no evidence suggesting Ebola spreads through water.  It spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluid.  Information on the CDC website states, “Sanitary sewers may be used for the safe disposal of patient waste. Additionally, sewage handling processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion, composting, and disinfection) in the United States are designed to inactivate infectious agents.”  The CDC recommends wastewater professionals “wear  normal personal protective equipment as provided by their employer.”

Edit:  I received a response on 10/23/14 to my emailed questions from the CDC.  I had specifically asked them to clarify “minutes” in regards to how long the virus can live in water. I asked if residual chlorine in toilet bowl water (assuming the delivered water is treated using chlorine) is effective in killing the virus. I also asked about the life cycle of the virus and how water affects it, as well as what impact, if any, this could have on greywater reuse.  The response is as follows:

“The time that Ebola virus can remain infectious outside the body varies depending on the temperature, humidity, and pH levels, as well as other factors, but roughly about 1 to 2 days.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Ebola virus can spread through water. Ebola is spread by direct contact with:

• Bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola (blood, vomit, pee, poop, sweat, semen, spit, other fluids)
• Objects contaminated with the virus (needles, medical equipment)
• Infected animals (by contact with blood or fluids or infected meat)

Additionally, the sewage handling processes in the United States are designed to inactivate infectious agents. Sanitary sewers (which transport sewage from houses and commercial buildings) may be used for the safe disposal of patient waste.”

Edit:  I received another response from the CDC on 10/24/14:

“Thank you for contacting NIOSH INFO. We received your inquiry about potential exposures to Ebola virus for wastewater workers.  CDC has prepared interim guidance for sewer workers that is going through expedited review.  The document, titled Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United States, will address basic hygiene practices, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and PPE disposal actions. Specifically, this guidance will provide recommendations and protocols for
*             workers who perform sewer maintenance,
*             construction workers who repair or replace live sewers,
*             plumbers, and
*             workers who clean portable toilets.

PPE you should consider when doing this type of work includes:

*Goggles or face shield: to protect eyes from splashes of human waste or sewage.
*Face mask: to protect nose and mouth from splashes of human waste or sewage.
*Impermeable or fluid resistant coveralls: to keep human waste or sewage off clothing.
*Waterproof gloves: to prevent exposure to human waste or sewage.
*Rubber boots: to prevent exposure to human waste or sewage.

We will be posting the interim guidance soon. Please check the CDC Ebola Website periodically for more information at:”

If you happen to know or run into a water or wastewater professional, be sure and take a moment to thank him or her for their commitment to protecting the community, the environment, and you.

Laurie Loftin



Fun in the Sun… and Water!

This week’s blog post was written by WCO intern Laura Keys.

water trucks (9)

This year’s Water Festival was a wet-and-wild success!

The weather was beautiful, and everyone had headed home long before the monsoon hit Saturday afternoon. For my first time attending the Water Festival, I had some idea of what to expect: a water truck, a band, lots of kids, and even a magician, but I was surprised at just how many fun booths there were to visit! Here are a few of the highlights from the day: KACCB (1)

First, the Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful (KACCB) booth. You had to pick up some trash out of the kiddie pool and sort it based on how long it took the trash to decompose in nature. I think this booth was much more popular than KACCB anticipated, and it might have even recruited some young’uns to help with Rivers Alive! (I mean, who doesn’t love those grabber toys?)

A fun demo in one of the education tents was the “Will It Float?” experiment, where you got to compare how various objects float or sink when placed in fresh water vs. salt water. There was an egg, a golf ball, a penny, a mardi gras necklace, and a few other items to compare, and I was surprised to see the egg and golf ball float in the salt water! UGA Marine Sciences (5)

A favorite place for kids to spend time was the UGA Marine Extension booth, which had an immense collection of freshwater and marine animals, snail races, and crafts (plus several dozen kids at any given moment). This group’s preparation and sheer volume of cool things to see was awe-inspiring; they were great representatives for the Georgia coast!

Other activities include the fly fishing casting booth, the Water Cycle-themed javelin toss, and the petting zoo, though I really don’t have room here to list everything that was fun at the festival.

Several hundreds of Athenians joined us throughout the day, and I think they’ll all agree that the Water Festival is a fun, unique way to spend time with friends and family in the lovely Sandy Creek Park.

Javelin Toss (9)

“Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

The Water Wise ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This week’s blog was written by Laurie Loftin after she dried off and warmed up.

The latest craze to flow over the internet is the ALS ice bucket challenge.  People are challenged to either donate $100 to ALS research or dump a bucket of ice water over their head.  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  With donations to ALS research reaching almost $80 million since the challenge went viral, it seems many are taking on both the ice bath and parting with their cold, hard cash.

Lily Anne Phibian was slow to hop on this trend.  As a water conservation ambassador, she hesitated to show a wasteful use of water.  But being a big-hearted frog, she also wanted to do what she could to help raise awareness of ALS.  With careful thought, Lily Anne came up with a toad-ally awesome way to reduce and reuse the water needed to successfully take on the ice bucket challenge.  See if you can spot all the ways Lily Anne supports a good cause while using water wisely in this video.

Did you discover how you can care for water while getting all wet?

  1. Lily Anne took the challenge standing over grass and soil.  This allowed any water splashes to benefit the turf beneath her.
  2. She stood in a large tub to catch as much spilling water as possible.
  3. The water caught in the tub is reused to douse three more people.
  4. The remaining water captured in the tub is poured over some very thirsty lantana, a beautiful flowering plant that grows well in our hot and dry climate.

We challenge you to devise even more creative ways to take on the ice bucket challenge while caring for our water resources.  Share them with us!  Conserve: WATER U waiting 4?

Special Note:  Donations were made to both ALS and the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, a local organization dedicated to protecting the water resources the people of Athens-Clarke County depend on.

No animals or zombies were harmed in the making of this video.