Public Works, Works for You!

An Oxford dictionary definition is a pretty cliché way to start a speech (or, in this case, a blog post). But, as a public works employee, I wondered about the definition of our job. After a brief Google search, the Oxford dictionary defines public works as “the work of building such things as roads, schools, and reservoirs, carried out by the government for the community.”

To celebrate National Public Works Week (May 15-21, 2022), we are highlighting some of the public works employees around the county. Athens-Clarke County Government (ACC Gov) is fortunate to have many ready and resilient employees. It takes many people and departments to keep everything up and running. Let’s learn about some of these essential workers!

First Up: Jonmichael Jones

Jonmichael is a Building Supervisor in the ACC Gov Central Services Landscape department on Lexington Road. He has worked for ACC for three and half years, managing day-to-day landscape maintenance around all the ACC buildings. He also monitors projects, budgets, fuel use, hours, and his crews’ safety and well-being. His daily tasks include walking through job sites, spraying weeds, working on trees, purchasing supplies, and doing paperwork. Water plays a huge role in Jonmichael’s job. He needs it to maintain the health of turfgrass, shrubs, and trees all around the county. His crews also need water to stay hydrated throughout the day. To Jonmichael, Public Works means “maintaining and enhancing property, roads, buildings, sidewalks, and all other essential services that better the welfare of the citizens of ACC.” When off the clock, Jonmichael likes to visit Seabear Oyster Bar, one of his favorite restaurants.

The Seabear Oyster Bar logo (Courtesy of Amanda Brennan)

Next: Chris Wages

Chris is a Permit Supervisor at the Transportation and Public Works Department in downtown Athens. He has been serving the community as an ACC Gov employee for 26 years! As a Permit Supervisor, he and his team of four permit inspectors monitor and oversee all Land Disturbance Activity permits, Driveway permits, and Right-of-Way Encroachment permits. This permitting is done to ensure that construction doesn’t lead to soil erosion, sedimentation, or pollution in our waterways. All the construction also has to follow ACC standards to ensure safety and quality.

Every day at the office is a little different for Chris, but he enjoys that. Monday, he could train inspectors, give technical advice, or inspect areas himself. Tuesday, he might be meeting with other departments such as Building Inspections, Traffic Engineering, Streets and Drainage, the Attorney’s Office, Public Utilities, the Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, or maybe even the Engineering Department! On Wednesday, Chris could work with the public, answering permitting questions or inspecting driveways in the field. Water, specifically stormwater, is something Chris has to work with a lot. He does most of the permitting to “control, convey, filter, and minimize stormwater runoff.” When Chris thinks of Public Works, he thinks about all of the people in the county that work to maintain our public Right-of-Way.

A visualization of the Public Right-of-Way (Courtesy of Brookhaven, GA Public Utilities Department)

You might know what the Public Right-of-Way is without realizing it! As the picture above shows, the arrows extend past the sidewalk into all houses’ front yards identifying areas owned and managed by the local government. The dotted line shows the boundary of the Public Right-of-Way, which includes the sidewalk and streetlights, and sometimes people’s driveways. When Chris isn’t helping us maintain a beautiful and functional county, he likes to hunt, fish, spend time with his wife and grandkids, and be an active member of his church.

Chris Wages and his wife on the beach (Courtesy of Chris Wages)

Our Third Highlight: Michael Hughes

Michael is officially the Operations Coordinator for Water Reclamation, but he is currently serving as the Interim Environmental Engineer for the Public Utilities Department! With two jobs come two offices. His first office is at the Middle Oconee Water Reclamation Facility on Will Hunter Road and his second office is in the Public Utilities Administration Building on Hancock Avenue. He has worked in ACC Gov for almost 27 years! As an Environmental Engineer, he oversees all three wastewater treatment plants (North Oconee, Middle Oconee, and Cedar Creek), water towers, and booster pump stations, all of which help deliver water to ACC residents.

J.G. Beacham Water Treatment Plant, Athens-Clarke County

Every day, Michael has to review test results from the water treatment plant and water reclamation facilities. He works with the plants’ water operators, contractors, and other engineers. He also monitors the budget and finds ways to cut costs. Water is involved in every part of Michael’s job. Not only does he help ensure that safe, tasty drinking water is always available for residents, but he also confirms that wastewater is properly treated and returned to the river.

Michael summed up Public Works really nicely: It is all about providing the best services for ACC residents. This includes safe drinking water from Public Utilities, safe roadways from the Transportation-Public Works Department, a clean city thanks to Solid Waste, and ways to get around town with Athens Transit. When Michael’s not at work, he really enjoys getting outside and walking on the Greenway, especially the part that runs from Sandy Creek Nature Center to North Avenue. He considers it a hidden gem of Athens.

Courtesy of: Michael Hughes

Last but not least, we have Paisley Stewart!

Paisley Stewart started working for ACC Gov in August of 2020 as a Community Development Specialist, but in January 2022 she became the Homeless Specialist. She works for the Housing and Community Development Department on Satula Avenue. In her role, Paisley works on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program. She works with non-profits that also receive CDBG and CoC funds, like the Athens-Clarke County Homeless Coalition, to make sure they all stay in compliance with federal regulations. Most of Paisley’s work has to do with annual grants and renewal applications, so her day-to-day varies as proposals progress. For CDBG and CoC she helps coordinate the application process, evaluate proposals, review and approve reimbursement requests, provide technical assistance, and make sure everything stays in compliance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations.

Water might not seem to play an obvious role in Pailey’s job, but it is an essential need of all people, and for the homeless, access to water is not something they can take for granted. Paisley works to provide long-term stable housing for everybody in Athens, which includes long-term stable access to water. To Paisley, Public Works include all of the activities that the community comes into contact with on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, in addition to the government’s ability to respond to the needs and desires of the community. In her free time, Paisley loves to explore Athens, from parks to live music downtown to drag shows. She tries to be an active part of her community and give back when she can, so she serves on the Athens Pride & Queer Collective Executive Board and the Athens-Clarke County Homeless Coalition Board.

Courtesy of Paisley Stewart

That’s all folks!

Thank you for learning about some of our wonderful ACC Gov employees. Remember that water helps you stay Ready & Resilient each and every day.

Where does my drinking water come from?

Athens-Clarke County (ACC) has 127,000 residents, and 98% of them rely on the ACC Public Utilities Department to provide them with clean drinking water at the turn of the tap. Water is necessary for all living things, especially humans, who are made up of 60% water. Where does our drinking water come from, and how is it cleaned?

Our drinking water comes from three sources: the North Oconee River, the Middle Oconee River, and the Bear Creek Reservoir. The North Oconee River flows through downtown along the Greenway and Dudley Park, while the Middle Oconee River can be seen by Ben Burton Park and the State Botanical Gardens. Bear Creek Reservoir is towards the northwest county line, near Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School. This reservoir can hold 5 billion gallons of water, and we share it with Jackson, Barrow, and Oconee counties. On a typical day, we pull water from the rivers. However, during drought or high rainfall, we pull from Bear Creek to give our rivers a chance to recover.

Map of Athens-Clarke County and its drinking water sources (Middle Oconee River, North Oconee River, Bear Creek Reservoir)

The Rock Hill Quarry will be another drinking water source, expected to be completed in 2034. The quarry can hold about 4.5 billion gallons of water, similar to Bear Creek’s 5 billion gallons. The quarry will meet our citizens’ water needs for the next 100 years!

Five minutes from Downtown Athens is the J.G. Beacham Water Treatment Plant, which opened in 1935. This is the sole water treatment plant for all of Athens-Clarke County and can treat up to 36 MILLION gallons of water a day. But, on a typical day, the plant treats about 1/3 of that, around 12.5 million gallons. This is because it was built with future growth of the county in mind, and it allows us to rotate equipment for routine maintenance.

Water from the three sources travels through large pipes to the plant, where this raw untreated water begins the cleaning process. The raw water flows to the first stop on its treatment journey: The Rapid Mix Chamber.

Inside the Rapid Mix Chamber, the raw water mixes with activated carbon and alum. The Rapid Mix chamber is 15 feet deep with a mixer in the middle, like a giant blender, whipping everything together. Granular activated carbon removes bad odors, tastes, organic matter, parasites, viruses, and algal toxins from the water. Aluminum sulfate (alum) acts as a coagulant that sticks dirt particles together. The alum (not short for aluminum foil) is a positively charged salt. Dirt particles are negatively charged, which means they are attracted to the alum, creating floc. Alum is also used for making pickles, playdoh, and deodorant, and you can find it in the grocery store!

Liquid Alum

Next the water moves on to the Flocculation Chamber. Not only is flocculation fun to say, but also the chemicals are doing their jobs and creating floc. Floc is a group of collected dirt particles. The water then flows into the Sedimentation Basin, where everything ssssssllllllllooooooowwwwwwsssss ddddooooooowwwwwwnnnnnn. The water stays super still for about 4 hours, which allows the heavy floc to sink to the bottom of the basin and be removed from the process. The cleanest of the water moves on to the next step on the journey: Filtration.


Through Continuous Gravity Filtration, the water moves through 36 inches of sand and a very hard coal called anthracite, which removes any remaining floc and even some bacteria.

The treatment plant has two Clear Wells, each of which can hold 3.5 million gallons of water for 7 million gallons on site. Athens uses about 12.5 million gallons a day, so both Clear Wells fill and empty twice a day to provide for ACC residents. Right before entering the Clear Wells, the water gets a sort of spa treatment. We add lime, fluoride, sodium hypochlorite, and phosphate. Each of these chemicals has a really important job. The lime (not the fruit) balances the pH of the water, making it clear and improving the flavor. The fluoride helps keep our teeth strong, and the phosphate keeps the pipes that carry the water from corroding. We make sodium hypochlorite ourselves at the plant by creating a brine solution with literal TONS of saltwater that passes through an electrical current. The sodium hypochlorite helps prevent the growth of algae and other infectants while it’s traveling through the pipes.

Aerial image of a Clear Well at J.G. Beachem Water Treatment Plant

Now the water is ready to drink! It is transported from the plant through 800 miles of pipes to homes and businesses all across Athens-Clarke County. We also have Water Operators working on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to test the water at all different stages in our laboratory. They test for pH, turbidity, hardness, alkalinity, ammonia, fluoride, and more. We do this to ensure that our water meets the quality standards set by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. These test results are then compiled and sent out every year in the Drinking Water Quality Report for all ACC residents to see.

Courtesy of: ACC Government

Next time you turn on the tap, recall this process that water went through to get from the river to you! Whenever you can, try and conserve water by limiting yourself to a five-minute shower, turning off the lights when you leave a room, and even switching to WaterSense labeled products. You can always swing by the Water Conservation Office to learn more and take home some water-saving goodies! Happy Drinking Water Awareness Week!

Fix a Leak Week!

March 14-20, 2022, we encourage you to be a leak detective!

Fix a Leak Week is an annual event promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their WaterSense partners. The Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office is a WaterSense partner, so let’s go on a journey through your house to find and fix some leaks. While we encourage you to look for leaks all year long, this is your yearly reminder. The average U.S. home leaks about 10,000 gallons of water a year, which is the equivalent of 300 loads of laundry. Let’s start our journey to find and fix leaks!

See what other leak detectives found on Twitter!

Some common household leaks include worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking showerheads. You can eliminate all these leaks by switching to WaterSense labeled products! You might be asking yourself – why now? What is it about the third week of March that makes us go crazy about fixing leaks?? Right after winter is actually the best time to check for leaks. During the winter months, the water inside your pipes can freeze. When water freezes it expands and this can cause your pipes to crack! Once the ice thaws and your water is liquid again, it can leak through those cracks in the pipes. You can’t see your pipes, but you can see your monthly water usage on WaterSmart. WaterSmart is a free account that allows you to track your water usage by the hour – plus, you can sign up for leak alerts!

Let’s start outside your home! It’s warming up in Athens, which means it’s time for some spring planting and sodding. Let’s check out the garden hose and ensure the connection between the hose and the spigot is secure. If it’s a little loose, use a wrench to tighten it. Maybe you have an irrigation system that hasn’t been used all winter. Before turning it on for the first time this spring, double-check that it hasn’t been damaged by the freeze or frost. An irrigation system with a leak as small as the thickness of a dime can waste 6,300 gallons of water a month! That’s 170 cups of coffee that you’re paying for and not getting to drink.

Now that we’ve covered our bases outside, we can step into the house. Everybody loves a refreshing shower, especially when you’re all sweaty from the Georgia humidity. But nobody loves a high water bill! Household leaks like dripping showerheads can add up to 1 TRILLION gallons of water wasted every year nationwide. It only takes a showerhead dripping 10 times a minute to waste 500 gallons a year. That’s like filling up a bathtub 12 times and just letting it go right down the drain! You can usually fix these leaks by tightening the showerhead back into place, which can save you 10% on your water bill!

Here’s a quick video about replacing your showerhead with a WaterSense labeled one!

Let’s look at your sinks! The washers and gaskets on the faucets should be checked and replaced if necessary. To optimize efficiency you can swing by the office and pick up free water-efficient WaterSense labeled aerators. Kitchen faucet aerators have a maximum flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute. Bathroom faucet aerators have a maximum flow rate of 1 gallon per minute. A typical faucet has a flow rate of between 2 and 2.2 gallons per minute. While a typically faucet has a flow rate of between 2 and 2.2 gallons per minute, aerators reduce this to 1.5 gallons per minute for kitchen sinks, and 1 gallon per minute for bathroom sinks.

This short video will help you replace your faucet aerator!

It’s only appropriate to finish with the most important appliance in any house: the toilet. Toilet maintenance can seem daunting at first, but we can help! If you think you might have a toilet leak, take the ten-minute challenge. You can put a toilet tablet or food coloring in the tank, wait ten minutes, and look in the toilet bowl. If the water in the bowl changes color, it means you have a leak! The Water Conservation Office has toilet tablets for you at 124 East Hancock Avenue on the 2nd floor.

If you have a leaky toilet, you might not need to rush to find a plumber. The most common source of the leak might be an old or faulty flapper. The flapper is located in the tank and opens when you flush the toilet to let the water out. If the flapper doesn’t close all the way, it lets water escape, causing the leak.

You got this! This video will walk you step by step through replacing a leaky flapper.

Thanks for joining us on this leak-finding adventure! You’re now a certified leak detective! I hope you learned something and feel more confident about fixing leaks in your own home. If you ever have questions you can call or come by the ACC Water Conservation Office – we’re happy to help! Happy Fix a Leak Week! For more info visit:

12 Days of Water Hosting Tips for the Holidays

Whether you’re the guest or the lucky host of this year’s holiday festivities, you’re probably due for some seasonal cleaning and home maintenance. We want to offer you some water-wise tips to help you get through this busy season without worrying too much about your water bill. 

Day 1: Wipe surfaces and throw away the wipes.

So, you’ve agreed to host for the holidays and now you have to make a plan to panic-clean your entire home before your company arrives. Once you disinfect everything and you’re done with those wipes, you need to throw them away in the garbage, NOT the toilet. Otherwise, they could clog your system and cause additional issues for the county’s water reclamation system. Your water reclamation facilities do NOT want mopheads for Christmas. A mophead is what happens when paper products other than toilet paper get flushed and tangled within the water reclamation facilities’ equipment, causing significant problems for our operators.

The notorious mophead.

Day 2: Check your toilet for leaks and maybe grab a new flapper.

If you’re already preparing for many guests coming to stay that will raise your water bill (and maybe your blood pressure), make sure your facilities are in the best possible condition to take a load off your mind. Perform a simple leak test: drop some dye in the toilet tank and check the bowl fifteen minutes later. If the bowl has changed color, this signifies a leak! It might be time for some minor repairs. A broken flapper is one of the most common causes of toilet leaks and it’s an easy fix. (You can use your own food coloring or come by the Water Business Office for some free dye tablets and other water-wise giveaways. The Water Business Office is located at 124 E. Hancock Avenue Athens, GA 30601.)

Day 3: Use a soft brush and a gentle toilet cleaner. 

You likely will be cleaning your toilet bowl before guests arrive, so we recommend choosing something that gently cleans. Using an abrasive toilet cleaner and roughly scrubbing the bowl can actually do more harm than good. This method of cleaning damages the glaze of your toilet bowl and can give it a shorter lifespan in your home. Opt for a softer brush and a gentle toilet cleaner to keep your bowl looking sparkling but not damaged.

Day 4: Keep those pesky grandkids from flushing anything but the 4Ps (Pee, Poo, Paper & Puke). 

The youngsters in your house may think it is fun to flush random, household items down your toilet but we can assure you that this is not fun down the line! This can flood your toilet (gross!) and can clog the pipes throughout the entire county system. If they don’t love their gifts and just want to flush them all down the toilet, suggest some alternatives like donating to thrift stores or re-gifting. 

Day 5: Make sure your guests shut the toilet lid before flushing and wipe down the seat.

These two methods help prevent the spread of airborne germs. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic and cold/flu season, don’t let your toilet spread its germs around, too! Closing the toilet seat when you flush and wiping it down afterward will cut down on the germs that can spread from your bodily functions. Nobody wants to get sick before the New Year!

Day 6: Make a game out of who can take the shortest showers!

Between you and all your guests, see who can take the shortest showers over the course of their stay with you. You could turn this into a bracket-style competition and honor the winner with a special trophy (might we recommend a toilet seat spray-painted gold as a fitting reward). You can see a breakdown of the water usage in your house using the Water Calculator, but most households use approximately 75 gallons/day just from showers that last longer than 15 minutes! See and monitor your household water use on WaterSmart – sign up here! You can get leak notifications and more.

Day 7: When prepping bedrooms and bathrooms with fresh linens, be sure to wash them in full loads.

One half-empty load of laundry takes up the same amount of water that a full load uses to get everything clean so why wouldn’t you fill that washing machine all the way up—this saves you time and water!

PSST! This same method applies to your dishwasher.

Day 8: Make some homemade poo-pourri to keep from smelling your guest’s natural presents.

You could buy the official branded version of this, of course, but how would that compare to the one you made yourself? Making this spray is quite simple. There are many recipes out there, but here is one with common household ingredients.

  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Rubbing Alcohol (or vodka or witch hazel)
  • Essential oils (best combinations are eucalyptus + peppermint, lavender + bergamot, and sandalwood + lemon)
  • Water

Mix 20 drops of your essential oils with the rubbing alcohol (or substitute) and top off the spray bottle with water. Shake before each use. It’s that simple.

If you want to test multiple recipes, here’s another. Mix the following ingredients in a 2 oz. bottle or adjust measurements as needed for the size of your container.

  • 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin
  • 20 drops of essential oils of your choice
  • Distilled water

Day 9: Plan a water-wise menu.

Have you ever thought about how much water goes into producing all of your meals? Water to grow the food, water for the animals we eat, water used to produce the energy to transport your food, and even more. To cut down on the water used in your food’s production, plan a menu with more locally-grown food and consider preparing fewer meat-based meals. If you choose to make meat the central dish at your holiday gatherings (we’re not trying to take your meat traditions away from you, we promise) then consider choosing organic meat or water-conscious farms. Here’s an article that has some more tips to follow and a site that allows you to look at the water footprint of different products and activities.

Day 10: Scrape dishes into the trashcan before putting them in the dishwasher.

When you rinse your dishes, small particles of food go down your pipes. When those particles are FOG, they create a grease menace down the line. FOG — could that mean “Forget orange gorillas?” “Fools only gargle?” “Fabled over-achieving geriatrics?” These are great guesses but no, FOG stands for “fats, oils, and grease,” which build up and create blockages in our water pipes. Every time someone rinses something creamy/greasy down their sink or lets the dishwasher clean it away, that viscous mess flows until it solidifies in our pipes and clogs them. To prevent this, let that FOG solidify in a separate container and wipe it into the garbage instead of down the pipes.

Click the image to be taken to Athens-Clarke County’s page on grease disposal for homeowners

Day 11: Apply for Project Share to help pay your water bill.

We want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a time of great financial hardship for a lot of families. If you or anyone you know is struggling to pay their water bill, please apply for our partnership program with Project Share. Together with the Salvation Army, Athens-Clarke County aids people in paying for their water bills any time of the year. The stress of the holidays is enough; through Project Share, we offer this service to alleviate this burden for anyone in our county who is struggling to get water due to financial hardship. If you have the means, consider donating as a community gift!

Day 12: Take a break and lay on the couch.

You’re the host and you’re probably exhausted from trying to keep everyone in your home from wasting our most precious resource; you deserve a break! These 11 days of water-wise prep were likely taxing, so please take some time to rest and enjoy your loved ones this holiday season.

Reminiscing on the 2021 Athens Water Festival: The Water Olympics

Do you ever watch the Olympics and think, “Wow, wouldn’t it be amazing to be there?” You may believe that only soccer players, basketball players, or track stars can win gold medals, but Athens recruited some new competitors this year: Water Warriors. These athletes brought their passion for water conservation and left it all on the field at the 2021 Water Olympics.

We made the Olympic dream a reality as young Athens residents and their families conquered various water-themed challenges. After completing activities and filling their Water Logs, these water athletes stood on the Olympic pedestal with their shining medals. Scroll on to see our Olympic champions hard at work.

Our festival started off with a parade of our outstanding mascots. We couldn’t have a festival without these dedicated friends.

THANK YOU, Public Utilities Department operators. We all appreciate the hard-working individuals who ensure our drinking water treatment plant & water reclamation facilities run smoothly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They are essential workers. Attendees had a chance to show their gratitude with crafty thank you posters at the Art Truck!

Balance Beam is one of our favorite activities from Project WET! High school volunteers guided participants through this challenge to get as many drops as possible on one penny. This is a classic student activity! We like Balance Beam because it explores the properties of water: adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension.

Thanks to Bear Hollow Zoo for bringing cool critters! Festival attendees got to meet a turtle, a snake, and an opossum. Kids could touch the animals and learn about their lives. Animals need water to survive, too!

Our friends from the Fire Department showed kids around a fire truck!

Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful presented water-themed Twister! Participants conquered the litter problem and learned how we can keep our waterways clean.

Creativity and talent ran wild all day! We have a town full of small artists who showed off their skills at the Lil’ Squirts Tent.

The lil’ squirts had so much fun playing with our homemade play-doh!

Magic is fun but our magician knows that reading is exciting and important too! Keith, the Magic Man presented two shows to an amazing crowd.

Water is awesome AND yummy! ACC Extension SNAP-Ed offered infused H2O to spruce up our water game. Everyone had the opportunity to enjoy Athens-Clarke County drinking water with a little twist.

Bucket Head, Flipper Feet! Ready to test your balance? St. Mary’s Wellness Center had attendees carry buckets of water from one place to another while wearing flippers!

After a stressful balance test, St. Mary’s Wellness Center offered massages to our water athletes. What a great way to relax after learning about water conservation.

Who says you can’t have fun while learning how to protect our water?! ACC Stormwater Department hosted entertaining activities about the importance of keeping waste out of our waterways.

Go Fish! Experts from The Oconee River Trout Unlimited taught us how to cast a fishing pole. 

UGA Marine Sciences brought some friends! They talked about how and why water is important for aquatic animals.

Thank goodness for these water trucks that kept our water athletes cool and fresh on this hot, sunny day!

All the Water Warriors who completed The Water Log received a medal and found their place on the Olympic pedestal.

Go Team Water!

Give Thanks for Public Utilities Workers!

While you and your loved ones are enjoying your Thanksgiving meals, please remember there is a dedicated team working to keep your water flowing this holiday season (and every day of the year). Monitoring the intake, health, and reclamation of your Athens-Clarke County drinking water is a round-the-clock job, and we have technicians working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to ensure that all the water we use in Athens is suitable for its 125,000+ residents. Our need for water does not take a break!

With responsibilities ranging from testing water samples to maintaining underground pipes, our Public Utilities employees work tirelessly to monitor and sustain our water quality.

Ken (below) manages the equipment operation at one of Athens’ three water reclamation facilities. Here, he removes fats, oils, grease (FOG), and other solid debris from the collection system so water can better cycle through the reclamation process.

Folks like Dustin (below) make repairs along the water and sewer lines in Athens. His efforts ensure that we have a smooth-running system that supports the infrastructure of our city.

Maiyah (below) works as a water treatment plant operator who helps clean the millions of gallons of water we use in Athens daily.

These are just a few members of Team Water, and we are so grateful to have them looking out for us! Their work ensures safe water for all of Athens every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving.

While Thanksgiving is on the mind, though, let’s investigate how much water goes into making your Turkey Day meal happen. (Source)

These represent some of the hidden water uses that are part of creating those Thanksgiving memories and we can thank employees like Maiyah, Dustin, and Ken for making them happen. They and our 150+ other PUD employees are integral to our process of water treatment and reclamation here in Athens. So when you’re digging into your Thanksgiving meal with your family, think about all the people and resources that helped make that dinner possible. We are so grateful for Team Water!

Ode to the Toilet / Eau de toilette

Oh how I adore my porcelain throne!

Every morning I wake up to use

A kingly seat that is my very own.

The main source people can use to reduce

Their household water bill. County usage

Of several million gallons daily.

Thank goodness my toilet takes the sewage

Out of my house, I thank it most greatly.

If I switched to a WaterSense Toilet

I could reduce my water use at home.

Use less water: be sure not to spoil it

For the future of our Athens-Clarke zone.

With us celebrating World Toilet Day,

We’re protecting water, hip hip hooray!!

Hannah Weissinger, 2021

WARNING: This post will talk about poop, please prepare yourself. To balance this out I will intermittently sprinkle in some quips to lighten your (emotional) load.

If you have not noticed, we really LOVE toilets. This toilet fanaticism may not seem logical, but we’re here to explain just how wonderful your commodes are! There are some incredible benefits to having toilets in your home and workplace that I didn’t even think about before I worked here at the ACC Water Conservation Office. Some benefits include waste disposal and sanitation for you and your family.

Did you know that the average person disposes of 130 grams of poop every day? If you multiply that by the nearly 8 billion people on Earth, that equals about 910 billion grams of poop per day around the world.

Is that a little unpleasant to ponder?

Now imagine half of that grand total does not get flushed away and just stays put wherever it is: that’s the reality for 3.6 billion people. Nearly half of the world’s population live without an appliance we take for granted.

Have you ever considered what you would do without access to a toilet in your home or community?  Without a toilet to “do your business” you may turn to a local stream, which is likely where you get your water. That drinking water source is now contaminated with feces, disrupting ecological processes and burdening your Drinking Water Treatment Plant. This is not great, to say the least. Contaminated drinking water leads to widespread and deadly effects including diseases such as cholera or dysentery, none of which should be commonplace in 2021.

When you think about your toilet you likely recall the basic process: you enter, do your business, and then you leave. (Well, hopefully, you flush and wash your hands, too, but the basic concept of toilets is pretty straightforward.) It is a utilitarian piece of equipment, typically accompanied by toilet paper. If you didn’t have this device, you would be swimming in everyone’s excrement as we would likely return to methods of removing human waste prior to the toilet: chamber pots tossed into the streets. Disgusting.

Using a toilet or a latrine is easier and infinitely more sanitary than pooping in a stream or pond, as is the case for several communities globally. At least 2 billion people are forced to use contaminated drinking water because they do not have reliable waste management processes.

I know at first glance a love of toilets seems a bit off the wall, but they are so important to global health that the United Nations developed an annual observance for them: World Toilet Day. This celebration is not only about making poop jokes and writing toilet poetry but it is also about drawing attention to this human rights issue that could just as easily affect you as anyone else. Additionally, it is a call to action to provide safely managed sanitation to the 3.6 billion people who currently lack this resource.  It is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development goals to provide water and sanitation for all by 2030. These two things are human rights that need to be provided for the safety of all people.

Some of Team Water in our World Toilet Day attire! Our shirts refer to the 4 Ps– the only things that should go down your toilet are pee, poop, puke, and toilet paper!

Just like it takes a phew people to make the bathroom smell, it takes quite a few people to stand up from their toilets and make a difference.

For example, if you’re an Athens-Clarke County resident you could participate in our Flapper Giveaway! A faulty flapper can waste hundreds of gallons of water a day which also increases your water bill. Run a simple leak detection test using dye tablets (available at the Water Business Office) or food coloring to see if you have a bad flapper. Find you have a bad flapper? Replace it with a FREE flapper! Pick up a free 2-in or 3-in universal flapper at either Normal Hardware or Athens Hardware anytime in November. Visit for more info and remember it is a luxury to have a toilet at all so take good care of it.

Imagine a Day Without Water 2021

Prepare to travel through some classic song lyrics as we explore what water means to us and what it would be like to go a day without it. We hope you’ve got your headphones on and your reusable water bottle filled to the top, because we’re about to groove.

“Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition”

Dolly Parton

Except… There are only grounds in your cup.

Looking to some of Dolly Parton’s lyrics we see just how important water is in our daily lives. We see the importance of drinking coffee in the morning, washing our hands to stay safe, and brushing our teeth—all made possible by the availability of water.

“I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain? I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain? Coming down on a sunny day”

Creedence Clearwater

Except… There’s nothing to see.

Creedence Clearwater paints a picture here of the sun shining through water droplets as it rains down on you. Imagine a Day where you can’t see the rainbows that form. These alluring colors dancing in the sky only happen when there is rain coming down. This is a gift we’re given because of water’s refractive properties, making something beautiful out of something as colorless as water. But water is so much more important to us than just rainbows. It gives firefighters the power to stop flames in their tracks. It helps hospital workers cleanly and safely take care of their patients.

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to


Except… the riverbeds and waterfalls are dusty and dry.

TLC tells you not to chase waterfalls, but how else are you supposed to see the cascading water enriching the natural ecosystem? These stunning spaces offer us recreation and are essential for aerating and boosting the nutrients of the watershed. This has widespread benefits for both people and nature.

Here in Athens, we have 17 of these watersheds including the Middle and North Oconee Rivers, where we source our drinking water.

Image courtesy of Athens Stormwater Management

What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that drains into a specific body of water, such as a creek or river. Rain that falls anywhere within a creek’s watershed will eventually drain into that creek. Think of it as a greater community of water built together by its pieces. This is similar to seeing Athens as a community; the Classic City would not be the same without its citizens, businesses, or schools, and altogether we make up a cultural watershed.

With water on our minds, can you imagine what life would be like without water? If you couldn’t rely on firefighters to put out fires? If hospitals couldn’t sanitize their life-saving materials? If Athens’ area watersheds were empty? All of these concerns should bring our most overlooked resource (WATER) into focus, which is why we take at least one day out of the the year to participate in:

Imagine a Day Without Water, happening on October 21st.

Imagine a Day Without Water is part of a national educational campaign from Value of Water to highlight just how important water is. Here at the ACC Water Conservation Office we promote the value of water everyday but encouraging people to picture their lives without it for a day reminds everyone just how vital this resource can be. We use water to run hospitals, schools, and our homes. We use it to keep society safe and healthy. We NEED water. People all over the world lack reliable drinking water and yet here in Athens we often take it for granted.

So, for today… Let’s imagine what it would be like to live without that morning cup of ambition, that rain on a sunny day, and the waterfalls we love to chase. Let’s remind ourselves why those things really matter.

How do YOU imagine your day without water?

Cedar Creek Waffle Reclamation Facility in Athens, GA Turns to Waffles for Your Vote

Cedar Creek Waffle Reclamation Facility in Athens, GA Turns to Waffles for Your Vote

The Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility uses waffle applications in the water treatment process.

The Athens-Clarke County Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) in Georgia found a new way to maintain the water treatment process’s microorganisms. The rotifers, ciliates, beneficial bacteria, and water bears are vital to the removal of waste found in the water collected from homes and businesses across the county.

Occasionally, the Cedar Creek WRF operators add sugar to the water as a “treat” for the billions of microorganisms resting within the clarifying basins. The best way the innovative operators have discovered for evenly dispersing the sugar is through a waffle application.  

A crane lifts a large waffle made by a local restaurant and carefully places it on top of the clarifying basins. The sun breaks down the waffles from the top while warming the water below. The evaporating water molecules create a soggy waffle bottom that drops the sweet treat into the water for the tiny hungry helpers.

OK, I can’t continue with this story. Even I don’t think I can pull this off as a truthful article on April Fool’s Day.

But waffles are genuinely a part of the Cedar Creek WRF, at least on April 2, 2021. Our smallest of three facilities is battling in the Championship bracket for the Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) Knope Award. Along with this award comes the title of Nation’s Best Water Facility. To quote Leslie Knope, the Parks and Recreation character for who the award is named, “Winning is every girl’s dream. But it’s my destiny. And my dream.” 

Cedar Creek WRF shares this same dream. And destiny. But only YOU can help it reach this goal. Driven by online voting, our facility needs you to vote by Sunday, April 4, 2021. Visit and follow the links to the voting form. One vote per email; please share with family, friends, and strangers. 

So how do waffles fit into the mix? With a nod to the Parks and Recreation theme of the ELGL Knope Award, the PUD will honor fictional character Leslie Knope and water customers. The PUD’s passion is water and customers; Leslie Knope’s passion is local government and waffles. If in the Athens area, visit us in front of the Water Business Office at 124 E. Hancock Ave, Athens, GA, on Friday, April 2, from 8:30 – 10:00 AM with proof of voting to receive a free waffle while supplies last.  

Waffles are the Breakfast of Champions, and we expect Cedar Creek Water Waffle Reclamation Facility to take the crown. Or syrup and whip cream.  

By Laurie Loftin, hoping you help her reach dream. Her destiny.

Indispensable, Poopular, Sparkling: Why You Should Vote for Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility

By Laurie Loftin, who wants you to know you can skip the reading & go straight to the VOTE for Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility now or read below to learn WHY you should vote for us

I drove by an unassuming and barely marked road almost every day, and curiosity was typically my companion. What was down the long road through the woods? A simple, chain-link sliding gate was all that was preventing me from solving the mystery.  

It was almost ten years ago when I finally discovered the magic lurking around the bend. As I passed through the now upgraded gate for the first time, I had no idea my life and views about water would be forever changed. I was about to see one of Athens’ four water wonders, the Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility (WRF).

Our hidden treasure turns the water we flush away back into the resource on which we all depend. Sure, most municipalities have some type of facility to treat what is often referred to as “wastewater,” a misnomer as there is no water wasted in the common treatment process. What is out of the ordinary about the Cedar Creek WRF is it is in a position to step out of the shadows and shine a spotlight on water treatment.

Our facility is currently in competition for the Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) Knope Award. Every year, ELGL celebrates the best places in local government, and this year the focus is on water facilities. Selected from a record 85 nominations, Cedar Creek WRF has made it to the Elite Eight. Now we face a tough battle to make it to the Final Four as our little facility tries to topple the tall Florence Y’all Water Tower. 

I am not alone in my belief that Cedar Creek WRF deserves to move to the next round. I share with you a testimonial from a local magician who uses Cedar Creek’s services regularly:

“Before casting my vote this time, I did some research. Spent way too much time online reading about and watching a couple

A water bear asks for your vote

The water bear lives at the Cedar Creek Water Reclamation Facility & wants your vote

YouTube videos about Water Bears. Totally fascinating! To be fair, I also researched the Florence Y’all water tower. Even watched a YouTube video. Really boring. It just stands there. So my vote was easy, especially after comparing the two write-ups submitted with each entry. My vote Cedar Creek Water Reclamation! Deciding factor? Water tower has only been around since 1974. Water Bears, 500 million years and even went to space! That’s all I needed to know. Plus, the Cedar Creek Facility looks and sounds pretty cool and is so important to our area.”

A magician can easily spot a slight of hand, and he saw nothing phony about Cedar Creek WRF. Home to billions of microorganisms, such as the water bear referenced above, water is cleaned and returned to the river where an abundance of fish swim in the oxygenated pools beneath our restoration pipe. Sheep can be seen “mowing” the grass beneath the solar array on the tiered-landscaping, a remnant of the old trickle filter treatment that was once used. Dedicated operators are on-hand 24/7 to ensure that every step in the treatment process is conducted without flaw. The beauty that is Cedar Creek WRF is not an illusion.

If you are as moved by the treatment of raw sewage as I am, I ask you to take a moment to VOTE for Cedar Creek WRF. The water tower is currently crushing our diminutive locale, which is an indispensable, poopular, and sparkling example of how Athens, GA, values water. You can vote once per email address in each round. Voting for this round ends Monday, March 22 at noon.  Please share our plight and encourage others to vote. You need the services a water reclamation facility provides, and now we need you.

Learn more about our facility & see the Mystery of the Flush Challenges