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


10 Simple Water Resolutions for the New Year

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin and Jackie Sherry of the Water Conservation Office. Both are Water Warriors and will be your personal cheerleader this year in saving water!

You tried to lose ten pounds and failed. You wanted to save money but spent it. You have an unused gym membership from last year. Are you really going to make another tired New Year’s Resolution? Instead of making another overdone promise to change yourself in the new year, chose to be different by going BIG!  Declare 2021 the year you decided to doggedly protect yourself, water, and the world.

I offer 10 options for change you can make NOW to turn yourself into a Water Warrior.

1.  Sign the Pledge

Join thousands of your friends and neighbors in making a commitment to save water. Take the “I’m for Water” pledge and use our 2021 monthly resolutions checklist to help you use less water (and spend less on your utility bills!) year round. By taking one or two simple steps each month, it’s easy to do your part to protect our water for future generations.

2.  Find & Fix Leaks

Look for leaks inside and outside your home and make a plan to fix the leaks you find within 48 hours.  A leaky toilet wastes the most water and significantly increases your water bill.  Ignore that dripping faucet for the whole year and you lose more than 3,000 gallons of water by the next year. 

3.  Give Yourself a Makeover…

in your bathroom.  Replace those old fixtures and faucets with a WaterSense labeled product to become more water efficient this year.  Once you knock this out, you are saving water without even trying!  See the difference you make by simply switching out your showerhead.

4.  Quit the Bottle

A common resolution is to save money.  You can very easily do this AND use water wisely with one little change.  Drink tap water instead of bottled water.  A gallon of tap water in Athens-Clarke County costs less than $.01.  A gallon of bottled water can go up to $8.00!  You protect water by quitting the bottle, too.  It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.

5.  Hit the Trail

Locate the local source of your drinking water supply.  Are there any trails you can walk that follow beside or around the source?  Pledge to walk the trail once a week.  Take mental snapshots of the water levels and compare these throughout the year.  In Athens, we pull water from the Middle and North Oconee Rivers.  The UGA State Botanical Gardens and Ben Burton Park both offer walking trails along the Middle Oconee. Walk on the Oconee Rivers Greenway or at Dudley Park to see the North Oconee River.  When the weather warms, consider kayaking down your water source.

6.  Be More Charitable

Imagine a day without access to clean water delivery.  Emergencies, health crises, and challenging economic times often make it difficult for people to pay their water bills. To prevent those in our community from experiencing a day without water due to financial hardship, Athens-Clarke County has partnered with The Salvation Army to support our community.  Project SHARE is a program for Athens-Clarke County water customers to assist their neighbors in need. To donate to Project SHARE, enroll in monthly gift giving through your water bill or make a one-time donation.  How easy is that?!?

7.  Register for WaterSmart

As part of our commitment to assist customers with the best tools to manage their water use, the Public Utilities Department is offering a free, online water management tool. With WaterSmart you can view  your water use in near real-time; set-up leak, water use, and bill forecast alerts; get personalized, step-by-step savings tips; and compare your usage to similar Athens households.

8.  Be a Good Role Model


Here is where the old adage “actions speak louder than words” proves itself to be true. Your children, friends, and family are watching you. Model how to be water efficient in 2021 so others will have water for life.

9.  Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle


These 3 Rs apply to water, too. Water is used in the production of almost everything. Get more life out of a product by reusing or recycling it to make those gallons go further. A ton of recycled paper uses 50% less water than that to make one ton of paper products from virgin wood pulp.

10.  Turn Off the Water While You Brush

If you achieve no other resolutions this year, choosing simply to turn off the water while you brush your teeth is the one to master.  You will quickly realize it requires very little effort on your part.  Stick a post-it to your mirror with a printed friendly reminder.  Doing this one thing can provide a 1,000 gallon a year savings for you. If everyone in the United States did it, we would save 314 billion gallons.  Wow!

Pick one or two of these actions and start today.  Every little bit you do helps water.  You can do it!

Did you make a water-related New Year’s Resolution for 2021?  Share it with us!

World Toilet Day Reminds Us to Think With Every Flush

By Keri Greeson, Intern for the Water Conservation Office

Have you ever considered what it would be like to have no access to a simple toilet in your home or workplace? 

Here’s a stark reality: 4.2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to a toilet or safely managed sanitation. 

Today, we are putting a spotlight on a world sanitation crisis. On November 19th of each year, the United Nations observes World Toilet Day to celebrate toilets and raise awareness for those lacking safe sanitation. The theme for the 2020 observance is “Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change.”

Safe sanitation is the number one way to ensure people’s health- something on the forefront of our minds amidst a global pandemic. Additionally, as we face the challenges and threats of climate change, conditions demand that we act to tackle this global crisis so that all people have sustainable clean water and sanitation by 2030. 

Here are three ways you can be a part of World Toilet Day:

  1. Learn: 
    1. The effects of climate change, like flooding and droughts, can directly impact our sanitation systems, including toilets, septic tanks, and treatment plants. With flooding comes the spread of human waste or disease. This threatens both public health and the health of the environment. 
    1. Lack of access to toilets makes for a direct threat to public health. 
    1. 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without proper treatment or reuse. We can strive for sustainable sanitation by using the sludge and wastewater to boost agriculture while reducing and capturing emissions for greener energy. 
  2. Share: 
    1. Now that you’re all polished up on the issues, it’s time to share that wealth of knowledge! Tell a friend, family member, or share on social media with the hashtag #WorldToiletDay. The best way to raise awareness is to start conversations.
  3. Act:
    1. While in-person actions may be limited, you can still act virtually by visiting Sign the pledge and scroll down the page for more action items. 

The next time you use a toilet, we hope you remember and stand with the 4.2 billion people who do not have access to reliable sanitation. Together, we can create a world where every person has sustainable access to clean water, toilets, and sanitation.  


Athens Showed Up for a Successful 2020 Rivers Alive Cleanup, With New COVID-19 Precautions

Athens Showed Up for a Successful 2020 Rivers Alive Cleanup, With New COVID-19 Precautions

By Keri Greeson, Intern for the Water Conservation Office

Volunteers Remove a TV
Volunteers Remove a TV

Rivers Alive is the largest statewide single volunteer effort to beautify Georgia’s water resources. In a typical year, an estimated 25,000 volunteers participate. In Athens, the Rivers Alive event has been an important community-wide volunteer effort for over 20 years. Two of Athens drinking water sources are the Middle Oconee River and the North Oconee River, making this clean-up invaluable for the health and safety of our residents.

Despite being a challenging year with many events being cancelled, the Rivers Alive steering committee felt it was even more critical this year to find ways to allow the public to give back to the community. Rivers Alive can serve as an opportunity to get outside and responsibly connect with others while making a positive visible difference in Athens. It can make things feel a little more normal.

A Volunteer Stands on a Rock
A Volunteer Stands on a Rock

As expected, the event looked a little different this year compared to previous years. To begin with, the steering committee chose sites that would allow volunteers to socially distant themselves from those not in their same household. Even though some of the sites could have allowed for more volunteers, the committee limited registrations to ten volunteers per site.

All volunteers had to register ahead of time, there was no day-of registration. Registration closed two weeks before the event. This allowed the steering committee to prepare supplies accordingly and communicate effectively with those committed to volunteering. As volunteers registered, they agreed to comply with the COVID protocols including wearing masks, social distancing, and not sharing tools. Volunteers received several emails prior to the event reminding them of these protocols. On the day of the event, volunteers were asked additional questions including reporting their temperature before volunteering.

Besides the traditional cleanups, volunteers also had a “Choose Your Own Adventure” option. With this option, participants could complete an independent cleanup on their own anytime during October and submit details to be included in the final count. This gave those who were not comfortable participating in the larger event an opportunity to still engage and contribute to the overall impact.

Volunteers were given a “grab and go” kit with their supplies- a trash grabber, trash bags, recycling bags, orange safety vests, gloves, and a neck buff- the last two of which were the volunteers’ to keep. Masks were in use, and sanitizer abounded as volunteers showed up eager to help early on the Saturday morning of October 24th.

A Group Stands at the Trail Creek at Vine St. Site
A Group Stands at the Trail Creek at Vine St. Site

During the 2020 River’s Alive cleanup, we had:

158 dedicated volunteers to help clean up 20 different sites around our community.

2.62 tons (5,250 pounds) of trash and recycling,

840 pounds of metal,

71 tires,

4.23 tons of leaf and limb debris/invasive species removed from our waterways and natural areas.

In addition to those stats, 8 groups registered to host their independent clean-ups around town.

Rivers Alive has been an important community-wide volunteer event for over 20 years and helps bring together multiple ACC departments, community partners, and private sponsors. Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, ACC Transportation and Public Works/Stormwater Division, Solid Waste, ACC Public Utilities/Water Conservation Office, and ACC Leisure Services all have representatives to help plan and organize the event. Departments mobilized to secure everything from finding cleanup sites and securing appropriate permissions, securing and packing tools for volunteers to use, marketing and promoting the event, and even managing sponsorship relationships. It takes a lot of planning to make sure the event is effective while also being a positive experience for volunteers.  

By volunteering, you show up to actively participate in the kind of community you want to live in, and we are so grateful to be a part of that for Athens-Clarke County.

Thank you to our volunteers, we’ll see you next year!

A Group Stands at the Carriage Lane Site
A Group Stands at the Carriage Lane Site

Imagine A Day Without Water

Today’s blog is by Keri Greeson, who couldn’t imagine a day without water

The buzz of the alarm wakes me up. After a couple of snoozes, I groggily start my Wednesday morning, heading first to the bathroom. I notice the toilet bowl is dry. I check the tank to see what the problem is, and it’s empty inside, like a display in a home improvement store. When I turn the faucet to brush my teeth, not a drop escapes. There’s no way to shower. I have no way to make my coffee. I can’t even fill my cat’s bowl before heading out. Across town, firefighters are helpless to put out a fire. Dentists can’t clean patients’ teeth. Crop fields go dry, and hospitals have to close. 

Does this sound uncomfortable? 

Imagine a Day Without Water. Join the Nationwide movement on October 21st.  - Texas Section AWWA

On “Imagine a Day Without Water,” we immerse ourselves in what life would look like without this coveted resource. A national day of education, communication, and action marks this critical reminder that water is something we all likely take for granted. It disposes of our waste, keeps us clean, gives us food, and, ultimately, gives us life. 

Think of all the ways water serves you in a day. Beyond the clean laundry and car washes, maybe you have a special memory near a lakeside. Or, you may enjoy painting with watercolors in your free time. 

Without water, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of these things. We must become (or remain) active in our water consumption to ensure we’ll have it for the future. 

Maybe it’s hard to imagine waking up to dry faucets. But what if your water wasn’t clean? You rely on clean water to be delivered to your home 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s important to remember that while water is free, the delivery of clean water is not. We must recognize this to be able to solve the challenges our aging infrastructures face in the future. 

Athenians are no stranger to rising to this call.

You take pledges for wise water use, going so far as to earn Athens recognition in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation in 2019! You show up for the annual Rivers Alive clean-up to tackle pollution at the source, and you celebrate the water festival with us each year. But you can be a part of the water story every day. 

Check out this video to see how water works for these Athenians and get inspired:  Water Works. Today. Tomorrow. For Life.

So what are some other ways you can get involved? Here are just a few:

  • Write: Consider how we can best support investments in water, wastewater, and stormwater. 60% of Americans say they are willing to pay more for water. Is this something you would consider? Why or why not? You can write to your elected officials and get involved in the processes that oversee our water delivery to ensure your voice remains heard. 
  • Learn: Are you familiar with where your water comes from before it reaches our treatment facilities? In the Oconee River Basin, there are approximately 108 rivers and streams listed on the 2012 integrated 305(b)/303(d) list as waters not supporting their designated uses. These impaired waters include roughly 786 miles of the Oconee River Basin. Visit Oconee River to learn more. 
  • Calculate: Think you wouldn’t miss water? You’d be surprised at how much water you use in a day. My score is 979 gallons of water a day! Not too bad when compared to the national average, which is 1,802 galls a day. Where do you stand? Calculate your score by visiting the Water Footprint Calculator 
  • Read: Join our Water Book Club! Register through the ACC library to join: Water Book Club
  • Watch: Check out the Brave Blue World documentary, which paints an optimistic view of how humanity is adopting new technologies and innovations for a sustainable water future. You can watch this on Netflix starting October 21, 2020. 
  • Support Blue Businesses: When you dine at Certified Blue restaurants, you’re helping our water, too. Check out the list of Blue Businesses here: Restaurant Conservation Program


Shhh, Do You Hear That? Using Acoustics for Leak Detection in Athens

By: Keri Greeson, Intern for the Water Conservation Office

When you think of leaks, you probably imagine a drippy faucet in the kitchen or a bad flapper in the toilet. But those are the easy ones to find. What would you do if you had a tricky leak, like one beneath the hard pavement of our roads? These are the types of leaks that can literally keep a water professional up at night.

Nighttime is the best time to find dripping water. Generally, things are quieter at 10:00 pm than they would be midday. As an intern for the Water Conservation Office, I joined KJ and Justin, leak detectives with WachsWater, on a late-night leak-seeking run. These experts use the power of sound to help detect otherwise hard-to-find leaks throughout Athens. This particular night featured a hunt around the West side of Athens, an area roughly stretching from the Chick-Fil-A on Atlanta Highway to Bogart.

Water loss consultant Justin dons a pair of headphones attached to hand-held sensory equipment. It is similar to someone scanning the beach with a metal detector, minus the socks and sandals. KJ broke down how using acoustics for leak detection works: “Imagine a doctor with a stethoscope; everything is amplified.  It’s loud.  Depending on how big the leak is, it would sound like opening the faucet in a bathtub.”

Experts begin their assessments with this most basic method of utilizing acoustics to check assets, such as a fire hydrant, connected to the water lines. If you find – or hear – a clue that suggests a leak, you then perform additional tests. Sensors attach to pipes and apply an algorithm to determine roughly the location of the underground leak.

Now, let’s say you need to check under a hard surface like pavement. For this job, the professionals will use different attachments that can be set directly on the hard surface as a ground mic. On the back of the truck, Justin introduced me to the equipment used (figure 1).


Figure 1: The Acoustic Detection Equipment

Water lines typically run with the layout of roads. An expert will check down one side of the road and then across to the other. This process is relatively simple. No water shut-offs or other invasive procedures are required to do the checks. Justin explains that if you determine that you hear a leak sound, you will trace over the top of your line listening as the noise gets louder and louder until it peaks. At that point, you can ask, “Are you on a leak?”

KJ goes the extra mile by running water quality tests on water collected from leaks to check for the presence of chlorine. If chlorine is in the water, that’s a confirmation that they have found treated water from the water provider. If there is no chlorine, then the water found is most likely from another source, possibly groundwater or stormwater.

I watched as KJ and Justin worked as a team. While Justin walked outfitted in the acoustic equipment (figure 2) listening for signs of leaks, KJ tracked their progress on a map to ensure all the locations are covered.


Figure 2: Justin checks for leaks off of Atlanta Highway

WachsWater pays Athens-Clarke County an annual visit, covering about ⅕ of the county per year in a search for leaks in our infrastructure. The process can be time-consuming, but it’s essential to ensure our infrastructure is optimized to conserve water. Once we are confident our water delivery system runs efficiently without leaks, we can all get a good night’s sleep.

Like we say here at the Water Conservation Office, Every Drop Counts!

Momentum is Building for Water Reuse in Georgia

Momentum is Building for Water Reuse in Georgia

Marilyn Hall is the Water Resources Planner for Athens-Clarke County and serves on the Board of Directors for the Water Reuse Association. 

Despite abundant rainfall, periodic water shortages are a fact of life in Georgia.  The state’s future depends upon a consistent supply of fresh water and utilities are looking to water recycling to fulfill that need. Water recycling, also known as water reuse, is the process of intentionally capturing wastewater and cleaning it for a designated beneficial purpose such as drinking, industrial processes, water supply augmentation, and environmental restoration.

Communities across the state already incorporate non-potable water recycling into their water management strategies. Non-potable water recycling refers to reclaiming water from wastewater treatment facilities and using it for irrigation, industrial uses, or other non-drinking water purposes.  The Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority provides recycled water to a Google Data Center for industrial cooling. Other cities, such as Savannah, Braselton, and Winder, provide recycled water for irrigation.

Two water providers in Georgia stand out as innovators in indirect potable reuse. Indirect potable reuse entails blending recycled water into environmental systems before the water is reused as a drinking water source. Gwinnett County’s wastewater treatment facilities consistently produce high quality water that is returned to Lake Lanier, the drinking water source for much of the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Clayton County Water Authority utilizes a system of interconnected wastewater plants, constructed wetlands, reservoirs, and water treatment plants to recycle water back to drinking water.

Water recycling is gaining momentum in Georgia as water providers, regulators, and researchers continue to make new investments in both potable and non-potable water recycling. For example, Gwinnet County is researching technologies that provide purified recycled water directly into drinking water supply systems and Athens-Clarke County is investing in a new system that will provide recycled water for industrial use. Additionally, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is developing guidelines to help water and wastewater service providers navigate implementation of indirect potable reuse.  Continued investment in research and implementation of new programs reveal a hopeful future for water recycling in Georgia.

ACC Water Utility Workers Solve Problem of Flushable Wipes Clogging Pipes

The coronavirus has us using more paper towels, wipes, tissues, and shop towels than ever before. Many of these items are being disposed of as if they were part of a fish burial – flushed down the toilet.

Not sure what to flush? Keep in mind the 4 Ps of Flushing: Only Pee, Poo, Paper, & Puke

Thousands of wipes and similar trash arrives at the North Oconee Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) daily. The gobs of debris clog the screens, grinders, and other equipment, causing the water reclamation operators to pull 100+ pound “mopheads” from the machinery. A mophead is a nickname given to the obstruction made of collected wipes and other materials, which resembles the head of a mop. The “flushable” wipes and other rags are the banes of every operator’s existence, resulting in the need for repairs and maintenance, which increase costs ultimately covered through water rates.

The creative folks at the North Oconee, Middle Oconee, and Cedar Creek WRFS decided it was time to turn lemons into lemonade. If people choose to ignore messaging about the proper disposal of wipes, which is simply to put them in the trash, they must come up with another solution.

Bruce Perkins, Inventory Control Technician, is always on the lookout for innovative ways to increase efficiency and use materials wisely. He realized people continue to flush wipes, despite being warned of how flushed trash can lead to a toilet back up in the home. With the popularity of wipes and the recent shortage of toilet paper and similar items, Mr. Perkins decided it was time to jump on the recycling bandwagon and recycle the mounds of wipes.

Perkins reached out to Dave Bloyer, Compliance Coordinator, to get advice on how to bring his dream to fruition. Together, the two devised a plan to recycle the flushable wipes with hopes of having a prototype developed by mid-April 2020. Applying advanced technology in oxidation and ultraviolet treatments as the primary method of disinfecting the flushed disinfecting wipes, the pair developed a trademarked method by April 1, weeks ahead of schedule.

The “mophead” on the left is harvested for flushed wipes to be recycled for use again as a product called “Bottom Buffs”.

The result is Bottom Buffs© pre-moistened, recycled “re-flushable” wipes, which are practically white except for a rusty hue. The inventors packaged the product into a tiny trash can, with the hope when the small container is empty, it will be placed in the bathroom to collect future first time “flushable” wipe products, thus limiting the number flushed in the first place.

The beauty of the product is because the wipes have been through the sewer system once, they are more likely to break down this go around, thus lessening the chances of a dreaded clog in pipes as with the first time they are flushed. Bottom Buffs are available at the North Oconee WRF for a limited time only, as the producers hope to see a significant drop in raw materials very soon.

The Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department (PUD) appreciates the contributions made by Bruce Perkins and David Bloyer, both of who will be retiring from the utility at the end of the week. The water utility wishes them well and hopes their memory lives on within the department longer than it takes a flushed wipe to break down, which can be a very, very long time.