Love: it’s not just in the air

On Valentine’s Day 2019, our city of Athens was overflowing with love.  From across the city, sweethearts of all ages flocked to the North Oconee Water Reclamation Facility to celebrate their affection on a Valentine’s Day Tour.  Couples were treated to a truly romantic experience, complete with a photo booth, bouquets of fresh-cut flowers, decadent desserts, and a stunning waterfall.  The lovebirds even enjoyed a special swan sighting!  Strolling hand in hand around the water treatment site, the valentines soaked up the warm sun as well tips and tricks for water conservation.  With their one and only, the lovers learned that we are given only one gift of water, but that we all can make waves when it comes to conservation.  “I learned how easy it is to be smart with water and how lucky we are to have easily accessible clean water,” beamed one guest, with stars in her eyes.  Others described the tour as “romantic [and] very fun and unique,” recommending that “everyone that lives in Athens should do the tour!”  If you and your beloved missed this year’s soiree, fear not!  The romantic Valentine’s Day Tour will return next year, for lovers and lovers of water alike!

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You had me at H2O!

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Love is in the water!

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Swan sightings

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Sweet treats for the sweethearts

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Romantic photos at the waterfall

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A Love Letter to My Bathroom

This week’s blog is brought to you by Laura Paquette, Water Conservation Intern and resident Bathroom Whisperer.

Dear Bathroom,

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Can you believe that we get to spend another February 14th together?!?  Since it’s that time of year, I want to show you some love and thank you for putting up with all of my crap.  Literally.  You love me unconditionally, and you never complain when I sing off-key in the shower.  This Valentine’s Day, I want to shower you with gifts that make WaterSense.

I know how hard you work to keep that water flowing at the sink, so I want to make it a little easier for you with a brand new WaterSense certified faucet aerator! By mixing air with water, you become 20% more efficient than other models.  You can relax, and let the aerator make washing up a breeze!

Beloved bathroom, you give me the best water pressure around, and I hope that this new showerhead will take the pressure off you. Now you can go with the flow of the water, trusting that your WaterSense endorsed showerhead will be there for you.

One last accessory for you, love: a toilet flapper.  You flush all of my problems down the drain, so the least I can do for you is help keep leaks at bay.  With your new flapper, you won’t have to worry about losing water anymore.

Yours truly,

A Not-So-Secret Admirer

The Super Bowl Spirit of Sustainability

This week’s blog is written by Laura Paquette, Water Conservation Intern.

It begins, as so many things do, in childhood.  Before we can read and write, before we know our phone number or can spell our names, we know who our team is.  We don the jerseys of beloved players and commit the chants and fight songs to memory.  We set aside long days in preparation of the game, sacrificing hot dogs and chips and ice-cold beers to the sports gods, in hopes that our team will win.  We know, instinctively, that because we support a team, we belong to something bigger than ourselves.  And once a year, each February, we come together to witness team support at its peak, during the Super Bowl.

This year, even though the Falcons didn’t make it, they – or at least their home stadium – will still play a special role on game day.  Atlanta’s newly minted Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the battle between the Patriots and the Rams, making it a huge source of excitement and pride for the city and state of Georgia as a whole.

But why should we care about the building where this game will be played?

In short, because it represents a monumental effort to stick to one’s values in the service of a greater cause, a cause backed by none other than Arthur Blank, co-founder of the Home Depot and leader for construction of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

From the start, Blank saw the stadium as more than just a building. It was a chance to prove something in a world where sustainability is quickly becoming less of an architectural trend and more of a pillar of responsible building practices.  Beginning the project, Blank declared that his goal for the new stadium was to attain a Platinum-level LEED certification.

Okay, hold up.  What in the world is LEED certification?  LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is bestowed upon buildings that go above and beyond to incorporate an environmentally-friendly and sustainable design.  LEED has different levels of certification earned by obtaining a certain number of points, and platinum is the most coveted.  Platinum certification is a huge deal in the architectural community and was considered impossible for a stadium to achieve.

That is until the Mercedes-Benz Stadium beat the odds.  Each element of the stadium was carefully reviewed to increase efficiency and earn maximum LEED points.  The efforts paid off and the venue is not only the first stadium to achieve platinum status, but it earned the highest LEED score ever for a sports facility, including all 10 possible water category credits.

Like the Pantheon-esque design of the stadium?  What’s inside is even more impressive, as the responsible use of water was at the root of all design decisions.  Hidden within the stadium is a storm vault system and a large cistern to capture rainfall for reuse in the cooling tower and landscape irrigation.  These elements protect valuable water resources for the citizens of Atlanta and work like a giant sponge to help keep flooding, a constant issue for the area, at bay.

In some cases, the need for water was completely eliminated. Specifically, FieldTurf, a type of fake grass à la Astroturf, took the place of live grass, saving gallons upon gallons of water in field maintenance.  Even the bathrooms in the stadium blow old sports facility sustainability out of the water.  Literally: the urinals in the stadium are waterless!  And you know when the bathroom goes above and beyond, a building really is amazing.  With additional water-efficient fixtures in place, the stadium uses 47% less water than its counterparts.

In the mood for a bite to eat in the iconic stadium?  Though the available concessions don’t add to the LEED certification credits, they do offer the sports fan the opportunity to care for water, too.  Sure, you can grab a tired hot dog or hamburger, the traditional foods offered in every stadium across America.  But as you are learning, this is not your average stadium. Not only will you find the concessions surprisingly affordable, but the variety of options is exciting and allows for more sustainable choices.  Several food vendors offer vegetarian or vegan options, a rarity in most sports venues.  Anytime you choose a meatless meal, you reduce your water footprint.

These are just a few of the stadium’s unique features.  You can explore more on the MBS website or through video.  If you’re still curious, you can even visit the stadium for a tour to learn more about this pioneering structure.

Essentially, the big question, besides who will win its inaugural Super Bowl, is why should we, hardcore fans who carry out crazy game day superstitions (hello lucky jersey that hasn’t been washed in 5 years) all to secure a win for our team, care about the world’s greenest sports stadium?

The answer is simple.  Because during Super Bowl LIII and inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we aren’t just rooting for the Rams.  Or the Patriots.  In fact, the team we’re rooting for isn’t playing out on the field at all.  We may not realize it, but we are all on the same team, Team Water.  Players like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium invite us to take action to support Team Water, the most important team of all, and illustrate how everyone, from quarterbacks to fans can embody the team spirit of conservation and sustainability.

Just like when we were kids, painting our faces with our team’s colors and cheering on the sidelines, we again have an opportunity to support something greater than just a game, than a stadium or a city, something greater than us all.  After all, isn’t that what it means to be a team?

10 Simple Water Resolutions for the New Year

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, Water Conservation Coordinator and your personal cheerleader.  I know you can do at least one of these all year!!!

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 2019 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.  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.

Pouring Fresh Tap Water Into a Glass

2.  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.  When the weather warms, consider kayaking down your water source.

3.  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?!?

 

4.  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.

 

 

5.  Be a Good Role Model for Your Kids

Here is where the old adage “actions speak louder than words” proves itself to be true.  Your children are watching you.  Model how to be water efficient in 2016 so your children will have water for life.280b4059976896583058184127221b59[1]

 

6.  Find & Fix Leaks

Pledge to not only look for leaks inside and outside your home but 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.  Remember, your kids are watching.Find leaks 7.  Buy Less

Everything you purchase requires water to get you the product.  This is part of what is called your water footprint.  The socks you buy needed water to grow the cotton, water for manufacturing, water for the packaging, water for transporting… Buy less and shrink your water footprint.  What to do with that extra money?  See #3.The Buyerarchy of Needs

8.  Go Meatless

Try the Meatless Monday craze.  It is simple.  Skip meat in all of your meals on Mondays.  A pound of beef requires about 1,850 gallons of water to produce.  Compare this to only 39 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables.  The switch has the power to reduce your water footprint and possibly your waist size.meatless_monday_logo-large[1]

 

 

9.  Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle

These 3 Rs apply to water, too.  Remember that water footprint? 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.recyclemore[1]

 

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!Turn off the water while brushing.

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 2019?  Share it with us!

Athens Water Festival 2018: A Universe Restored

Athenians banded together on September 8th at Sandy Creek Park to become Water Avengers, collect Infinite Stones, and unlock the secret to saving our water resources. Through games and activities, these water warriors rose to the challenge to protect our planet. Over 1,000 attendees made this event possible, and we here at the Water Conservation Office want to say thanks for your commitment to conserving water and thinking at the sink. Live music, water trucks, wildlife encounters, and delicious cricket cookies truly made this year’s event sparkle. Check out the photos below to see for yourself!

Water trucks kept the visitors cool on a hot day in the park.

UGA Marine Sciences had some aquatic friends of their own.

 

Water Avengers, assemble!

 

Saving the day, one water droplet at a time!

 

Thanks to Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources for bringing their animal friends along.

 

Picking up the Pieces with Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful.

All eyes on Keith, the Magic Man!

Athens Water Festival 2018

Attention water warriors, we need you! Join your fellow Athenians at the Athens Water Festival in a quest to find six infinite stones. These will unlock the secret to saving our water resources. Through various water activities, you will discover how to protect the world and water from threats too large for one warrior to handle.

  • When:  Saturday, September 8, 2018
  • Time:  10:30AM – 2:00PM
  • Where:  Sandy Creek Park, 400 Bob Holman Road, Athens, GA 30607
  • Cost:  $2 park entry; festival activities are FREE!
  • What:  A family-friendly event all about water; bring a swimsuit
  • More info:  Visit AthensWaterFestival.com

What can you expect to accomplish at the water festival? Below is a sampling of activities.

  1. Thanos has used the power of the infinity gauntlet to blow half the universe into tiny pieces (like billions of bits of microplastics). Join Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful to put things back in order and restore balance by collecting all the bits to clean things up to help the Avengers rise a
  2. gain to protect the planet.
  3. Use your avenger agility skills to dodge water drops sprayed from water trucks.
  4. Meet mysterious critters from UGA Bug Dawgs and UGA Warnell’s School of Forestry an
    d Natural Resources.
  5. Discover the magic of water with Keith, the magic man.
  6. Make thunder using drums from Dr. Arvin Scott and Drumming for Success.

 

The Athens Water Festival is one of the top annual family events in Athens.  Meteorologists predict good, mild weather.  UGA conveniently scheduled an away, football game so as not to conflict with the festival. There is truly no reason to not attend the 2018 Athens Water Festival.  Bring your bravery, courage, and strength to the festival and show us what a true Water Avenger looks like.

See ya later Summer

Sadly, summer vacation is ending and the school bell is ringing. Starting today and within the next two weeks all the local school systems will be back in session. Commerce City students start today. Jackson County begins on Monday, July 30th. At least Madison, Oconee and Barrow counties start in August…August 1st to be exact. Oglethorpe and Clarke Counties are the last to start with August 6th and 7th start dates respectively.

Before we jump right into classroom visits, tours, Little Lily’s Pad Hop, and science nights we would like to take a look back on our summer. We had a VERY busy summer, teaching over 750 campers all about water. A big THANK YOU to all of the groups who invited us to share water activities with their campers.  We had a splash!

We spent a good amount of time with the YWCO girls camp. These campers were energetic, funny, and always willing to learn. We taught 5-14 year olds all about water. Some acted out water charades while others learned about the physical properties of water.

YWCO girls camp after the H20 -Olympics activity

 

 

We collaborated with our friends at ACC Stormwater to teach Sandy Creek Park and Nature Center campers. How do you educate and entertain 90 campers? Remember, it is summer camp so we have to have fun! Well, we used parachutes. We used a parachute and water molecules to demonstrate that water can exist in three different states (solid, liquid, and gas). Stormwater used the parachute to show how difficult it is to remove pollutants from the water.

 

 

Teens in Action, an ACC Leisure Services camp, offers teens a chance to volunteer in the community.  This great group of kids helped us to prepare for the Athens Water Festival and Little Lily’s Pad Hop. They also painted WATER on our big blue wavy guy…I think they named him skinny blue.

Teens in Action volunteers with the wacky wavy blue guy

Tours, tours, and more tours! We hosted eights tours this summer at the Drinking Water Treatment Plant and Water Reclamation Facility. Athens First United Methodist, YWCO, and Athens Land Trust campers all learned the secret recipe to turning river water into clean drinking water. Memorial Park and Sandy Creek Nature Center campers learned where the water goes when you flush the toilet!

Campers touring the Drinking Water Treatment Plant

In addition to these camps, we visited several kids through the Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program. We tested out a plinko water drop trivia game and they loved it!

The Water Drop Plinko Game

Wishing all of our campers the best in the new school year!  We will look for you on field trips or visits to your classroom.  And remember, Conserve: WATER U waiting 4?