Who Am I, Why Am I Here?

Blog number two.  If you’re reading this, it means that blog number 1 went over well with the office…Success!

The beauty of a blog is it’s like a conversation; it’s a place through which I can use my own voice to break down things into a language that is relatable.  I can sit here and type to you and it’s as if we’re sitting at Jittery Joe’s discussing this over a cup of their fabulous coffee.

So, let’s talk.  I am the summer intern for the Water Conservation Office.  I have been working closely with our education specialist (Laurie) on all of the outreach programs she runs during the summer.  We have been to Sandy Creek Day Camp, Athens Montessori, Timothy Baptist, East Athens Community Center, Athfest…the list goes on.  Every time we take a trip, we bring with us toys, tools, tricks, and tips about water conservation and wise use.  It’s fun!  Watching the kids begin to understand the importance of water conservation is really neat.

In addition to helping Laurie lead these programs, I have also spent time expanding the office’s use of social media.  We have a twitter now (check our links page to follow us!), and we have this blog.  It’s crazy how much this outdoor-loving girl has been glued to a computer over the past two months.

But I digress, what I really wanted to talk to you about was this office.  Who are we? What do we do? Why are we here?

The Water Conservation Office (WCO) is part of the county government for Athens-Clarke County.  This office is nested within the Public Utilities Department.  The unique thing about the WCO is that although we’re a utilities office, we also do a lot of educational outreach programs.  It seems strange, for a governmental office to be doing as much outreach and as many community events as we do—the government’s job is rules, regulations, etc…right?

Well, maybe.  But I think it’s wonderful that the WCO does as much as it does: what better way to ensure the communication of our purpose than through the sponge-like minds of the children of Athens?

What is our purpose, you say?  Officially, “the goal of the Water Conservation Office is to ensure water use efficiency so that water demand does not exceed the safe yield of our water supply and related environmental concerns.” Sound like economics to you? Hey, me too!  But supply and demand is ubiquitous; it happens outside of economics too.  Demand for something cannot exceed the supply, else you have some demanders that are quite unsatisfied.  The water conservation office works very hard to give you the best information we can on how to keep the supply alive…that is, how Athens can keep our water around.

I find I take water for granted far too often.  Georgia isn’t exactly known for her deserts…we have lakes, streams, rivers, creeks, pools, ponds, reservoirs…we have water.  In fact, it wasn’t until I started working for the water conservation office that I realized just how close this city has come to being without water.  We’ve come really close.  Even now, despite our off-and-on-rain, we are pulling from our reservoir, not our usual water source of the Middle and North Oconee Rivers.  This means our rivers are too dry for us to use their water:

We could, I suppose, use the river until it runs dry, but remember supply and demand? People–especially people from Athens-Clarke county–aren’t the only ones who are in demand of water.  The rivers flow into other counties not under the WCO’s jurisdiction, the rivers feed the bank-side trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, and animals.  This brings us to a very important phrase in the office’s mission statement: “safe yield.”  Yield and safe yield are two very different ideas.  The desire to maintain safe yield is why it’s called the Water Conservation Office, not the Water Use Office.

I think it’s neat that the WCO cares about not only getting water to you, but keeping it coming.  The people in this office: my bosses Marilyn and Laurie, my fellow intern Jackie, even the accountant and administrative assistant…they all love water.  It’s amazing to see a group of people who love their jobs, who understand the importance of their work every single day.  Their goal here is to keep Athens hydrated: with water and with good conservation practices.  Yes, the drought is hard, the watering restrictions make gardening difficult, but when you step back and think about the big Athens-wide picture, watering your garden too often could mean the difference in having drinking water at the end of the summer or not having it.  It seems dismal to put it like that, but I cannot help but think that way.  The office works very diligently to ensure that we don’t run out, the best thing I think I can do, and you too, is to give them a hand.

-Annaliese Ashley, Intern

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 7/24/12

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