This week’s blog from Laurie Loftin, Program Specialist with Water Conservation Office
An interesting droplet of information from the EPA states that the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day. I am fortunate enough to know quite a few “average Americans,” and I can share typical responses I receive when I toss out this tidbit of trivia. Often times people simply don’t believe the number is accurate and try to disprove it. Others politely listen to the fact and tiptoe around the topic as if I brought up politics, religion, or their in-laws. And still others are amazed at the large amount of water consumption and discussion ensues. But each of these average Americans has one thing in common: they have a hard time visualizing what 100 gallons looks like.
This holiday season the Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Public Utilities Department* wants to give the gift of visualization. Let me explain. Inspiration was first sparked from a banner created by WaterSense. The banner very concisely stated Americans use 100 gallons a day, while a person in a developing country uses 5 gallons a day. At the annual Athens Water Festival we used the banner to create an interactive display. We invited festival goers to pick up two 2.5 gallon jugs of water and stroll down the walkway towards the banner. This gave people the ability to understand just how heavy five gallons are. To help participants compare the five gallons to their average water use, we lined the walkway with 100 1-gallon jugs, 50 jugs evenly placed on each side. It definitely was a conversation starter.
After the festival, we had 100 jugs leftover. We could have simply put them into the recycling bin, but collecting 100 jugs is not an easy task. A little dumpster diving was involved. I admit to stalking my neighbors recycling bins. Our recycling division pulled some jugs out for us that were, ummmm, ripe. No, our efforts demanded we come up with another way to get more use out of these jugs.The perfect opportunity for their reuse soon floated right to us. The annual ACC Parade of Lights is held the first Thursday of every December. This year the parade theme is “The Sounds of Christmas.” How does a public utility incorporate water, 100 1-gallon jugs, and sounds of Christmas into one float? The first thought was to create Jug Man. This would be a large human shaped form made from jugs. If dressed appropriately, he could hold a sign saying “H2O, ho, ho!” But this idea didn’t adequately address The Sounds of Christmas component.
Then genius struck. “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You” is our theme! The song has double meaning for our float. First, the color blue is associated with water. Secondly, imagine how blue you would be without clean water available with the turn of a tap. One hundred 1-gallon jugs are arranged to form a giant snowflake with blue lights snaked through each one. We wear sandwich boards explaining the concept of the float as we walk beside it, passing out candy and water conservation themed tattoos to parade spectators. The average American gets to see exactly what 100 gallons looks like with this beautiful, eye-catching display. Brilliant! Best. Float. Ever.
So, citizens of Athens-Clarke County and all across the world, we hope you enjoy this small gift of visualization we joyfully give to you this holiday season. Be aware of your water use and use it wisely. Then maybe next time I won’t have to gather so many jugs and we can make a smaller snowflake.
Peace, love, and water to everyone.
*A Tremendous THANK YOU to all of the people in ACC Public Utilities Department who worked together to create this piece of art: the brainstormers, the designers, the builders, the light stringers, the supervisors who gave time for employees to work, the big truck driver, the walkers, the riders, the problem solvers, the cheerleaders, those who couldn’t get away but wanted to, thank you to EVERYONE!