The Itsy Bitsy Spider Climbed Up Your Water Spout (and Other Tales of What to Flush)

Today’s blog post was written by Camilla Sherman, a Water Conservation Office Intern and spider warrior.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEK!” This is the sound we involuntarily emit when most of us see a spider, especially when it is in our home. How dare this wild, and terrifying creature, come into our homes and act like it owns the place. Our first reaction is to find a way to get rid of it. You may look around and find a few household items, MacGyver them together, and use them to oust the arachnid. In the heat of the moment, you may go with the cup capture method.  This leads to a live little monster trapped in a cup, which you now have to figure out what to do with. What do you do now?! I’m guessing you do not want to stick your hand in there to try to squish the spider.  You toss the creature into the toilet and flush to avoid any other contact. Round and round and down it goes. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Whew, thank goodness I’ll never see that thing again.”

WRONG! Spiders can actually hold their breath for up to 72 hours in some cases. The spider you flush down the toilet can actually end up finding it way back into the sewer spidercartoon5118
systems and back into your home (or your neighbor’s home). That’s right, the spider you just worked so hard to flush could crawl up your drain and you to have to start the freaking out process all over. Is it worth the risk and the waste of water? Each time you flush your toilet, you are using about 3.5 gallons of water. The best option is to take the spider-in-a-cup outside and let the spider go. Or, if you do not want to risk catching it, you can just squish it with a paper towel and throw it in the trash. Check out a black widow holding its breath and more information: Never Flush Spiders Down the Toilet 

Going along with spiders, there are many other things you should avoid flushing. Not only to save water, but also to prevent future problems that will cost you lots of moola. Did you know that FOG is not just clouds settling near the earth’s surface? FOG stands for fats, oils, and grease. These are the big 3 that you should not flush or wash down the drain. They start out as a liquid but will eventually turn to a solid that can lead to a clog in the sewers. They also coat the pipes and make them “sticky” and more likely to catch other debris that will lead to a build-up. There are a few other common items that people may not think twice about flushing or washing down the drain that are actually a big no-no.happy toilet

These include: floss, band-aids, “disposable” wipes, paper towels, pads and tampons, condoms, hair, cat litter, and medication.

If you are wondering how to keep a happy toilet and what is okay to flush (and what won’t come crawling back up *yikes*) stick to the 4 P’s. The 4 P’s are toilet Paper, Pee, Poop, and Puke. If you stick to these 4, you should have no problem conserving water, avoiding expensive clogs, and preventing the nightmare of your spider friend coming back to visit.



Conservation: Music to Our Ears

This week’s post was written by Caroline Cummings, WCO Intern and music junkie. 

Living in Athens, we are lucky enough to experience firsthand some of the best music in the country. Whether it’s nationally acclaimed rock legends like R.E.M., local college kids that like Chinese food (hint: the B-52s), or the street performers that can turn anything, including buckets, into instruments, there’s no denying that the people of Athens know their music. Assuming you at least listen to, like, or maybe even LOVE music like I do, music festivals seem like the ideal place to make our dreams come true; it is important, however, that we are aware of the impact our beloved music festivals have on our environment, especially our water.

It’s no surprise that thousands of people gathered into one venue produces waste, uses water, and leaves behind a nasty carbon footprint. What is pleasantly surprising, however, is the initiative many festivals are taking to reduce their waste production and water consumption, as well as promote sustainability in the lives of their attendees. With the recent release of many festival lineups, ‘tis the season to make travel arrangements and purchase tickets to see your favorite bands. Lucky for us, there are festivals all over the country covering all genres that are determined to make a positive impact on our water conservation and sustainability efforts.

1. Tortuga Music Festival, April 15-17, 2016

rtoLocated in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, TortugaFest is one of the most environmentally conscious festivals of its kind. With a mostly country, rock, and roots lineup and headliners such as Blake Shelton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tim McGraw, Tortuga Fest has attracted like-minded fans from across the country to enjoy a weekend at the beach. Aside from guaranteeing proper waste disposal with the help of the Clean Vibes organization, Tortuga puts an emphasis on water conservation and protection. Portions of ticket purchases are donated to Rock the Ocean, an organization consisting of 30+ groups that promote conservation of our oceans through interactive activities, events, and educational programs such as funding field trips to local waterways for low-income students. Rock the Ocean’s presence at the festival is almost as big as the bands playing there; they set up an entire “Conservation Village” within the festival grounds. Here, festival-goers can learn ways to conserve water, reduce pollution in the oceans, and even win a chance to meet one of the headliners of the festival. The goal of Conservation Village, best stated by the festival itself, is to “allow fans to leave the festival with an ‘awakened consciousness’ of the issues our oceans and marine environments are facing, and most importantly, what they, the fans, can do to make a difference!” Who doesn’t love an awakened conscience?

2. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, June 9-12, 2016

Named for the French words “bonne” and “rue,” meaning “good” and “street,” respectively, Bonnaroo, located in Manchester, Tennessee, is considered the “best on the streets” by many festival-goers. While it’s hard to beat seeing artists such as Pearl Jam, Tame Impala, Dead & Company, plus ~100 more musicians and comedians, many other large festivals also can’t hold a candle to Bonnaroo’s sustainability efforts. By partnering up with Rock the Earth and Carbon Shredders, Bonnaroo teaches its attendees the basics of conservation of natural resources and leading a more sustainable life, including reducing water consumption. Paired up with Carbon Shredders is We Are Neutral, an organization that works with large-scale events to reduce their large-scale energy and water usage, which has made Bonnaroo one of the greenest festivals in the world. The festival also teams up with Clean Vibes to ensure proper waste disposal to divert from landfills and prevent pollution. Similar to our office’s Certified Blue program, Bonnaroo also implements aBroo15_News_Post_Sust “Sustainable Vendors” badge of honor.  Vendors that are labeled with this badge use locally grown products and make conscious efforts to decrease their waste production and resource consumption. If the Certified Blue-like program at ‘Roo isn’t enough to draw you away from Athens for a couple days (which it should be!), consider going to see some of our very own local bands perform at this festival. Past lineups have included Athens bands Drive-by Truckers, Neutral Milk Hotel, Futurebirds, Reptar, and Radiolucent.

3. Rock the Green Music Festival, September 17, 2016

A music festival completely built on sustainability, Rock the Green has definitely lived up to its name. Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this festival has featured nationally recognized artists like Third Eye Blind, Ben Folds, and Atlas Genius. Alongside these well-known performances, Rock the Green also hosts and promotes many local artists, a notion we Athenians embrace. Although the 2016 lineup has yet to be released, it’s safe to say this festival will not disappoint musically or conservationally. Rock the Green 2016 will be located at a new venue in Milwaukee’s Reed Street Yards, an eco-industrial park located on Freshwater Way. When not in use for the festival, the park focuses on Milwaukee’s growing water industry and the technologies that help ensure water is both abundant and clean. Due to the new venue, Rock the Green 2016 will also feature another welcome change: a focus on water conservation. Along with creating near-zero waste, Rock the Green is working with the 15222879439_09af23833b_bMilwaukee Water Council to promote freshwater sustainability at the festival using Reed Street Yards’s research and initiatives as a basis. Rock the Green’s mission statement perfectly sums up what this festival is all about: “to educate and empower the community to take actionable steps to live sustainably.”

4. Lightning in a Bottle, May 25-30, 2016

Last on our list but certainly not least is the festival Lightning in a Bottle, which will take place in Bradley, California this Memorial Day weekend. Described as “a fourth dimension where only the weird and wonderful flourish,” Lightning in a Bottle is a conglomeration of music, yoga, art, education, and sustainability. This summer it will host artists such as Chet Faker, Grimes, and Jamie XX. Of course here at the ACC Water Conservation Office, we like to focus on the sustainability aspect, and this festival does not disappoint. With an atmosphere dedicated to community, Lightning in a Bottle makes sure to keep the community surrounding the festival clean, happy, and sustainable. The festival has put in place several water initiatives that promote conservation, including an on-site environmental impact assessment and educational signs to encourage reduction in water use. The impact assessment lets festival staff and attendees rest assured that no waste from the festival negatively impacts nearby Lake San Antonio while the signs within the festival grounds educate attendees on things such as the benefits of low-flow toilets, water fountains, and shower taps. They also make use of the festival’s grey water by spraying it on the grounds to prevent dust and air pollution. Aside from all the amazing water initiatives the festival has implemented, they also do their part to reduce festival energy costs and create a net-zero energy usage through carbon offsets. The main goal of what they callethos “Ethos” (their green initiative) at Lightning in a Bottle is “… to change lives. We want people to not only be inspired at the festival, but to leave and make a big difference at home in their communities.”

From home- If you’re unable to make it to any of these festivals this year, there is another awesome way music can help you conserve water from home. Try picking out a favorite song to play in the shower and use it as a timer to take quicker showers and save more water, but don’t forget to sing along!

GA EPD: The Time to Prepare For Drought is Now

This week’s blog is written by Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

We are in between droughts.  There is no better time to prepare.  

To help water providers prepare for the next inevitable drought, the Georgia DNR Board adopted rules that replaced the Outdoor Water Use Rules in August of 2015.  As far as I can tell there has been little, if any, information developed to help utilities, irrigation/ landscape professionals, and other water users implement these rules.  They are confusing, but in a nutshell, the new “Drought Management” rule does four things: creates provisions for a drought response committee; requires pre-drought mitigation strategies; introduces new drought indicators and triggers; and requires a series of drought response strategies.

There are substantial changes in the new rules that require new and specific actions.  The rule introduces three new drought levels.  The first level requires a little bit of public notice and the third requires nearly an outdoor watering ban plus mandatory drought surcharges and other actions that many utilities and water users may find challenging and should prepare for.

In order to make sense of the new rules and how they will impact utilities and water users, the Georgia Water Wise Council has enlisted the assistance of law students at the University of Georgia to develop a Guidance Document for the Drought Rules. This guidance should be ready in March, 2016.  In the meantime it is important for Utilities to start preparing for some of the requirements now.  The most urgent of which is conservation rates.

Local water systems that do not have water rate conservation pricing in place are required to develop a “drought surcharge program” by June 24, 2016.  These surcharge rates would be required under a Level 3 Drought Response.  EPD considers the surcharge to be a “temporary price incentive for customers to reduce water demand during a declared drought”(Responses to Comments Received During the Public Comment Period April 13, 2015-May 13, 2015 ).  Some systems that demonstrate to EPD that their billing systems are unable to charge distinctive rates or are unable to apply a surcharge rate only to the volumetric portion of the bill may be exempt from this requirement.

To learn more about conservation rates look at the EPD Guidance Document prepared in August 2007, “Conservation-Oriented Rate Structures” (

Recognizing that at any given time we are either in a drought or in between droughts, EPD introduces a “predrought” condition with this rule. During predrought times the odd even schedule does not apply. The rule is consistent with the Water Stewardship Act and allows for outdoor water use 7 days a week after 4:00 PM and before 10:00 AM.  Exemptions like drip irrigation, wells, food gardens, etc have not changed.

The predrought mitigation strategies apply only to outdoor water uses for the purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants. This leaves predrought restrictions on outdoor water uses such as pressure washing, swimming pools, fountains, etc unclear.   It is up to local governments to apply limits to these water uses during non-drought periods if needed to ensure drought resilience. (This is just my take on this, don’t modify your ordinances before confirming with EPD.)

Drought declaration decisions will be made by EPD using a set of drought indicators.  There are three Drought Response Levels that build on one another.  In other words, Level 2 requires that both Level 1 and Level 2 requirements be implemented.  All that is required in Level 1 is the implementation of a minimal public information campaign that only includes public notice regarding drought conditions.  If your area is entering a drought it would be a good idea to ramp up your public outreach efforts above and beyond the minimum requirement.  A good source of water conservation materials for customers is EPA’s WaterSense Program.

Drought Response Level 2 brings back the familiar odd/even schedule.  Outdoor irrigation can occur on Thursday and Sunday for odd addresses and on Wednesday and Saturday for even addresses. Watering cannot occur between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.  All the non-drought exemptions still apply.  For example, drip irrigation and watering of plants for sale can go on without any restrictions.  Drought Response Level 2 is where the non-plant related outdoor water use restrictions kick in.  Using water to wash hard surfaces, fountains, and car washing are not allowed.  This is also when the Drought Response Menu comes into play.  Water providers must implement four or more of the menu items and submit a monthly report to EPD detailing their chosen strategies and the extent of implementation and enforcement during level 2.

Drought Response Level 3 does not allow for any outdoor irrigation, however many of the non-drought exemptions still apply.  For example, hand watering, watering of food gardens, and golf courses is allowed twice a week and professional landscapers can still install and work on irrigation systems.

When Drought Level 3 is declared, public water systems must adopt every strategy on the Menu, including drought surcharges.  A utility does not have to adopt drought surcharges if they have a tiered rate system, do not serve retail customers, or their billing system cannot implement them. It is up to the discretion of EPD whether they will implement numeric reduction requirements during Drought Level 3.

Confused yet?

The new Drought Rules will impact a wide variety of groups and individuals.  The WaterWise Council promotes sound water efficient policies and practices in Georgia by bringing together environmental NGOs, water industry professionals, and green industry professionals.  As such, the council represents a well-balanced view of water issues.  The Council asked the University of Georgia law students who are working on the guidance document to consider the Rule’s impact on water providers and a variety of different water users including landscape and irrigation professionals.

Stay tuned, in March there should be some good guidance on what these rules mean to you as a water user or water provider.  In the meantime, remember that we are in between drought so be smart.  You have control about how severely the next drought will impact you.  Be smart about what you plant, the plumbing fixtures you install, and your water use habits.  When a drought comes, and you know it will, you will be ready.



Make a Splash All Year: Special Days to Celebrate Water

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, program specialist with ACC Water Conservation Office

World Water Day.  Hug a Plumber Day.  National Coffee Day.  These are just a few of the special days set aside for celebration throughout the year.

As I look ahead to the new year, I like to find special occasions that allow me to shine a spotlight on water-related issues.  I then see how I can incorporate the observances into the outreach calendar for the ACC Water Conservation Office.

Every year I search online for these dates.  In an effort to improve efficiency, I compiled a list of these “holidays” for future reference.  If you work with a water agency, are a teacher, or use water, you too may have an interest in this type of information.

I only included celebrations with a direct link to water-related causes or the water industry, even though one may make an argument that water ties into everything.  Be sure to check back to this page as you do your planning, as I am sure I missed some dates and will occasionally update the listing.  If you know of a date, please share it with me in the comments!


  • National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day (1/11):  OK, I am starting with a stretch right out of the gate, but I found no other days related to water in January.  Whether  you find a puddle made of ice or liquid, use this day to remind people of the simple joy one can derive from splashing in water.  A video for inspiration


  • World Wetlands Day (2/2):  This date may be in the shadow of a groundhog, but this is no excuse to wait six more weeks before bringing attention to this important part of our landscape.  More than 64% of our wetlands have vanished since 1900, eliminating the home of thousands of species, reducing our protection from floods, and removing a natural filter of pollutants.
  • Shower with a Friend Day (2/5):  While I admit this day was not created in support of conservation, there is no legal reason I know of not to use this day for the purposes of promoting water efficiency.  Just be sure to remind your customers to still make the shower time a quickie!
  • Global Day of the Engineer (2/24) & Engineers Week ( the week that includes 2/22): Celebrate the engineers who make our water delivery and collection systems happen.  Their innovative designs behind the scenes help to keep our waters flowing to our homes and businesses.  Share their accomplishments with your community.


  • Day of Unplugging (1st Friday of March):  On this day encourage everyone to unplug their gadgetry and reconnect with humans in the flesh.  Water agencies can remind people about the connection between energy and water.  Turn off the light and you save water.  Turn off the water and you save energy.
  • National Groundwater Week (2nd week of March):  We have 6 quintillion gallons of water stored in the upper 1.2 miles of Earth’s crust, but much of this is contaminated.  Just 6% of groundwater is drinkable and renewable within our lifetime.  Anyone who depends on groundwater (and that is everyone) should work to raise awareness of its importance.
  • World Plumbing Day (3/11):  Where would you be without your hot shower in the morning?  Plumbing is often taken for granted, but these pipes have become essential to our health and quality of life.  Take a moment today to recognize the value of improved sanitation.
  • Plant a Flower Day (3/12):  Introduce the water cycle to students with the planting of a flower. Find leaks Put seeds into a newspaper pot or put the seed into a bottle and capture the water cycle.
  • Fix-a-Leak Week (3rd week of March):  Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide.  EPA’s WaterSense encourages you to become a leak detective and search your house, inside and out, to find and repair those pesky leaks that add to your water bill.
  • World Water Day (3/22):  The United Nations designated March 22 as a day to celebrate water around the world.  With an annually changing theme, WWD highlights the many issues surrounding water.  “Water and Jobs” is the focus in 2016, followed in 2017 with “Wastewater, ” and then “Nature-based Solutions for Water” in 2018.


  • Water Week (week of 4/15):  This week was originally designated Clean Water Week by President Nixon in 1973.  Today, water sector organizations gather in Washington, DC during this week to advocate for national policies to advance clean and safe waters.  Plan an event and engage your community in advocacy for water.
  • Earth Day (4/22):  An easy day to raise awareness of all the issues surrounding water on our Earth.  Remember, there is no Green without Blue (Water) and Yellow (Sun).
  • Hug a Plumber Day (4/25):  Take a moment to thank a plumber for helping to maintain the clean flow of water and the removal of dirty water from your home.  While you are passing out hugs, septic haulers could use a few, too!
  • Save the Frogs Day (last Saturday of April):  Did you know tadpoles filter our drinking water?  Frogs are regarded as great bioindicators and their numbers are shrinking.  Take some time to celebrate and protect our amphibian friends.


  • Firefighters’ Day (5/4):  Make this day of recognition two-pronged:  1) Celebrate the dedication of people who risk their lives to save those threatened by fires, and 2) remind people about how important our water delivery system is for extinguishing these potentially deadly blazes.
  • Water Professional Appreciation Day (1st Monday in May):  Georgia set aside a day to bring
    Water Warriors 2014

    Recognize the unsung heroes in your community.

    recognition to the thousands of dedicated professionals who work in the water industry. These unsung heroes protect and manage our resources to improve our economy, environment, health, and quality of life.

  • Drinking Water Week (1st full week in May):  Brought to us by American Water Works Association, the week highlights the importance of tap water in our everyday lives and the need to reinvest in our water infrastructure.  Celebrate with tours of your drinking water treatment plant.
  • Mother Ocean Day (5/10):  Take this day to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the ocean.  Home to an estimated one-quarter of all Earth’s species, it is no surprise we celebrate the ocean near Mother’s Day.
  • Hole in My Bucket Day (5/30):  While this holiday is really focused on the children’s song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket,” use this day as an opportunity to talk about water conservation.  How much water would the bucket lose with one drip per minute?  Per second?  Do a relay with a leaky bucket and one that doesn’t leak.  Which home would lose less water: one with a leak or without?
  • Water a Flower Day (5/30):  This day reminds people to water their flower(s), but you can also use it as a day to remind people to get their sprinkler systems ready for the summer months by checking for leaks and installing rain sensors.


  • National Rivers Month:  Use this month to organize or join a river cleanup.
  • World Oceans Day (6/8):  With themes changing annually, the day’s purpose remains the same:  take action to protect gives our home its nickname, The Blue Planet.

    If you survive this day, try to go meatless every Monday!

  • World Meat Free Day (6/15):  A cheeseburger requires almost 700 gallons of water to produce!  Reduce your water footprint by borrowing a page from a vegetarian cookbook and go meatless  this one day of the year.  If you survive it, maybe you could try it again!
  • Canoe Day (6/26):  Do you know where your drinking water comes from?  Does it come from a river?  Get up close and personal with your drinking supply by taking a canoe or kayak trip down the waterway that eventually may make its way to your house.
  • International Mud Day (6/29): You can’t make mud without water!  Get closer to the Earth and water by going outside and making mud cakes, taking a mud bath, or create an incredible mud sculpture.  Just get dirty!


  • Lake Appreciation Month:  As you get out on the lakes to cool down this summer, take time to appreciate this body of water.  Grab a water monitoring kit and help track the water quality trends in your local lake or reservoir.
  • Smart Irrigation Month:  You have a whole month to educate your community about the many opportunities to efficiently use water outdoors.  Host workshops, share how-to videos on your website, and post tips on social media and in bill stuffers.


  • National Water Quality Month: Share posts on social media about how to keep the water in your area clean.  Proper disposal of medications and pet wastes are two specific topics that come to mind.


    Have a watermelon carving contest!

  • Watermelon Day (8/3):  With a water content of 90%, watermelons are appropriately named.  Our own bodies are made up of 60-70% of water.  We may not be as juicy as a watermelon, but we need water in us just as much as this delicious snack.  Water is life.
  • National Toilet Paper Day (8/26):  Use this day to educate the community about the 4 P’s of Flushing.  Only Pee, Poo, Paper (that’s toilet paper!), and Puke go down the potty.


  • Water Monitoring Day (9/18):   Actively protect water resources by conducting basic monitoring of water bodies in your area.  Order test kits and share your data with the world.
  • Pollution Prevention Week (begins 3rd Monday):  You see it happen.  Trash blows out of the back of a pick up truck.  A plastic bag floats down the street.  All of this litter has the potential to land in our water supply.  Prevent pollution to protect our waters.
  • National Drink Beer Day (9/28):  Imagine a world without water.  That would mean there is no beer.  This beverage requires 28 gallons of water to produce 12 fluid ounces of beer.
  • National Coffee Day (9/29):  Imagine a world without water.  That world would mean there is NO COFFEE.  The day after National Drink Beer Day.  One cup of coffee requires 37 gallons of water to produce it.  We need water.


  • Shower Better Month:  In conjunction with Energy Action Month, the EPA’s WaterSense declared October the month to shower better.  Replace a showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model and you can cut your water use in half.  Less water means less need for the water heater, thus saving energy in the process  A win-win worth celebrating!
  • Imagine a Day Without Water:  Help your community realize how water is essential, invaluable, and worthy of investment by imagining a day without water.  (Visit the link to sign up for the official 2016 date.)
  • Global Handwashing Day (10/15):  This simple act has the power to save lives and you can’t do it without clean water.  Promote hand-washing with young children using activities from Project WET. 
  • Clean Water Week (3rd week):  Georgia has designated this week as Clean Water Week.  Check with your state to see if there is a special time set aside to promote clean water.  If not, ask your legislature to declare a proclamation in support.


  • World Toilet Day (11/19):  This day is not a joke.  The purpose is to put a spotlight on the fact that over 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation in this day and age.  You are encouraged to take a stand (or squat) to raise awareness about this global problem.


  • National Handwashing Awareness Week (1st week):  As cold and flu season continues, take time to remind people they have the power to decrease the spread of infectious diseases.  You just need a little soap and water.
  • Human Rights Day (12/10):  Water is one of the most basic human needs and should be something everyone has access to.  On this day, plan a fundraiser or support an organization that promotes the delivery of clean water to all.

Wishing everyone a great year!



6 Charities who Champion Water

Today’s blog is written by Laurie Loftin, program specialist in the ACC Water Conservation Office

The Day of Giving may have passed, but it is never too late to donate to a deserving organization dedicated to a cause you hold dear.  Today I share with you five charities I believe are acting as champions of water with the support from people like you.

The Day of Giving may have passed, but it is never too late to donate to a deserving organization dedicated to a cause you hold dear.  Today I share with you six charities I believe are acting as champions of water with the support from people like you.

An easy way to contribute to a reputable non-profit is to start with a visit to Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of non-profit organizations.  They charity navigatorassign a rating to organizations based on their performance as it relates to finances, administration, and transparency.  Using this tool helps you to be informed about who you are donating to and how the group will apply your contribution.

Let me give you an example as to how it works.  Perhaps you care a lot about, oh, I don’t know…let’s go with WATER.  Enter “water” into the “charity search” bar and see a list of charities pop up.  You will notice the star-rating the charity has earned, with four stars being the highest.  It is important to note that if an organization does not have a rating, it does not necessarily suggest the group is mismanaging .  Many small non-profits do not meet the eligibility requirements to be rated by Charity Navigator.  For example, some smaller organizations file a Form 990-EZ, which lacks the data used in their analysis.

Here is a description of a few four-star rated groups with a focus on water, as well as their missions as written by Charity Navigator. (focus on global water issues)                                                                                                 Providing access to safe water and sanitation

Co-founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, has transformed hundreds of communities Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. traces its roots back to the founding of WaterPartners in 1990. In July 2009, WaterPartners merged with H2O Africa, resulting in the launch of works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Its microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector. All of the projects supports are self-sustaining, with organizational and financial structures in place to allow communities to independently operate and maintain them. Projects have an active water committee governing the operation of the water system, and users paying a water bill to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the water system.

charity: water (focus on global water issues)                                                                                                Water changes everything

charity: water focuses on life’s most basic need — water. But to significantly cut dcharity waterown disease rates in the developing world, water is just the first step. Almost everywhere charity: water builds a freshwater well,
we also require sanitation training. In some communities, we build latrines; at the very least, we promote simple hand-washing stations made with readily-available materials. Clean water can greatly alleviate the world’s disease burden, but only with education and hygienic practice. charity: water is committed to using water as a gateway to sanitary living. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (focus on Chattahoochee River Basin)                                                Keeping watch over our waters


The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s (CRK) works to advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of the Chattahoochee River, its tributaries and watershed, in order to restore and preserve their ecological health for the people, fish and wildlife that depend on the River system. Established in 1994, CRK is an environmental advocacy organization with more than 6,000 members dedicated solely to protecting and restoring the Chattahoochee River Basin – drinking water source for 4 million people. CRK actively uses advocacy, education, research, communication, cooperation, monitoring and legal actions to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee and its watershed.

Inspiration for the selection of these next three charities comes from the bumper sticker:  “Think globally, act locally.”  They are smaller organizations with less than $1 million in annual revenue, so they are not rated by Charity Navigator.  Nonetheless, they are fiercely dedicated to protecting the water resources in GA and are worthy of support.

Upper Oconee Watershed Network (UOWN): (focus on Upper Oconee watershed)  uown                 Protecting the Upper Oconee Watershed through monitoring, education, advocacy, & recreation

The Upper Oconee Watershed Network (UOWN) was formed in January 2000 in response to citizen concern about the region’s rapid growth and its impact to local streams and rivers. UOWN members actively engage in various advocacy, education and stream monitoring initiatives in an effort to raise community awareness about local water resource issues and to facilitate a cooperative spirit for long-term watershed protection.

Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful:  (focus on water sources in Athens, GA)                        Keepin’ it Clean

Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful is a Keep America Beautiful certified program which focuses on KACCBlitter prevention, beautification, and proper solid waste management. Many communities have similar chapters.  KACCB’s objectives are to identify and improve areas of general community concern, increase awareness of each individual’s role in taking care of our community, and promote adequate maintenance of public and private property.  Though not devoted to water issues exclusively, their efforts to reduce litter indirectly protects our streams and rivers from non-point pollution.

Georgia River Network:  (focus on Georgia rivers)

Founded in 1998, Georgia River Network works for clean waters and serves as the voice of Georgia’s ga river network logorivers.  With a goal of connecting people to water, they organize Paddle Georgia, a week long river trip on a different Georgia river each June, and maintain the Georgia Water Trails Website.  They want Georgia’s rivers to be a focal point of our communities, a place we bring our families to have fun, be together, celebrate and relax.  Through their advocacy, they hope to see these rivers being used to enrich our lives, fuel our economy in creative ways, and provide clean, healthy drinking water to all Georgians for years to come.

Donating to any of these charities provides communities and wildlife with the most basic need – water.  Give the gift of water to all this holiday season and be a champion.

Happy Holidays!

Water champion

Hello. It’s Me.

This week’s blog was written by WCO graduate assistant and Adele-fan Lily Cason.

Have you seen Saturday Night Live’s recent skit about how Adele’s song “Hello”* can keep your family from fighting at Thanksgiving?


In the video a family gets into some conversation minefields, but the holiday spirit is saved when the family is united by their love of Adele. We all love Adele. Her single “Hello” has reached #1 on the charts in 28 countries and became the first song ever to have more than 1 million digital sales in a week. Adele seems to be universally loved and appreciated.

But “#1” doesn’t just apply to music. There’s another thing that unites us all: water. More than 7 billion people use water every day in every country around the world. I was wondering if maybe water could unite our families at Thanksgiving as well.

Hello from the other siiiide! Those of us who work for water utilities have a special glimpse into a hidden world. In the time that I have been working for the ACC Public Utilities Department, I have learned so much about our infrastructure and the issues we deal with in the water world. I often joke that this job has ruined my life, because I am now obsessed with scraping my dishes clean so as not to send clog-producing fats, oils, and grease down the drain. I make sure to only flush the 4 Ps (Poo, Pee, Puke, and toilet Paper) and throw floss and tissues in the trash instead. I refuse to leave a restaurant water glass without drinking all of the water in it (water conservation and hydration win!). I turn the faucet off while brushing my teeth. I use grey water to water my plants.

Why do I do all of these things? Because I am so grateful to have clean water. In the United States we are lucky to have clean drinking water and wastewater treatment that keeps our waterways clean. So I do what I can to help maintain these systems that I feel so lucky to have. Part of that means sharing what I’ve learned. At the Water Conservation Office we lead tours of our facilities, talk about water in school programs, and post to social media to share what we know.

My friends and family may get tired of hearing about my Adele and water obsessions, but at least I can say that I’ve tried (too much?).

I encourage you to share what you know about water with your loved ones this Thanksgiving. Whether you talk about how to handle the grease left over from your delicious holiday cooking (eg. don’t pour it down the drain), how the water bears that help clean our wastewater can survive in outer space (!), the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to improved sanitation, or whatever else you find interesting.  Remind your loved ones to conserve and appreciate our water resources because it’s no secret that the both of us…are running out of time.

When my family goes around the table on Thursday to say what we are thankful for, I will definitely say: Adele.

And water too, of course. :)

* Here is the original music video for Adele’s “Hello” in case you missed it

Be a Thinker – We Can’t Wait

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, who appreciates her toilet

November 19 is designated as a day to raise awareness about the incredibly large number of people who LOGO_En1do not have access to a toilet.  Yes, I said a toilet.  Most of us consider this item an essential and a given in every household, yet 2.4 billion people do not have access to one.  Yes, that is Billion with a “B”.  In the year 2015.

World Toilet Day is a time to take action.  Coordinated by UN-Water, the United Nations inter-agency focused on freshwater-related issues, many groups do what they can to shine a light on this global problem.

You can help raise awareness by being “A Thinker”.  Take a moment to strike the “Thinker” pose, take a selfie, and share it on social media with a message and #WECANTWAIT or #WORLDTOILETDAY. The next time you visit your toilet, be sure to think about what your life would look like without one.

Here are a few of our Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Staff striking the pose, along with links to share more information about how the lack of sanitation is affecting our world today.

Lily WTD 2015

The influx of refugees into Jordan has strained worn infrastructure and heightened fears of an impending water crisis.  The UN says thousands lack access to basic sanitation.

Rhonda WTD 2015

The lack of sanitation affects children’s health in many ways, including limiting their long-term growth potential.

Pamela WTD 2015

In India, “300 million women and girls don’t have access to toilets.  Relieving themselves outside leaves them vulnerable to disease and rape.”

Ethel WTD 2015

Before being allowed to marry, grooms in India must often times prove they have a toilet.

Laurie WTD 2015

The Dalits, a caste formerly considered “untouchable”, are effecively elminated from running for government office with the requirement that candidates must have a functioning toilet in the home.

Ivey WTD 2015

The UN estimates that 946 million people practice open defecation.”   The water supply is then contaminated and causes diarrhea, especially in children, limiting their ability to absorb nutrients and resulting in malnutrition.

Visit World Toilet Day for more information or to learn how you can become involved.  This current situation stinks and you can make a difference.