Tread Lightly -Reducing Your Daily Water Footprint (in ways you may have never thought of…)

Last month, I wrote about water use in the production of food. But what about the water footprint left behind by the other goods and services that are part of our daily lives? When we think about reducing our water usage, oftentimes we have hard time thinking beyond the faucets in our homes. We also use immense amounts of water in the creation of items such as t-shirts and cars, not to mention that which is consumed indirectly by using other forms of energy, such as gasoline. An individual’s water footprint “includes direct use at home through toilets, taps, and hoses, but also the water embedded in the production of food crops, electronics, paper products, electricity, transportation fuels, and more.” (Quote source)

Nearly everything we do, use, or eat consumes water, and in ways many of us never considered. Take clothes for example. A single pair of jeans requires around 2,900 gallons of water, including the water needed for the amount of cotton in the jeans, and the entire manufacturing process . A cotton shirt uses about 700 gallons, and tennis shoes average 1,247 gallons of water per pair. So that means a brand new outfit could be worth around 4,850 gallons of water, not including undergarments and accessories!

Let’s go beyond what we wear. We all have to go places right? For most Americans, ‘going places’ often entails a vehicle that uses gasoline. The manufacturing of the average new car requires 39,090 gallons of water, and it takes one gallon of water to produce ¾ of a gallon of gasoline.

The list of how we indirectly use water goes on and on. Think about the things you use every day. The production of your cell phone, computer, toothbrush, and most other items required water. Something that has become a big part of consumer goods is plastic, and it takes 24 gallons of water to produce just 1lb of it! Although we rely on water to sustain our everyday lives, there are many ways we can greatly cut down on water use.

Some everyday tips to reduce your water footprint:

  • Carpool, bike, or walk more often
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing dishes, check for and fix leaks, and take shorter showers
  • Eat locally grown and produced food! Water is used in the production of fuel, and the farther your food has to be transported, the more fuel it takes.
  • Don’t put fats, oils, or grease (F.O.G) down the drain! This stuff hardens in the pipes and creates blockages that lead to sewer spills and take a lot of extra water to flush out. (For more information on F.O.G clogs, follow this link: )
  • Buy second-hand clothing! This has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, and for water conservation purposes hopefully it sticks around! The majority of Americans (donate, stop wearing, whatever) items (long before they wear out) When you purchase these goods at thrift or consignment stores, (many of which appear to be fresh off the assembly line), you get a new-to-you outfit without the tremendous water waste – and you also save money!
  • RECYCLE! So much of what we use can be recycled, yet many people negligently toss everything into the garbage instead. “In 2008, for example, we threw out 34.48 million tons of paper and 27.93 million tons of plastic — both of which are water-intensive materials that could be re-used and/or recycled” (
  • Buy used cars! Like clothing, it takes a while to wear out a well-maintained car.
  • Borrow from your friends! Sometimes things come up and you suddenly need a tool, a certain outfit, etc. Before running out and buying something, see if you can borrow it from someone else (and return the favor sometime). This will save the water resources used to make the item as well as money!

The bottom line is that we use a tremendous amount of water to fuel our daily lives, and a large chunk of our water consumption is done indirectly through the food we eat and the things we buy. Being more conscious of our water footprint can greatly conserve our water resources, and in many cases save money, too!

Want to get a better idea of how you can use less water? Follow the link to use the National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator and do your part to “Change the Course” of our water consumption!



Get Fired Up: Fire Up the Hydrants Unveiling Just Around the Corner

This blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Swift.

Cel-e-brate good times, c’mon!! Join us in celebrating Athens’ 80th anniversary of clean drinking water delivery service from the JG  Beacham Drinking Water Treatment Plant this Saturday, October 8th, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on College Avenue by City Hall (between Hancock Avenue and Washington Street).


So how do you celebrate a water treatment plant’s birthday?? In celebration of this milestone, over 75 artists and organizations from the Athens-Clarke County community submitted their own unique designs to be painted onto fire hydrants located throughout the downtown area. Of these 75, 20 winning designs were chosen for implementation. During the month of September, selected local artists transformed ordinary, life-saving fire hydrants into truly amazing works of art. Saturday will be the grand unveiling of the painted hydrants and a great opportunity to learn more about the importance of fire hydrants and clean water, while also engaging in your community.

crop-mystery-images-jpgA sneak peak of all of the designs. This will also be used as a fun scavenger hunt activity!

What else will there be to look forward to?  Activities galore!

  • A reading of a proclamation by Commissioner Mike Hamby, recognizing the value of water in our community
  • Opportunities to meet the artists responsible for adding their own flare to the downtown hydrants
  • An artist market highlighting the works of our hydrant painters (a great place to get a head start on your holiday shopping!)
  • Arts and crafts for the kids
  • Cake for all!!
  • A water truck viewing (we depend on these trucks for maintaining our hydrants!)
  • The chance to vote for your favorite hydrant (the 3 artists with the most votes will win prizes!)
  • The H2.0 Water Walk, a 2 mile route that takes you past all of the painted hydrants (take it twice if you’re feeling extra energetic or wanting to warm up for the AthHalf! Most people in developing countries have to walk 4 miles daily to collect water for household use!)


But what if I can’t make it on Saturday and still want to see the hydrants?? Don’t worry! While we would love to have you there for all of the festivities, the hydrants won’t be going anywhere! Voting for your favorite hydrant will be open until February 2017 and ballots and maps of the H2.0 Water Walk will be located at several locations around downtown. Some of these locations include the Water Business Office, Athens Downtown Development Authority, The Classic Center, the Visitor’s Center, and participating Certified Blue  locations such as Cine, Hendershots, Ben & Jerry’s, Papa John’s, Kumquat Mae, Gyro Wrap, and Beef O’ Brady’s. Ballots and maps will also be available online at

It’s going to be a beautiful day to observe amazing artwork and learn about the importance of water to our economy, health, environment, and fire safety! We hope to see you there!


Consuming Food Also Consumes Water!

This blog was written by WCO intern Elise McDonald. 

    Many studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet low in processed food, dairy, and meat can do wonders for your health. But what about how our diet effects our water resources? Whether we are aware of it or not, everything we eat utilizes water in its production. The more steps involved in the process of a food’s creation, the more water was used to make it.

Take cattle, for instance. The average beef cow spends the first 6 to 14 months of its life grazing in a pasture, then finishes its last 3 to 8 months of existence eating a diet of corn and soy designed to bulk it up for harvest. A cow can consume over 1,000 pounds of food in just a few months. It takes 146 gallons of water to produce one pound of corn and 257 gallons of water to grow one pound of soybeans. On average, a single cow drinks 30 gallons of water and consumes 100 pounds of plant material per day. Once they are ready for harvest, the cleaning and processing of the animals uses up to 450 gallons of water per animal. All this boils down to an unnerving result; 1,800 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of conventionally grown beef.

What about processed foods? These are the foods which normally come in boxes, cans, or other packages with a long list of ingredients, likely some with nearly impossible pronunciations. In short, the longer the list of ingredients a food has, the more processed it is. Just like the name suggests, creating these things is a process. There is water involved in the growth, harvest, and (in many cases) chemical development of virtually every ingredient in the product. Then there is subsequent water use involved in putting all these ingredients together at the factory to form the final product. Dark chocolate is one of the most highly water consumptive products on the market, requiring as much as 3,170 gallons of water to make one pound! Wheat bread is a much more modest offender, using 193 gallons per pound, or about 11 gallons per slice.

We hear a lot about ways to be water conscious by reducing the amount of water we waste directly, such as reducing the amount of water we let come out of our faucets at home. But another great way to make a big impact on not only the health of our bodies but also the health of our invaluable freshwater resources is to be food-wise. Let your concern for water resources be another incentive to watch what you eat!


Sources and Additional Resources:

How Water Can Pay Your Bills: UGA Prepares for Careers in Water Resources

This blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Swift.

For many, protecting the environment is a passion that is incorporated into day-to-day life. But what if this passion of yours could be turned into more than just the habits and choices you make every day? By enrolling in one of the various water,sustainability, or natural resource related programs at UGA, your love for the environment could blossom into a flourishing career filled with countless opportunities, numerous paths to pursue, and of course the opportunity to succeed and make a living.

Environmental jobs are on the rise as America, and the developed world as a whole, are becoming more environmentally aware;  citizens are being provided with more and more opportunities to make “green” decisions every day. Specifically, there are a wide variety of careers in the field of water resources, which all show promising futures as water resource issues are becoming vastly important economically, ecologically, and socially.

UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Odum School of Ecology, Office of Sustainability, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, College of Engineering, and several others all offer superb programs that can prepare you for a future in this field. Check out the following careers in water resources and see if any might be of interest to you or someone you know!

  1. Water Resource Engineer: If you’re looking to make big bucks, with average salaries around the country ranging from about $65-$95,000 a year, then this is the career for you! They are responsible for creating efficient systems that provide citizens with clean water. Some engineers have the opportunity to work abroad on large engineering products, especially in developing countries. Senior engineer in hardhat standing on waste water treatment unit
  2. Water Conservation Specialist: (aka what our very own Marilyn and Laurie do!) If you are looking to be an expert in water conservation and how to efficiently use water, then consider becoming a water conservation specialist! Much of what their jobs entail include creating programs and events for local schools and businesses. They also engage with the community through additional outreach efforts, such as putting on special workshops or tours of water facilities. By collecting, interpreting, and analyzing water use data, Water Conservation Specialists have the power to influence citizens to adopt water-wise behaviors and increase awareness about water conservation throughout the community.
  3. Water Resource Manager: The goal of a water resource manager is to optimize water use and minimize its environmental impact; managers must make use of their extensive knowledge in both economics and environmental issues in order to accomplish this daunting task. Water management opportunities exist in both agriculture and urban settings.
  4. Water Rights Lawyer: Water resource law is becoming huge out west and around the ACF Basin as water rights issues continue to create major tension among states and citizens. These lawyers help clients legally gain, defend, challenge, and transfer water rights, as well as impose and enforce local/regional water resource law.Allegory of  justice
  5. Hydrologist: If you love science and having the opportunity to be out in the field, a career in hydrology may be of interest to you. Hydrologists typically work for government agencies to solve water related problems by collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data, testing water quality, and using computer program technologies to create models explaining their findings.hydrologist.jpg

As a final note, being a Georgia Dawg myself, I am biased towards the amazing academic programs that UGA offers to prepare you for a career in water resources. If you have any interest at all in pursuing a career in this rewarding field, some great programs to check out include undergraduate certificates in Water Resources, Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering, and Sustainability; minors in Ecology, Environmental Soil Science, and Environmental Law; majors in Crop and Soil Sciences, Environmental Engineering, and Water and Soil Resources; as well as Master’s and PhD programs in Natural Resources, Sustainable Development and Conservation Ecology, and Geology. Good Luck!



Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kristen Bell: Superstars with a Super Cause

Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kristen Bell: Superstars with a Super Cause

This blog was written by the WCO’s graduate assistant, Emily Bilcik.

Could you imagine someone advancing their education, starting a successful business, growing a family, or contributing solutions to world problems if he or she did not have access to clean water? Think deeply about it for a moment– would you consider yourself able to achieve any of the successes you’ve secured during your existence if your life did not constantly revolve around using clean water? I know I would not be where I am today – healthy, steadily employed, earning a master’s degree, and preparing myself for a future career – if it were not for my upbringing with safe and readily-available water.

We all know by now that there is a world water crisis; almost a billion people are without clean drinking water, and freshwater resources worldwide are diminishing. Kristen Bell, charity:water supporter and water conservationist, puts it simply: “Water affects everything – education, health, poverty, and especially women and children.” She’s right. In communities where people must travel long distances to gather water, women and children carry the burden – literally. They must labor-intensively haul water, often contaminated with bacteria, alone through the dangers of their harsh surroundings. “Time spent gathering water is time (taken away from) learning to read, write, earn an income, or take care of family,” Bell continues. To hear her full narrative on how water truly does change everything, watch the video below. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have to create positive change.

The thought of having to walk hours to collect life’s most basic need does not frequently cross the average US citizen’s mind. Neither does drinking murky water collected from an unsanitary source. Thankfully, there are charities and nonprofits that focus their efforts solely on ameliorating water issues where people lack the resources to do so on their own. As a result of inventive knowledge, the power of technology holds many solutions to the world water crisis. Matt Damon, co-founder of the global nonprofit, explains, “We all know (the water crisis) is wrong, it’s tragic, and it’s totally unnecessary… It’s solvable if done right and with urgency.” It is confounding to hear that what we’ve all been hunting for – solutions to this problem – are already within reach. Nonprofits like help communities build infrastructure to access clean water, provide loans to assist people in addressing their water needs, and advocate partnerships to involve government stakeholders in the cause for clean water. The fight for clean water for all calls for involvement from more than just charities and nonprofits though; it requires unity and a close relationship between all people and progressive leaders. For more on’s solutions, visit and check out Matt Damon’s motivating video below:

Speaking of principled government involvement in water issues, Leonardo DiCaprio brought light during his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech to our role in gaining support from those who truly want to fight beside us in environmental matters that matter most. Respectfully, he urged, “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the polluters but who speak for all of humanity, the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people.” DiCaprio’s speech focused primarily on climate change, but his words resonate well when thinking about water issues too. When faced with such a challenge as the world water crisis, people must band together and advocate for a change in behavior. For those of us with access to clean water, we shall use it wisely. We shall become more educated, more concerned, and more active in attaining clean water for all. In Leonardo’s heartening words, “Let us not take this planet for granted.”

Schools Start Too Early in Georgia: How to Squeeze More Fun Out of Summer

Today’s blog is the opinion of Laurie Loftin and does not reflect that of the Water Conservation Office.

Ah, summer break.  Days when kids splash in cool, refreshing pool waters, visit a thrilling water park, orHappy children playing on the beach take a quick trip to the ocean during the hottest months of the year.  Summer time gives children a chance to experience and explore the joys of water.

At least this is the summer I remember.  Today’s children don’t have the same amount of time to make these memories.  School kicks off earlier and earlier, with many of our students heading back as soon as August begins.  Sure, the kids get out earlier, but May is not summer.

In a chain reaction, school begins and swimming pool attendance drops, forcing the pools to close in August.  Water park employees return to classes and the park no longer has the staff to supervise the wave pool and lazy river.  With average August temperatures reaching 88° F, it seems like the perfect time to get away for a beach trip, but school obligations eliminate a span of time for the family to head out.  The lazy days of summer are gone, in spite of it still being summer.  Early school start dates put an end to it.

What happened to schools opening after Labor Day?  I feel like Clint Eastwood yelling, “Get off my lawn!”  I could continue to rant, but my frustration won’t change starting dates or when testing takes place.  Instead, I have searched for a few watery destinations still available to beat the heat.  After all, our youngest children, who aren’t yet attending school, could use a wet place to cool off.  Here they are:

Trail Creek Splash Pad

          Trail Creek Splash Pad

  1. Splash Pads:  The colorful Trail Creek Park splash pad, located at 200 Trail Creek Street, has multiple elements that shoot water from the flooring as well as drop water from above.  There is a $1 admission fee (cash only).  As an added bonus, all water used at the splash pads is sent through a filtering system and recycled to reduce water use.  After August 7, their hours change to Weekends Only, August 13-Monday, September 5, 10:00am – 5:30pm.

    Tubing in Helen

     Tubing in Helen

  2. Tubing in Helen:  Take a lazy river ride down an actual river!  An hour and a half from Athens, both  Cool River Tubing and Helen Tubing & Water Park provide ginormous tubes to shoot the ‘Hooch.  Even better, both stay open through Labor Day.  Plan for a few hours or make a day of it by including a visit to the water slides or water park at these locations.


          Bogan Park’s indoor pool area

  3. Bogan Park Aquatic Center:  Go to The Mall of Georgia for lunch and  a carousel ride, then head over to the Bogan Water Park from 3:00 – 6:00.  Enjoy all the indoor leisure pool has to offer, including zero depth entry, a lazy river, interactive play structures, and a water slide for the older kids.  Because the pool is inside, it is also a perfect option for when a late summer shower pops up.

    Explore the South Fork River

    Explore South Fork River by Watson Mill Bridge

  4. Watson Mill Bridge State Park:  Strap on your water shoes and head over to this gem, just a short drive from Athens.  In the shadows of the state’s longest covered bridge you’ll find the perfect spot to splash.  Visitors enjoy sliding down the shoals, catching fish, or taking photos near the waterfall.  Remember to bring a picnic to eat at a shelter by the playground and your day is complete.  And all of this for the low price of a $5 parking fee!

    Enjoy the beach right here at home

          Enjoy the beach right here at home

  5. Sandy Creek Park:  No need to drive hours to the beach when we have a fabulous one right here in Athens!  Soft sand and a roped off swimming area offer the perfect local swimming hole.  Open year-round, the lake is available for fishing, swimming, and boating.  Kayak and canoe rentals are available on the weekends.  You can even try out the hot water sport of stand up paddle boarding, guaranteed to give your abs a workout.

    Water Paint the walls

    Water Paint the walls

  6. Make Your Own Fun!:  Get out a bucket, fill it with water, and hand the kids large paint brushes to paint water on the side of the house.  Let the kids run through the sprinkler while you water the grass (after 4:00PM, of course!).  Add food coloring to shaving cream and let your young artist use it to paint their bodies, then hose ’em down over the grass.  Make your own water table:  Fill a large storage container with water and add turkey basters, colander, sponges, ice, boats, Efferdent (use peanut butter to attach to the end of toy boat and put in water), sea creatures, and more for hours of fun.

    Be sure to bring a swimsuit!

          Be sure to bring a swimsuit!

  7.  Athens Water Festival:  This one-day event held at Sandy Creek Park the Saturday following Labor Day can officially close out summer.  Water is the star of this festival and is incorporated into more than a dozen hands-on activities and games, be it splashing in the spray of water trucks, testing water pH levels, or meeting sea creatures who make water their home.  Everyone is guaranteed to leave drenched in fun.  Be sure to bring a bathing suit!

I wish I could say I was taking one of my own suggestions and about to tube down a river, but I’ve got to go get last-minute back to school supplies.  I hope you find some time to bring your little squirts out to squeeze a little more watery fun from summer.

New Water Type Pokémon Have Evolved! Catch ’em All!

promolabel_blue_lookI am one of the millions of people choosing to live in augmented reality. I downloaded Pokémon GO. While racking up steps to hatch an egg (Really? Another Pidgey?!?), my mind wandered to what the world would be like if Pokémon were real. How could we put them to good use? Instead of battling other Pokémon , could they battle real world problems?
Clean water and the lack thereof is a real problem everyone on the planet either faces or may face in the future. Practicing water-efficiency is an action we can all take to prolong our local water supplies. Imagine if Pokémon could be used to protect the future of our water. With just a few carefully trained water type Pokémon , they could evolve to earn the WaterSense badge and become shining examples of water efficiency.

Here are four Pokémon I believe would be perfect for such evolution.

Mega Blastoise
WSBlastoise-MegaYes, this is the final form of Squirtle after a Mega Evolution, but let’s take this guy even further. With mighty water cannons on each arm and a giant cannon on its back, it is the perfect Pokémon for irrigating the yard. An average of 50% of water used for watering yards and gardens is lost to evaporation. Not with this WaterSense labeled Pokémon. The Mega Blastoise’s cannons are extremely accurate. Use this Pokémon to deliver water evenly to your landscape with a constant flow rate. Remember, he only comes out between 4:00PM – 10:00AM, the best times to water your yard for less evaporation. Mega Blastoise won’t back down to the extreme Solar Powers of the sun or of Mega Charizard! See for yourself:

Install one of these in every bathroom in your house. The need to remember to turn off the water whenwsOctillery_Dream brushing your teeth becomes a thing of the past with a handy Octillery. It can use one of its eight tentacles to shut it off for you. And that’s not all it can do. Use Octillery’s ink spurting ability to help you test your toilets for leaks. Put a little ink in the back of the toilet tank. Wait about ten minutes, then check the bowl to see if any ink seeped into the toilet bowl. If it did, you and Octillery found a leak. Put the powerful yellow suction cups on this WaterSense Pokémon to work and to help check, twist, and replace any leaks you find. Octillery’s ability to save and protect our water will amaze you:

Evolve this Pokémon and use its psychic powers to turn on and off your sprinkler system. Golduck uses wsGolduck_Dreamthe weather in your area to decide if the sprinkler should be on, just like a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller. When you see the red gem on its forehead start to glow, don’t get worried. This simply means it is sensing the amount of moisture in the soil. If the soil is moist, the sprinkler is off. Another great benefit to evolving this Pokémon to WaterSense status is it can act as a rain sensor. No more will you suffer the embarrassment of being “that neighbor” by having your sprinklers going while it is raining out. See the transformation happen before your own eyes…


Certainly everyone has captured an Eevee or two. Expose one to a Water Stone and it evolves into a wsVaporeonVaporeon. Another name used for it on the trademark filings is “Showers,” making this the perfect Pokémon to evolve into a WaterSense Pokémon. If you are hyped about Vaporeon, bring it into the shower with you. Attach it to your traditional showerhead and it will slow the flow of your showerhead from 2.5 gallons per minute to 1.5 gallons a minute. The best part is, you won’t even notice a difference in the water pressure or spray coverage; that is how all WaterSense labeled showerheads earn their prestigious label. Check out how excited Pokémon Trainers get when they find a Vaporeon, a Pokémon capable of uniting us all in the quest for clean water:

So these are a few Pokémon I would use to make the world a better place.  How would you have them evolve?