Summer DIY: Water Edition

Summer DIY: Water Edition

This week’s blog post was written by Camilla Sherman, Water Conservation Office intern and avid DIYer.

Do it yourself, DIY for short, is a phrase many arts-and-crafters love. The term DIY can be found littered throughout Pinterest and can act as a call to action for crafters who want to take on a new task. However, you do not have to be artistic or even creating a craft to DIY!

Water is the basis of life on earth, the basis for most man-made materials, and can be the basis for all types of DIY projects. I am going to share a few water based DIY activities for the summer that will help you realize how cool and important water truly is while having fun. By the end of this blog post, you will be ready to become a water DIY extraordinaire!

To start out our water DIY journey, here is an easy and fun craft for kids. You can make a washable Sidewalk Chalk Paint for your kids to enjoy this summer.



  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/2 Cup cornstarch
  • Food Coloring
  • Containers for your paint (Could use an old SunnyD bottle)

Step 1: Mix all the ingredients in the container.

Aaaaand that’s it! You now have a self-made washable sidewalk paint for your kids to play with this summer.

To go along with playing outside this summer, you may want to make a Mosquito Repellant Mason Jar to keep those pesky insects from ruining the fun.



  • 1-2 Lemon Wedges
  • 1-2 Lime Wedges
  • A couple sprigs of Rosemary
  • Water (fill remainder of jar with water)
  • Active Ingredient: Lemon Eucalyptus oil (7-10 drops)
  • Floating Tea Candles

Step 1: Mix all of the ingredients in the mason jar.

Step 2: Top off the mixture with the floating tea candle and light it.

Let this sit outside in the area you plan to use for a few minutes beforehand and then enjoy your mosquito-free and fragrant space.

For those of you that have always wanted to be artistic but felt you lacked the talent, here is a fun and easy art project. Make your own Marble Mug with water and nail polish to pass the time or give as gifts this summer!

water marble mugs-1


  • Disposable container
  • Nail polish
  • Wood coffee stirrer or toothpick
  • Mug
  • Sponge brush
  • Glossy acrylic sealer

Step 1: Fill the disposable container with warm water. Drip nail polish into container and allow pockets to form.

Step 2: Quickly use stirrer to expand the pockets of nail polish. step-2 for marble mug

Step 3: Dip your mug in a circular motion to allow the nail polish to paint the mug.

Step 4: Let dry. Then add a glossy acrylic sealer with a sponge brush just over the design. You might need to add more layers of sealer, depending on your design. Be sure to let dry between applications.

Tip: Hand wash this mug with mild soap and warm water because it is no longer dishwasher safe.

For those of you who love science, this Salt Water Etching technique is perfect for you! You can use this technique on your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated in style this summer.



  • Stainless steel or aluminum water bottle
  • Pattern to be etched (Can be made from vinyl, a stencil, or even duct tape)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 9V battery
  • Q-tips
  • 2 wires with alligator clips

metal-etching-process-3-of-6Step 1: Pick your design to etch onto your water bottle and adhere it to the bottle.

Step 2: Mix 1/2 c. of water with the 1/2 t. salt in a jar and stir.
Add a bunch of Q-tips to the jar.

Step 3: Hook one wire from the positive terminal of the battery to the metal of the water bottle.

metal-etching-process-5-of-6Step 4: Hook the other wire from the negative terminal of the battery to the wet end of one of the Q-tips. The clip has to be on the wet part of the Q-tip.

Step 5: Place the Q-tip on the bottle where you want the design to appear.  Move the Q-tip around to dab the entire area. The top of the Q-tip will become discolored as metal is transferred from the bottle to the Q-tip. So replace the Q-tip often.

Step 6: Try to cover the area evenly.  When you think it is done, dry off the design and remove the stencil.  Wash the outside of the bottle to remove any remaining liquid.

You just customized your reusable water bottle yourself to create a work of art!

My favorite find for water DIYs is the Edible Water Bottle. To make your very own water-droplet-resembling edible water bottle you will need a few things that you might not normally have lying around the house.

edible water bottle


  • 1 g of sodium alginate (a natural substance derived from brown seaweed)
  • 5 g of food-grade calcium lactate (a type of salt that can be found commonly in cheese and gum)
  • A bowl filled with 1 cup of drinking water
  • A bowl filled with 4 cups of water
  • A bowl filled with water for rinsing off the “bottles”
  • An immersion blender (you could also use a regular blender)
  • A deep spoon like a measuring spoon

STEP 1: Add 1 g of sodium alginate to 1 cup of water. Then use an immersion blender to dissolve the sodium alginate. Once dissolved, set the mixture aside and let sit to allow any air bubbles to rise up and out.

STEP 2: Add 5 g of calcium lactate to 4 cups of water and mix well using a spoon.

STEP 3: Scoop up some of your sodium alginate solution using a deep spoon. Very carefully plop the sodium alginate into the calcium lactate bath. Repeat with the remaining sodium alginate but do not crowd the bath.

STEP 4: Stir the sodium alginate bubbles very gently for 3 minutes.

STEP 5: After 3 minutes, remove the “bottles” from the calcium lactate bath using a slotted spoon and transfer them to a water bath to stop the reaction.

Congratulations! You just made a zero waste water “bottle” that you can eat. How cool is that?

The Modern-Day Miniature Cistern

This week’s blog post was written by Caroline Cummings, WCO intern and advocate for rainwater collection.

The history of rainwater collection 

The history of rainwater collection dates back to almost 3,000 years ago.  In ancient times, cities used cisterns to collect rainwater for their water supply. Rainwater collection was not just a hobby or a way to save money–it was a way of life! Without modern-day plumbing, societies relied on rainwater collection for survival. Rainwater collection took on many forms back then.

In the Middle East, for example, the armies would use the desert to their advantage and hide cisterns under the sandy grounds carved out of solid rock. With their secret stashes of rainwater throughout the desert, they could hide in remote and undisclosed regions with no fear of any invading enemies, with the surrounding desert acting as a deadly fortress. This allowed them to defeat armies who had no secret underground water supply.

Humeima 011

Cistern in desert of Nabatean city of Humeima 

The Basilica Cistern of Istanbul (known as Constantinople back in the day), Turkey, was originally built as a center for commerce, legal affairs, and art, and was thought to have contained a luxurious garden within its walls. It was eventually transformed into the most famous cistern in the world, but many features of its initial uses remain. As a cistern, it not only provided water to the Great Palace of Constantinople, but provided filtered water; this was one of the world’s first water filtration systems.


Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

Rain barrels

In the early 20th century, water collection took on its latest form: the rain barrel. Barrels were initially filled with wine, whiskey or oils, but beginning in the 1900s their use included filling them with all sorts of materials, including china, grain, manufactured goods and even gold for shipping across the oceans and continents. Eventually someone thought to collect rain inside of it, thus inventing the modern-day miniature cistern a.k.a. the rain barrel.

Wine barrels

The original rain barrel used for transportation, specifically of wine in this photo

Rain barrels are now used widely across our country as a means for collecting excess rain runoff from roofs and provide many homes with the water they use to water plants, wash cars, and even sometimes flush toilets. Rain barrels can also help minimize stormwater runoff, which helps reduce stormwater pollution.

Like the cisterns, rain barrels can take on forms of their own. Here in Athens-Clarke Country, partnered up with the Stormwater division, you can build your own rain barrel at a rain barrel workshop and start collecting water ASAP. Visit ACC Rain Barrel Program to find out more; the website also has information on where to purchase a rain barrel in the ACC area and instructions on how to build your own at home. Once you have your barrel, there are many ways to personalize it for your home. Brighten Up Your Rain Barrel has some easy-to-follow instructions on how to paint your barrel however you’d like.

buidling rain barrel

ACC locals participating in a rain barrel workshop

Interested in a professionally painted rain barrel and/or supporting local art and environmental education? Be sure to attend the Water Conservation Office’s Roll Out The Barrels event on May 26th at Southern Brewing Company. An auction of rain barrels painted by local artists will occur from 5-8pm in support of Athens Green Schools program. Click here to read more: Roll Out The Barrels.


Did you know?

  • The EPA estimates that using a rain barrel can save up to 1,300 gallons of water in the summer months, when outdoor water usage accounts for almost 40% of all household water.
  • You should not use water collected in rain barrels for drinking or watering plants you intend to eat
  • In Colorado, rain barrels are illegal!


Our Chance to Prove Ourselves to the Nation

This weeks blog post was written in collaboration with the Wyland Foundation by Camilla Sherman, Water Pledge Extraordinaire. 

It’s April, and that means we are competing in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation again! Last year, we placed 3rd in our division, nationally! Let’s bring our finesse for pledging to conserve back this year and try to get that 1st place spot. The city that wins first place is eligible to win all types of cool prizes, including a new car!

mayors challenge 3rd 2015

The South is home to some of the country’s fastest growing states. As populations grow and demands for water increase, more roads, parking lots, buildings, and pollution make providing a steady, sufficient water supply a bigger challenge than ever. Yet, the issues far surpass fresh drinking water needs: pumping of groundwater in parts of Florida has begun drying up environmentally sensitive wetlands, jobs are in jeopardy along the Georgia coast because drinking water reservoirs dam up freshwater needed to maintain commercial fishing, and water-related cutbacks have caused blackouts and power shortages in North Carolina and Alabama. Conserving water by consuming less, wasting less, or reusing more, reduces costs and postpones or eliminates the need for expensive and environmentally damaging new dams, similar water supply projects, and major infrastructure investments.

As it has become increasingly clear, the value of water conservation has enormous benefits to local economies, the environment, and even our global climate. By being mindful of water use we have an opportunity to save enormous amounts of energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and often ensure adequate reserves during drought periods, population surges, or to support additional farming. The bottom line is: water conservation not only benefits every state in the nation, it benefits the entire planet.

Did you know?

  • Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day
  • American residents use about 100 gallons of water per day. At 50 gallons per day, residential Europeans use about half of the water that residential Americans use. And residents of sub-Saharan Africa use only 2-5 gallons per day
  • The average faucet flows at a rate of 2 gallons per minute. You can save up to four gallons of water every morning by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth
  • A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day
  • At 1 drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons per year

That is why we, as residents of Athens-Clarke County, need to do our part to conserve water and energy. There are many conservation events in Athens each year to help residents do their part to reduce waste. This year’s Ripple Effect Film Project was on March 19th, 2016 and was complete with a blue carpet and a VIP lounge for the water conservation filmmakers. Tyler Ortell, a senior at Oconee County High School won the best overall award of $500 with his amazing film, “The Drought Zone.” Roll Out the Barrels is happening on May 26th, 2016 at Southern Brewing Company. This family friendly event allows you to bid on a rain barrel decorated by a local artist to support environmental education. Other Athens water events include Rivers Alive, when Athens residents help clean up our local waterways, and the Athens Water Festival, where the public can learn about water conservation through fun activities with many water organizations there to help. Be sure to keep an eye out for announcements on when these Athens events are happening this year.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor, Nancy Denson, has said, “Athens is one of the most caring cities in America. Now it’s our chance to show that to the world.”

Now is your chance to get involved and make a difference. Be a part of the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and make your pledge to reduce water consumption at If Athens has the highest percentage of participating residents taking the pledge, we will all be entered to win great prizes-like a Toyota Prius v, Home Improvement Store Gift Cards, Toro Smart Irrigation Controllers, and more.


Let’s work together to protect our resources and show those Tech fans in Atlanta that we can do better than them in more things than just football!

March Madness-it’s not just for basketball

This week’s blog post is written by Caroline Cummings, WCO intern and Tarheels fan. 

march madness

For those of us that are sports fans, the past few weeks of March Madness have lived up to their name. From the surprising upsets to the expected victories, the competition gives us a little extra excitement in our lives. As March Madness winds down, I was thinking, why don’t we add some competition to our water conservation efforts? It’s a known perception that healthy competition makes us perform better, so it is here that I commence Water Conservation Madness! Consider teaming up and competing in a conservation tournament with family members, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, or friends to see how much water you can save together!

Round 1 

For the first round, I thought we would start off with something a little easier: compete to see who can compile the longest list of simple and feasible ways to conserve water around the household, office, or classroom. Whoever creates the longest list, wins!

Tips can be found in previous blog posts or our Facebook page → Lily Anne Phibian

Round 2 

As the competition gets stiffer, so do the challenges. For this round, competitors will see who can make the most creative jar to store their fats, oils, and grease, which should never be poured down the sink. Mason jars make great starting materials for this challenge.

ball 3ball 2il_570xN.649255811_6oif

Some inspiration for this challenge can be found here: Mason Jar Decoration Ideas

Round 3 aka Sweet 16

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the Sweet Sixteen! For this round, participants will compete to see who can attend a local (drinking) water reclamation/treatment facility tour and remember the most information! Try challenging each other after your tours to test each other’s knowledge. Some sample questions may include:

  • What organisms help remove organic material from wastewater?
  • What chemicals are added to water when it’s at a treatment facility and why?
  • What is your town’s source of drinking water

ACC Unified Government Tours

Round 4 aka Elite 8water pledge

Aside from those whom with you are competing, use this round to spread the word on water conservation. The first to get 8 other friends to commit to trying out new ways to conserve wins this round. For inspiration of things your friends can do, try consulting your lists you made in Round 1. Another option would be to have 8 people commit to playing in your next tournament or singing a pledge to reduce their water consumption. This challenge is a guaranteed way to make sure your friends become elite water warriors.

Round 5 aka Final 4 Shower_7640_nevit

The competition is getting fierce and so are our challenges! This round, you will compete to see who can take the shortest shower. In the spirit of the Final Four, see if you can limit your shower time to 4 minutes, or about the length of one song. This may be a tad ambitious, especially for those with longer hair, so just focusing on limiting your use is what’s important here. Whoever takes the shortest shower (and still comes out clean), wins this round!

Round 6 aka the Championship Game

For the final round, the remaining competitors will focus on creating a goal for lowering their water bill. This can be through limiting household water use, fixing leaks, insulating pipes, or any other number of efforts. The competitor who reaches their goal first or has the lowest water bill at the end of this round, wins the tournament!


You have now reached the end of Water Conservation Madness. The athletes that compete in the actual tournament practice basketball year-round, and the same should go for water conservation. Let this fun dose of competition influence your daily practices on and off the “court.”

Is Wastewater Accurate?

This week’s blog is written by Laurie Loftin, who hopes to improve your vocabulary

Wastewater.  What do you think of when you hear this word?  Since working for a public utility, I associate it with water that goes into our sewers.  It is dirty, unpleasant, and nothing I want to get into.  Looking at the definition, I find it described as water that contains waste products; sewage.  Reading this, one realizes wastewater is simply a part of speech we refer to as a compound word.

There is a lot more water than there is waste in this liquid.

I never gave the word this much thought until I attended a water-related conference.  One of the speakers, who I apologize profusely to for I can’t remember her name, brought up the term.  She was disturbed that the word “waste” would ever be so commonly placed with the word “water”.  Her point being that water is so precious, we should never think of “wastewater”.  Water is too important to waste or be associated with wasting.

Since then, “wastewater” has been sloshing around my brain.  The speaker had a brilliant argument, particularly from a conservationist point of view.  We constantly create new ways to reach people with a message of not to waste water, yet as a public utility, we refer to wastewater every day.

Additionally, the term “wastewater” is completely inaccurate when you consider the treatment method the used liquid encounters.  Upon reaching a water reclamation facility, any solid wastes are immediately removed from the water through the screening and filtering processes.  Next, the water is introduced to microorganisms.  These little bugs get busy removing the contaminants we can’t see, such as phosphorus, ammonia, and other “yuckies”.  The water then passes through a bed of ultraviolet lights to offer additional disinfection.  The end product, called effluent, is reclaimed water that has been refreshed and is returned back to the source.

At no point during the water reclamation treatment is water wasted.  So how can we continue to call this used water “wastewater” when none is wasted?  The only “waste” is the “waste” added to the water.  This waste is giving our precious water a bad name.

With this rationale, I am proposing we reclaim our water from the waste.  Let’s change the vocabulary we use in our public utilities and coin a new term.

We turned to social media and posed this question to our followers: “What should we rename “wastewater”?”  Several wonderful and thoughtful suggestions came pouring in.  We wanted something that would roll off the tongue, was easy to understand, easy to remember, not too long, and provided a more accurate description.

Our winner is “Flush Water,” suggested by Mary Matthews, a dedicated promoter of water.  It is simple and flows.  It is accurate.  “Flush” is defined as “a rushing or overspreading flow, as of water.”  This happens not only in the typical way we think of a flush of a toilet, but also with the flushing of a pipe or drain.  And when it comes down to it, I think we would all rather be “flush with water” than “waste our water”.

How do I hope to create this movement from “wastewater” to “flush water?”  When I visit with our community through tours or classroom visits, I plan to mention “wastewater” only once.  This will be to briefly explain that I will be referring to this as “flush water” and add a quick explanation as to why.  At professional conferences, I will do the same.  Wherever I go, I will invite people to wash “wastewater” from their mouth, so to speak.

I invite you to become a part of this change in terminology.  “Sewage treatment plants” are now “water reclamation facilities”.   “Wastewater” will be “flush water”.  Will you join me?




Little Lily Hops to Rome for Drinking Fountains and Kitties

Little Lily Hops to Rome for Drinking Fountains and Kitties

Today’s blog was written by Little Lily with the help of Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator

Last month I was lucky enough to hop over to Italy.  I was curious about how Italians relate to their water.  Do they conserve like we do here in Athens?  Do they have aging infrastructure problems like in so many U.S. cities?  Here is some of what I learned in my pad hop to Rome, Italy.

This works the best if you click on the first photo and scroll through them.  I hope you like my pictures!

If you enjoy the photos from my trip to Italy, you’ll also want to see when I went to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.  I took a long look at toilets there.


Water and Oil: Archenemies

This week’s blog was written by Camilla Sherman, WCO intern and oil obstructer 

We learn in science class that water and oil do not mix. The two just don’t seem to get along. Not only do water and oil not mix chemically, they also should not be mixed for many other reasons too.hydrophobic oil

Oil Spills

Throughout history, as a species, humans always want more. This especially applies to wanting more access to oil to help run more and more luxury items of today’s society. The first item that pops into mind is the car, but other items that utilize fossil fuels include: planes, heating systems for our homes, plastics, medicines, shoes, toothpaste, TVs, etc. This is a huge list that goes on for what seems like forever. Our high demand for more of these products has led to more oil rigs that are extracting more oil than ever. One of the big problems that comes along with this oil economy is oil spills.

oil in ocean

Oil from a tanker on a beach in Wales, 1996

When oil first spills into the ocean, it forms an oil slick on the top of the water that is spread by waves, water currents, and wind force. But what happens to the oil while it sits in the water? Some oil types will partially evaporate, however, the left behind oil is much more dense and viscous than before. Depending on the type, oil can sometimes disperse into the water and become seemingly invisible or it may form a thick mousse with the water. A part of the oil may sink, but the remainder will eventually congeal into tar balls.

Once the oil reaches the coast, it begins to interact with the beach sand and other sediments, plants, and above ground habitats for both humans and wildlife. Oil on the shore causes erosion and contamination of everything it touches.

The effects of oil on marine life are devastating. Oil destroys the insulating ability of mammals with fur, like sea otters, and the water repellancy of feathers for birds. This exposes these creatures to the harsh elements and can lead to death from hypothermia. Wildlife may also ingest the poisonous oil while cleaning themselves. If the oil becomes mixed in the water column, it can harm fish and shellfish as well. These creatures experience bodily malfunctions and their egg and larva survival drops.

oil bird

A bird covered in fuel oil from a tanker spill sits on the beach near Mallipo, South Korea, Dec. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/ Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, HO)

Luckily, there are heroes out there who are constantly working hard to clean-up after oil spills, not unlike our Athens water reclamation heroes. Some are specialist who know how to properly clean off marine animals and return them to their homes in the ocean. There are also specialists that work on removing the oil from the ocean waters. The workers may try to contain the spill and then use skimmers to get the oil slick off of the top of the water or they may work to speed up the biodegradation process of the oil. Recovery rates of an ecosystem after a spill vary depending on the type of oil, how much oil was spilled, the type of climate in the area, and other factors. As a reference, the residue of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the Alaskan coast happened 25 years ago and there is still oil on the beach scientists say will be there for decades to come.

Oil From Society

The oil waste in the ocean comes from many other sources besides oil spills. Most of the oil in our oceans is oily stormwater drainage from human waste. This comes from cities, farms, unregulated boating, and untreated waste disposal from factories. Approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil ends up in the ocean each year, and over half is from these sources and the careless use of oil and oil products.

develop Cali port-oil

This busy California port shows one source of oil in coastal waters. Notice the dark spot in the foreground.

Oil in Our Pipes

Not unlike the problems oil causes in the ocean and on our beaches, it causes problems in our pipes too. It is hard to think about what happens to the oils that we put down our sinks once they wash away because we can no longer see them. The oils are out of sight and out of mind. To end this blog, I want to remind everyone that this is what can happen when you put your oils down the drain. Remember, put your fats and oils into the trash, not down the drain!

fog clog

This is a clog in a water pipe. Oil clogs cause sewage back-ups into your homes and costly repair bills.

This picture above is of a FOG clog. FOG stands for fats, oils, and grease. These are the 3 big no-nos to consider when cleaning up after a meal and washing things down the drain. The oils may start as a liquid but they will solidify in the pipes. FOG coats the pipes and causes other debris to stick in the pipe, leading to a clog. The workers at the Athens water reclamation facilities work hard to clean up our water before it goes back into the river and eventually becomes drinking water again. Let’s try to make their jobs easier by thinking about what we are putting down our drains!