Catch 5 Pokémon at a Water Reclamation Facility

Today’s blog is written by Laurie Loftin, who has no background in protozoology or official Pokémon training.

A Spearow Pokémon caught at the clarifying basin.

A Spearow Pokémon caught at the clarifying basin.

Want to catch a Pokémon?  You can find BILLIONS of Pokémon at our water reclamation facilities.  OK, maybe they are not true Pokémon, but microorganisms are pretty close.  Like pocket monsters, they are hard to see, but once you start to look through a microscope you realize they are all around you.

The water reclamation operators act as the microorganisms trainers.  They help these little guys grow, thrive, and evolve into stronger and more experienced microogranisms.  They use these “good” bugs to fight against “villains” lurking in our waters. The result is a collection of micro-monsters who do battle to protect our water.

Here are some of the real life mircoorganisms that could pass as Pokémon swimming in the waters at our water reclamation facility.


Keratella Rotifer

Type: Metazoa; Phylum: Rotifera

Rotifer “Pokémon” are the workhorse of the activated sludge treatment process. They are multi-celled animals that feed on things like bacteria and algae, helping to keep bacteria levels in check.  Many have a corona near their mouth that looks like a spinning wheel. It gives the rotifer the ability to suck particles out of the water and into their waiting mouth.  Pretty cool.


Type: Protozoa ; Phylum: Ciliophora

No, “paramecium” is not Latin for two mice.  It is a slipper-shaped single-celled organism with a hairy coat of cilia that propels the paramecium through the waters in a corkscrew-fashion.  This little guy may lack eyes, ears, and a heart, but it is a trainer’s go-to-bug for controlling algae, bacteria, and other protists it finds floating nearby.


Type: Protozoa; Phylum: Lobosa

It may be the most primitive single-celled protozoa, but don’t let this fool you. Its ability to transform its shape and color makes this would be Pokemon harder to catch than others. That is if you are another microorganism hoping to eat an amoeba. Operators like this guy for the information it can share about the water. If large amounts of amoeba are counted in a sample, it could mean a large presence of particulate matter, lack of oxygen in the water, or a shock load of BOD.


Type: Protozoa; Phylum: Ciliophora

These single-cell protozoa are one of the higher life forms found in our facilities. They have important abilities, like forming floc, removing floating particles from the water, and controlling bacteria levels.  This stalked ciliate’s body is covered in cilia, which assists them in swimming, crawling, sensing, and eating.

water bear

Water Bear
Type: Metazoa; Phylum: Tardigrades

The water bear is by far the cutest of all the microorganism swimming about our flush waters. They are also the most bad-a**. They can survive being boiled, frozen, in a vacuum, or exposed to radiation. We all need water, but these little guys can go a decade without it and still survive! In our sludge, they help out by eating the microorganisms easily tempted to join a villain team.

I admit, the capture of these microorganisms won’t help you complete your Pokédex, but the water reclamation facility does prove to be the ultimate gym for these bug types to fight.  And the best part is the battle ends with a better environment and clean water in both augmented reality and reality.  Wishing you luck on your quest to try and catch ’em all.

How Conservative Are You? QUIZ

Think you’re a water-saving guru? Take the quiz below to find out just how much you know about water conservation. Then scroll down for detailed answers and easy tips to help you conserve!


  1. By limiting your shower time to the length of your 2 favorite songs (about 6 minutes) you can save 2.5 gallons of water or more per minute! Consider switching to a low-flow shower head that may only use 1.25 gallons per minute to make an even more conservative impact.
  2. Flushing toilets is the greatest water user in your household; flushing toilets accounts for up to 27% of your household water usage. We’ve all heard the age-old saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow,” — so consider trying this method out in your own home to score more conservative points!
  3. Only 1% of Earth’s water is available for us to use in our daily lives! Most usable water on Earth is out of our reach -trapped in a gaseous state, underground, or in icecaps- and much of Earth’s remaining water is not fresh or clean enough for our consumption. This puts in to perspective how important it is that we conserve and protect this valuable resource!
  4. The average American uses 100+ gallons of water per day. A family household can use over 400 gallons daily! By practicing simple conservation habits and waste-proofing your home, you could be saving thousands of gallons of water per year… not to mention $$$!
  5. Leaky faucets can waste over 400 gallons of water per year depending on how much they drip. A drip every 6 seconds (or 10 drips per minute) is actually on the milder side of the leak spectrum. Make sure to turn all faucets completely off, check often for leaks, and keep pipes well-maintained!

Now that you’ve determined how conservative you are, challenge a friend to find out the same! Share this quiz on Facebook or Twitter to see which of your friends are more conservative than you. Conserve: WATER u waiting 4?


Fire Up the Hydrants

Adrianne Ambrose observed, “Some people fight fire with fire.  I’ve found water to be more effective.”   I to agree with Ms. Ambrose.  Water is one of the most effective methods for putting out fires.

Long ago in Athens, GA, when the call of “FIRE” rang out, every man and boy ran first for a bucket, then to the fire.  A line was formed from the nearest well or cistern to the fire and buckets of water were passed hand to hand.

With the transition to fire hydrants, we no longer have to organize bucket brigades to combat an inferno.  We simply turn to these trusty little plugs and fight fire with water.

In downtown Athens, I can’t walk a block without seeing a fire hydrant.  But I must admit I never really SEE a hydrant.  Much the same as I absent-mindedly walk past manhole covers, electric poles, and drunk college students, I pass by these life-saving devices without giving them a second thought.#2 Cannon cropped

Not anymore.  The Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department is about to put a spotlight on these little guys.  Sixteen downtown Athens fire hydrants will be transformed into functional, life-saving, creative pieces of art in the Fire Up the Hydrants project.

You can help give these fire-fighting essentials the recognition they deserve.  We currently have a call to artists.  Submit a design sketch of a hydrant to the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office by August 5, 2016 at 5:00pm.  Official guidelines, rules, and entry form are available at  Templates are also available as a reference, but are not required for a submission.

Fire Up the HyJG-Beacham-80-yrs2drants is part of a dual celebration.  The year 2016 marks the 80th year of clean water delivery service from the JG Beacham Drinking Water Treatment Plant.   JG Beacham supplies the water that douses the flames.

The water you depend on for fire safety is the same treated drinking water that comes from the sink in your kitchen.  It is the same water that keeps our economy flowing, protects your physical health, enhances your mental health, and produces your food.  In fact, I argue that water is the most essential element with the greatest impact on a number of our daily activities.  This brings us to the second reaPrintson for the celebration.  We want to Celebrate the Value of Water.

By firing up our hydrants, we give our dependable water and plugs a plug.  The 16 selected hydrants form a 2-mile route when walked in a specific order.  We invite visitors to follow the H2.O Water Walk to see each piece of fantastic art.  For those feeling especially energetic or reflective, walk the route twice.  At 4-miles, you will have walked the average distance a person in a developing country walks every day to collect the water for their daily needs.

This walk serves as more than an opportunity to get in some exercise.  It offers a moment to reflect on how important this liquid is in our lives.  One can take some time to imagine a day without water.  Or while taking a stroll you can recount how you used water prior to your walk, both directly and indirectly.  Perhaps you made coffee, flushed a toilet, or brushed your teeth.  Maybe you are wearing cotton, drove a car, or ate a banana.  Water makes all of these instances possible.  The JG Beacham Drinking Water Treatment Plant makes it so you don’t have to walk so far to get the water.

“Some people fight fire with fire.  I’ve found water to be more effective.”  I think combining fire and water will be effective.  By the middle of October, our downtown mini water cannons take center stage.  People visiting Athens to fire up the dawgs will see our fired up hydrants.  The art serves as a reminder of our commitment to providing the city with fire protection.  The pride we place in our clean water supply will be obvious to all.  And, just maybe, a few people will take a moment to realize the value water brings to their life.

(Photos of completed hydrants from the Fire Up the Hydrants project will be added in October)


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.”