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?

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?