Hello. It’s Me.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And water too, of course. :)

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

Be a Thinker – We Can’t Wait

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

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

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

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

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

Lily WTD 2015

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

Rhonda WTD 2015

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

Pamela WTD 2015

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

Ethel WTD 2015

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

Laurie WTD 2015

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

Ivey WTD 2015

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

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


Keeping Up With the Kups

This week’s blog was written by Emily Bilcik, WCO intern.

The cup cabinet is empty, but the kitchen counter is cluttered with used drinking cups. Uhh, which one was mine again?washing-up-dirty-dishes-330481

Keeping up with your cup is never as simple as it sounds. The reality is, the more people you live with, the more cup confusion there will be. Cup confusion likely contradicts with your water conservation efforts at home because the number of dishwasher loads you’ll need to run increases with the number of dirty cups needing a wash. Instead of putting used glasses directly into the dishwasher after each drink, designate each family member or roommate with their own drinking water glass or water bottle. Refill this glass or bottle throughout the day to reduce the number of times a week the dishwasher is run. By doing so, you’ll save water, electricity, and cash!

To cut down on cup chaos in your home, implement a simple cup labeling system. Here are a few ideas to help you personalize everyone’s cup in the name of conservation:

  • Mark cups with removable, reusable stickers.


  • Wrap cups with distinctive rubber wristbands.


  • Assign housemates a specific colored cup.


With these easy modifications to your cup collection, identifying your cup will never be easier! Remember to keep just one cup a day, and refill it along the way!

How to Repair a Water Main Break

This week’s post is by Laurie Loftin, who can’t imagine a day truly without water.

We recently posted a link to Imagine a Day Without Water, an event to raise awareness about one of the most essential resources we have:  Water.  Little did we know, this would be the last post on our Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Public Utilities Department (PUD) Facebook page before our community got to actually Live a Day Without Water services citizens have come to expect.


What does it take to repair a broken water main?

A 24″ water main ruptured on October 15, 2015, resulting in a boil water advisory for most of Western Athens.   It was the first time Athens had ever experienced this type of advisory.  For five days, customers could not consume water from the tap without boiling it.

Many of us, myself included, take the delivery of clean water for granted.  I rarely think about the infrastructure, coordination, and staff required to make this process happen.  To give you an idea of what I mean, I share with you the departments vital to the repair of the pipe and restoration of water service to Athens, as well as their specific involvement*.

ACC Drinking Water Treatment Plant (DWTP)

Drinking water treatment plant operators noticed a drop in pressure, an increase in flow, and unusually high usage, all indicating a break along the line.  Operators alerted Water & Sewer and the ACC Police Department, directing these divisions to water towers with dropping levels so they could begin the search for the trouble spot.

With an alert of the water main break and boil water advisory shared with the community, the operators were available to answer customers after hours calls for the entire span of the advisory.

ACC Water & Sewer:

After leaving a full day of work, our ACC Water & Sewer staff were called back to respond to the water main break.  The exact location of the break was not immediately known.  Finding the break quickly required skill and knowledge of the system  This is what greeted our workers.  A gushing river of water.

Dirt was removed to reach the pipe located almost 25 ft below ground.  Crews began their efforts to reach the pipe in the dark.  The saturated ground continuously filled the work area with water, creating a mud hole in which to dig.  To further complicate matters, the crew had to maneuver around an AT&T line and a concrete pipe that were impossible to see through the muddy waters.  It was imperative neither the line nor pipe were damaged.  Damage to the AT&T line would disrupt 911 service to the area.  The concrete pipe is one of many that transports raw water to our drinking water treatment plant.  If care was not taken to protect this pipe, a greater portion of Athens may have experienced disrupted water service.  When it was all said and done, these guys put in about 40 hours of work time in almost two days.


Water continued to seep in from the saturated ground as the crew worked to reach the pipe.


A pump removes water from the area. Others help the track hoe avoid the concrete water intake line hidden underground.


Dirt was removed to reach the pipe located about 25 ft below ground.


Deep mud sucked at the crew as they tried to reach the pipe.











Fill dirt covers pipe and replaces the foundation.


Numerous dump trucks haul fill dirt to the site.







ACC Transportation & Public Works, Streets & Drainage, and Traffic Engineering

This department saw the task at hand and graciously joined forces with Water & Sewer, bringing in additional support to repair the ruptured line.  Many of their staff worked side by side with Water & Sewer workers throughout the night.  With the guidance of their Traffic Engineering Division, additional trucks and equipment helped to stabilize the electrical post attached to the power lines.  Streets & Drainage ran six dump trucks at a time to haul fill dirt to the site.


GDOT & ACC T&PW work together to provide support for the electrical pole.

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)

The ruptured line was in a very problematic location.  Not only was it deep underground, but it neighbored Jefferson Road.  Removing the earth to get to the pipe meant removing the ground supporting the traffic pole.  If care was not taken, the tension from the street light line could have pulled the pole onto the lanes of traffic.  Because Jefferson Road is a state highway and adjacent to the break, this agency was notified to supervise and provide support for the pole.




ACC Laboratory Technicians


Daphne, Will, LaShunda, Dexter, and Michele tested water samples.

To lift a boil water advisory, water samples must first be taken and tested.  Our technicians, operations coordinator, and DWTP superintendent visited 25 different sites, collecting 100 samples to test for turbidity, bacteria, chlorine, and pH  levels.  The results were sent to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for review.  When the water quality tests show no contamination present, this agency has the authority to lift the advisory.

ACC Police Department, Fire Department, and Emergency Managment

The police in Athens were alerted to a potential break and asked to keep their eyes open for unusual amounts of running water.  In fact, the police were the first to see the water spraying around Jefferson Rd.  They then alerted Water & Sewer to the specific site, so they could quickly pinpoint and turn off the valves supplying water to this section of pipe.   Without a functioning street light at Jefferson Rd., the police later aided in directing traffic and protecting the crews hard at work on repairing the pipe.

ACC’s Emergency Managment Coordinator recognized the significance of no water as it relates to fire safety.  With the valves to the pipe closed, water could not flow to the nearby fire hydrants.  She contacted our Fire Chief to arrange for the placement of pumper trucks within the area for an immediate response time should a fire break out during the water break.

ACC Public Information Office, Water Conservation Office, Water Business Administration & Customer Service, and Transit

These departments united to put together web pages, press releases, new flashes, social media messages, and other communications to best alert the public of the status of the water main break.  Transit recorded and played messages on bus routes through the affected area.ACCPUD_logo_d These offices and many others in the county fielded hundreds of phone calls from citizens.

ACC Manager’s Office & Public Utilities Department Administration

The coordination and supervision of the entire process was overseen by the ACC Manager, Assistant Manager, and PUD Director and Assistant Director.  They continue to work with the engineers and pipe manufacturer to investigate the cause of the rupture.  Their management turned a potentially terrible situation into a moderate inconvenience.

ACC Citizens

We spoke to hundreds of community members to answer the understandable questions the boil water advisory raised.  The patience and understanding offered throughout these calls was appreciated by all involved on this side of the break.

We have roughly 800 miles of water pipes hidden underground.  If laid end to end, this pipe would reach to New York City.  We don’t think about our infrastructure as it is literally buried away.  I can’t speak for everyone, but this recent incident certainly brought it to light for me.  It also reminded me of the great employees we have working for us in Athens-Clarke County.  I am proud to call this home.

*So many people worked to get Athens through this event as painlessly as possible.  I chose not to list everyone individually due to fear of missing someone, but I hope that by recognizing the departments involved with repairing the water main break you have a greater understanding of what it takes to provide reliable drinking water to Athens.  I can’t imagine a day without water.

Yard Art that Rocks

Yard Art that Rocks

ladybugKeeping your garden lively can be tricky, especially as the seasons change. At this time of year, summer annuals are dying off, insects are eating your veggies, and wildlife sightings may be dwindling in your very own yard. Even though weather conditions are getting colder, have no fear; you can create life in your garden without expending a drop of water! To animate your patio, porch, or pathway garden, make yard art that rocks.

Painting the Perfect Landscape

With painted stones, your options for a lively landscape are limitless. Wish you could see more animals in the backyard? Paint a native turtle or frog on a pebble, and place him comfortably in your dormant flowerbed. Is it too cold for your koi fish in the pond? Devise an optical illusion and paint a rock to plop into your fountain for a realistic effect. Do you prefer pansies year round? Try arranging a few of your pretty painted gems in an outdoor planter pot!


Bringing Your Rockin Canvas Inside

Don’t have a green thumb, but want to enjoy plants indoors? Paint a series of no-maintenance stone cacti to display as windowsill decor or a table centerpiece. The videos below can guide you through the water-less process of growing a new cactus.

Painting Not for You?

Try transferable images! This simple procedure produces results that your friends and neighbors will be raving about all year long. You’ll need to make a trip to the craft store to pick up your choice of transferable images, as well as a clear coat paint to secure the illustration onto your flat rock. And the best part is….no water necessary!

butterfly bird

The Artful Life

Think outside of the watering can! Spruce up your garden with some of the examples above and let your creative juices flow by taking a glimpse at my Pinterest board below. Before you know it, your garden will have a themed set of painted pebbles for every month! Just remember: Bringing life to the garden doesn’t always require water.

This week’s blog was written by WCO intern, Emily Bilcik.

How to Make Perfect Bacon & Protect the Sewers

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, a conflicted eater

bacon wallet

 This wallet would make        me hungry.

After years of avoiding the traditional, best-known meats (think pork, beef, and poultry), I decided I could no longer withstand the calling of bacon*.  If you have ever smelled bacon cooking, you grasp the “why” of this decision. I resolved to add this meat candy back into the rotation of my potential menu selections circa 2005.  Note that this was just before the boom in the bacon craze, which has brought us such novelty items as  bacon band-aids, bacon ties, bacon toothpaste, and bacon incense.

I do want to clarify something very important.  I won’t eat just any bacon.  It has to be crispy.  And I mean CRISPY.  If you drop it on the floor, it should break.  If it droops in the middle when you hold it, send it back for more cooking – it is raw.

I recently discovered The Perfect Way to Cook Crispy Bacon (TPW2CCB).  An added bonus is that this method makes clean-up a cinch, but we will get to that…

TPW2CCB “Recipe”

What you need for this recipe

All you need.

What You Need:

  • 1 pack of bacon in your preferred cut, smokiness, and sodium level
  • Parchment Paper
  • Baking Dish
  • Paper Towels


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.  I am sure if you found this blog, you know how to turn on your oven and adjust the racks as needed.  Do it just like that.
  2. Line your baking dish with parchment paper.  Use enough to cover up the sides, too.


       Parchment paper is vital for easy clean up.

  3. Lay bacon on parchment paper in a single layer.  I fold mine in half. No particular reason other than I can fit more bacon in at one time.
  4. Bake the bacon.  Put it in the oven and let it cook for at least thirty minutes, turning it over half way through cooking time.  Depending on your desired crispiness level, you can pull it out now or let it cook a little longer.  I usually go another 5 – 10 minutes. JUST BE CAREFUL!  You can quickly go from melt-in-your-mouth perfection to burnt ash.


         Delectable, juicy, crispy      bacon that is hard to resist.

  5. Remove bacon from baking dish with tongs or fork (I know it looks good, but DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS!).  Set it on layered paper towels to absorb the excess bacon juice.
  6. Eat your delicious, juicy, crispy, perfect bacon and enjoy.


Now here is the best part.  Do nothing but digest your bacon for several hours, then come back to the mess.  When you return you will find the bacon grease has automagically turned from a messy, sewer harming liquid into an easy to dispose of solid.  Lift the grease laden parchment paper from the pan and easily dispose of it in the trash. With any luck,  your dish is still clean and you can get away without washing it.  (But that is me being lazy and I only offer this only as a suggestion.   Do not hold me responsible if you develop trichinosis.)

An added bonus to this cooking method is you unknowingly fought the Grease Menace.  We create the Grease Menace when we pour used fats, oils, and greases (FOG) down the drain.

Bacon grease is a contributor to FOG.  It begins as a liquid that looks like it can easily be disposed of down the drain with a little warm water and dish detergent.  DON’T DO THAT!  The problem starts soon after the drippings are out of sight.  Just as occurred on the parchment paper, the grease in the sewer pipes begins to cool and change from a liquid to a solid.  The solids cling to the inside of the pipes, constricting the flow of the wastewater.  Food particles, baby/”flushable” wipes, and other FOGs erroneously put down the drain will attach to this glob of grease.  Eventually, you create what we call a FOG clog.

A FOG clog is a mess so disgusting I refuse to include a photo of it here and ruin your thoughts of delightful bacon.  You have to click here to see it.  And then you can click here and see how a FOG clog can affect you directly.  And I am definitely not going to show you an example of how the bacon grease does the same thing in your arteries.  For that, click here.

Final Thoughts:

I hope you find these instructions simple, the results yummy, and the clean-up a snap.  And if you ever invite me over to eat, I’d like the bacon on my Gardenburger to be extra crispy.

*I know adding bacon back into my diet means I am no longer a pesco lacto ovo vegetarian.  Today I prefer to refer to myself as simply a picky eater.  I do not eat the beef, chicken, or most of the pig.  I know the effects a meat diet have on the environment, our water supply, and the animal.  For these reasons, I keep my bacon eating to a minimum, believing every little bit I do to cut back on meat consumption helps.

An advocate for Water is an Advocate for Peace

Today’s blog was written by Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

Today is the International Day of Peace.  It is great time to reflect on peace and conflict and to recognize peace advocates and the risks they have taken to “fight” for peace.  I am proud to share the planet with these people.  Although it is ridiculous to compare myself to Malala Yousafzai or Eleanor Roosevelt, they inspire me to think about what I can do for peace.

There are a lot or reasons for war and one of them is something I can actually help with.  According to the Pacific Institute at least 343 wars and conflicts have been fought over water.  The number of conflicts can only increase as the demand for water grows along with world population. If I am an advocate for water, I am also an advocate for peace.

We abuse water.

Although water is essential for life and the health of all ecosystems on Earth, people do not treat water well.  Water is a victim of pollution and over consumption of water-hogging products.  The abuse of our water resources leads to shortages, seemingly unsustainable water management decisions, and conflict.

There are many things I can do as an individual to conserve water. Conserving is a great first step, but water use by individuals is a drop in the bucket compared to how much water goes into the goods we purchase and the food we eat.


85% of water consumed goes toward irrigation and livestock and animal agriculture uses more water than all other agriculture combined.  Animal Agriculture is also the leading cause of climate change.  But this is a water blog, so I will steer clear of that issue.  Or should I?  Climate change is intensifying droughts, floods, and hurricanes. Water and climate change are inextricably linked.  If something makes climate change worse, it makes drought worse too.

Keep it simple.

Being a water advocate is getting more and more complicated.  What can one person do?  Keep it simple and do these 5 things.

  • Continue to conserve at home! This protects the Oconee River’s ecosystem and helps ensure we have enough clean drinking water.
  • Eliminate most meat and dairy from your diet. It sounds hard, but it isn’t.  Even the laziest person can be vegan.  https://veganlazy.wordpress.com/  http://lazygirlvegan.com/
  • Share your knowledge. If one of your friends becomes a water advocate, your impact doubles!
  • Attend public meetings and ask how decisions will impact water. Pay attention!
  • Support organizations that support water. Here are few to check out
    1. Water for People http://www.waterforpeople.org/
    2. American Rivers http://www.americanrivers.org/
    3. I may get in trouble for this one:  cowspiracy.com
    4. Population growth is something to consider as well  http://www.npg.org/

Do you have ideas on how to defend water and advocate for its protection?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Thanks!