Water You Think About Reuse?

Water You Think About Reuse?

wh-1Emory University has an on-site water recycling system unlike any other in the nation. Emory’s WaterHub uses sustainable technology which mimics natural processes to clean wastewater for non-potable uses such as heating and cooling, irrigation, and toilet flushing. Team Water from the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office took a trip to Atlanta, GA for a sneak peak of the Hub’s inner-workings. Let’s dive in to the details!

Wastewater Source

The water treated at the WaterHub is diverted from an on-campus sewer pipe to the greenhouse portion of the water reclamation site. The water gets screened to remove any non-bio-degradables then goes through additional cleaning processes.

Hydroponic Treatment System

wh-4A variety of low-maintenance tropical plants are featured in the greenhouse. Their dense root systems are submerged in the wastewater and provide excellent habitat for waste-treating microorganisms to thrive. Microorganisms play a huge role in reclaiming wastewater; by consuming excess nutrients, they biologically purify the water. It is extremely important to maintain an environment that is beneficial to the microorganisms so they can break down pollutants in the water. In addition to clinging onto plant roots, microorganisms benefit from the added surface area of a BioWeb textile media (shown to the left) and honeycomb-shaped plastic pellets that move freely in the water as biofilm carriers. Microorganisms work efficiently to break down organic waste when given appropriate living conditions.

Reciprocating Wetland Technologywh-5

Tidal marsh ecosystems are mimicked at the WaterHub to provide alternating anoxic and aerobic treatment conditions. Wastewater is filled and drained in adjacent bio-cells that contain gravel. The gravel serves as microorganism habitat during this stage. The recurrent fill-and-drain sequence allows control of microbial processes.

Clarifying, Filtering, & Disinfecting

After the microorganisms complete their part of the treatment, the nearly-clean water flows to a clarifier tank and disk filter where any remaining solids, nutrients, and color are removed from the water. Some microorganisms are taken from the clarifier tank and relocated to the beginning of treatment where they repeat the process of breaking down bio solids and sludge. Once the water flows over the disk filters, only trace amounts of microorganisms remain. Ultraviolet disinfection disrupts the DNA of remaining microorganisms, making the water safe to use for non-potable demands. The ready-to-use water is delivered through a series of purple pipes to differentiate the supply from wastewater and drinking water.

Recycling Water Is A No-Brainer!

Custom, satellite wastewater reclamation facilities like the Emory WaterHub are efficient and cost-effective. Water naturally recycles in the environment, but why not extend the life cycle of water even further like the WaterHub does? On-site water reclamation reduces withdrawals from sensitive ecosystems and eliminates a significant portion of the water distribution system, thus reducing a community’s carbon and water footprints.

Let’s get on board with sustainable water reuse and make a greater effort to use water wisely! For more information about the WaterHub and Sustainable Water, visit here.


Today’s blog was written by Emily Bilcik, Graduate Assistant at the WCO.


3 Reasons the Clean Water Rule is Important to Athens, GA & Beyond

Today’s blog shares the opinion from Laurie Loftin, who is not a lawyer

Over the past year, you may have heard the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, also known as the Water of the US Rule (WOTUS), is under attack.  Much debate has been raised as to whether or not the measure is unconstitutional.  Opponents suggest the rule is an example of the federal government’s overreach and fondness of regulations.  The current White House hopes to roll back the rule.  Georgia is one of 31 states issuing a challenge in federal court.


Infographic of potential protections & excluded features.  Click here to read this without glasses

So what is going on here?  Should you be concerned about this?  How does this affect you and others who live in Athens, GA?

I am not a lawyer, so I cannot speak to the legal merits of the Clean Water Rule.  I am, however, a human being dependent upon clean water.  I desire clean water.  I work for a utility whose mission is to provide this resource to our community.  I want to know what the Clean Water Rule – or the lack thereof – means to me.

Before I could determine how the Clean Water Rule (CWR) will impact my daily life, I did a
bit of research to gain understanding.  Let me share by starting with some brief history.  What we know as the Clean Water Act (CWA) was actually an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948.  In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire.  Yes, water actually caught fire.  The filthy conditions of this river “water” helped jump-start the environmental movement.  The EPA was born in 1970, followed soon after by what we now call the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Broadly, the Clean Water Act set forth the goal of making all of our waters swimmable, fishable, navigable, drinkable, and nonflammable.  The EPA has the authority to set the standards for our waters, as well as the burden of enforcing these regulations.  The trouble arises in that the CWA of 1972 does not clearly state which waters are under its jurisdiction, leading to confusion and litigation.  The Clean Water Rule iswas written to remove any ambiguity.  The rule clarifies which tributaries, such as streams and creeks, are under the EPA’s protection.

Now back to the typical resident of Athens, GA.  What does this mean to you and why should you care?

Map populations Clarke GA get water from Waters of US rule

Over 100,000 people in Athens get their drinking water from surface water.  Where does yours come from?

#1.  You drink water.  Athens relies on surface water for our drinking water supply.
Specifically, we depend on three sources:  1) Bear Creek Reservoir, 2) Middle Oconee River, and 3) North Oconee River. The headwaters of these rivers are found in Hall County, with tributaries contributing to the rivers’ flow.  The CWR makes clear which of the tributaries are protected, all the way from Hall County to Clarke County and beyond.

According to the CWR, to be considered a tributary the water must show physical features of flowing water.  Most ditches do not have flowing water and aren’t considered tributaries, therefore they are not affected by this rule.  Likewise, the CWR does not cover gullies, groundwater, or puddles.  The new rule only protects waters that have historically been covered by the Clean Water Act.  So in a nutshell, the Clean Water Rule continues to protect the surface water you depend on every day, only now the definition of which waters are a protected tributary is clarified.

Anyone on Athens city water uses surface water.  When indirect water use is factored in, everyone in Athens, including those on well water, uses the surface water the CWR is designed to safeguard. For example, our restaurants depend on this municipal supply for the water mixed with your soda syrup, the ice in your glass, and the clean dishes you eat off of.  This rule affects all of us.

#2.  You don’t want to play in polluted water.  I am making an assumption here, but most


I use to think of Brazil as an exotic locale to visit.  But this is the water. It is scratched off of my places to visit list. (image from flickr MAHM)

people want to vacation by clean water.  The water from the Oconee River eventually joins to form the Altamaha River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean near St. Simon’s Island and Brunswick, GA .  If this is your summer vacation spot, recognize that any pollution picked up in the water from Hall County on down will end up in your Atlantic swimming pool.  The Clear Water Rule is put in place to further limit the pollutants floating beside you.

Prefer to vacation along the Gulf of Mexico?  Because all ocean waters are formed by the emptying of rivers filled by the tributaries, the Clean Water Rule applies to this paradise, too.  The headwaters of the Mississippi River are found in northern Minnesota.  The Mighty Mississip then winds through ten states, traveling over 2,300 miles, before reaching the turquoise Gulf waters.  Imagine the number of pollutants that can be picked up over such a long distance. I would prefer to have someone watching over these waters to help limit the contaminants I end up swimming with.

#3.  You dine on seafood.  If you enjoy shrimp, oysters, and fish, then the CWR is important to you.  The rule helps to assure you have a seafood dinner you can afford.

Here is an example of how the regulation affects your tummy.   The aforementioned Mississippi River discharges into the Gulf of Mexico.  Along the way, it flows past farmland, industries, and water reclamation facilities, picking up high nutrient runoff and depositing it into the Gulf.  Fertilizers from farming are one of the main culprits for the increase in nutrients.  Another cause is from the effluent of water reclamation facilities in violation of their EPA permits.

The excess phosphorus and nitrogen dumped in the Gulf promote the growth of algae,


The annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico averages to be about the size of Connecticut. (image from Wikimedia Commons)

which in turn removes oxygen from the water to create a “dead zone“.  Without oxygen, the sea life dies, hence the name.  When the oysters, shrimp, and fish of the Gulf die in mass numbers, there are less available for fisherman to harvest.  Less supply for the same demand increases the cost of your dinner.

The remaining aquatic life wisely moves further from shore so as to breathe.  The result is fishermen traveling longer distances to catch what remains.  The added expense of the fishing expeditions is seen on your bill at Red Lobster.

Since the Clean Water Act was put in place, waters in Athens and across the nation have improved.  We no longer hear of rivers catching fire.  We can swim without the worry of catching hepatitis. Point-source pollution has dropped from 85% to 15% of the pollutants in our waterways.

For all the good done by the CWA over the last 45 years, the work is not done and it must continue.  The Clean Water Rule strengthens the work done by the CWA.  We cannot take our cleaner waters for granted.  All we have to do is look to China to see that humans are easily enticed by the promise of higher incomes at the cost of the environment.  Closer to home, Flint, MI officials chose the dollar over the safety of the water.  These actions are happening today, in 2017.

No one benefits from polluted, unusable water. It is hard to understand how access to clean water has become a Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, farmer vs environmentalist battle.  Any short-term monetary gain is not worth the long-term loss to our much-needed resource. We speak of the need for unity in America.  Clean water is one issue that anyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political party can support.

The controversy over the Clean Water Rule is ongoing.  I suggest that the guardianship of our water and the availability of clean water is not to be debated, but rather viewed as a right to be protected for every citizen in the United States. Strengthening the Clean Water Act with the implementation of the Clean Water Rule makes sense.  The people in Athens, GA depend on it.

If interested in learning more about the Clean Water Rule, here are several links. I  have attempted to provide the facts as stated by the EPA, as well as articles presenting both sides of the debate to help readers form their own opinion:

Explanation of the Clean Water Rule from EPAcwavote

What the Clean Water Rule Does

What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do

The entire Clean Water Rule

House to Take Up Bill Blocking EPA Water Rule, 1/16

Small Farmers Against Big Agribusiness, 1/16

U.S. Supreme Court’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ gift to the Trump Administration, 1/17

Clean Water Rule Georgia Fact Sheet

A list of toilets to think about while remodeling your bathroom

This blog was written by WCO Intern Brittni Viskochil who is still dreaming of buying some of these toilets.

It might be time for an upgrade to the good ol’ commode in your house. Don’t worry,  I’ve done some research on which toilets will give you the most bang for your buck.

5. The Dagobert Wooden Throne, estimated worth of about $15,000

The Austrian King , Dagobert II, will definitely be remembered through this lovely “throne”. The French nursery rhyme, “Le Bon Roi Dagobert”, is played when the toilet lid is raised. For those of you that don’t speak French, the song is about King Dagobert arriving late to a meeting with his pants on inside out (most likely because he was so comfortable on his throne…hehe). To flush this toilet you must pull a chain that is connected to a bell and everyone around will know of the good deed you have done. There’s also a candle holder and an ashtray built into this toilet for added convenience.

Image result for dagobert wooden toilet throne

4. Swarvoski crystal-studded toilet, estimated worth of about $128,390 

Feeling flashy and flushy? Impress your guests with this blinding loo. Covered in 72,000 crystals this toilet took Swarovski jewelers an entire month to decorate. It would take me an entire month to stop staring at this beauty.

Loo must be joking: The stunning designer toilet encrusted with 72,000 Swarovski crystals that is on sale for £40,000

3. Hang Fung Gold 24-carat solid gold toilet, estimated worth of about $5 million 

This toilet would make an excellent addition to your washroom. The lavish toilet is housed in the Hang Fung Gold Technology’s  “Hall of Gold” and is on display for public viewing. Tourists come from all over to take a photo of this wonder and are disappointed when they learn it’s not available for personal use.

The golden throne at Hang Fung's is meant to be admired, not put to practical use.

2. International Space Station toilet, estimated worth of about $19 million

Do you feel like you’re wasting water with every trip to the bathroom? This high-tech toilet recycles what’s flushed down into clean drinking water. Wow! It’s also got leg restraints if you’re expecting a change in gravity sometime soon. Image result for 19 mil ISS toilet


Okay. Most people can’t afford these dream toilets; but you don’t have to give up your dream of saving water and money if you do decide to upgrade your toilet.

1. Any toilet with the WaterSense Label

The WaterSense label is used on independently certified toilets that meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency. These toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush or less while still providing equal or superior performance. By replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent – that’s nearly 13,000 gallons of water savings for your home every year.

So look for the Water Sense label when you’re out shopping for a new toilet.

look for watersense logo.jpg

Stop, drop, &… vote for your favorite fire hydrant!

PrintHave you taken the H2.0 Water Walk in downtown Athens, Georgia yet? The two mile route through the Classic City’s heart will guide you past 20 freshly painted fire hydrants–all with a facelift applied by local artists. The painted hydrant project, Fire Up the Hydrants, was initiated in Athens to provide a daily reminder to passersby about the value of clean water in the community. Artists responsible for revitalizing the life-saving fixtures are in a competition to rack up the most votes and claim the title of Community Favorite. 

Winning fire hydrant designs will be announced during a Tappy Hour celebration at Creature Comforts on Wednesday, March 22nd from 5:30-7:00 PM. Please join us in taste-testing different waters (and other beverages) before the winners are revealed at 6:30 PM! The event is free to attend; guests 21 and over may sample Creature Comforts beverages per the normal brewery ticketing prices. Show your local ID for $2 off.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite fire hydrant design by 2/28/17! You can choose your top 3 favs. Scroll to the bottom of the voting page to make your selections. Click through the slideshow below to witness the fire hydrant transformations before your own eyes.

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

The Poop Log: A New Holiday Tradition You Have to Add

Today’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, who is definitely starting a new family tradition today

There are several types of logs you might associate with the Christmas season. Perhaps the burning ofChristmas fruit cake decorated with holly and berries the yule log is the first to come to mind. Maybe you are the fortunate recipient of a fruitcake log in its 34th year of rotation. Or possibly your mind fills with warm memories of an adorable poop log.

Yes, I said “poop log.” Working for a public utilities department, you may think I have seen my share of poop logs at the water reclamation facility. The truth is I don’t really see the stereotypical solid waste you expect at our facilities. In fact, less than 1% of municipal flush water is human poops. Most of what we flush down the drain and toilet is water.

The poop log I speak of is something entirely different. In the Catalan region of Spain, households christmas-logcelebrate the Tió de Nadal starting on December 8, the Day of the Immaculate Conception. Families introduce the “caga tió,” a hollowed out log with a cute face added to give it personality.  A cork or stick goes into the hole of the log to create a nose. This is very important because you definitely want to give the impression your poop log will smell. Two to four legs are attached to the log and it is covered with a blanket. No one wants their poop log to get cold.

From the day you plop the Tió de Nadal into the family room, you must care for and feed it like a pet. I recommend giving this job to the children in your home. They can leave food by the log before going to bed. In the morning the food will have “disappeared” or, if in my house, been eaten by the dog. The better they care for the tió, the better the gifts the log will give the children on Christmas morning.

Traditionally, families in Spain also tell the children the log will grow when fed. If you have the time to replace your log with a new one every few days to represent growth, go for it. I don’t have that many logs outside my home.  Instead, I will encourage my child to feed the log junk food.  I can then sneak in a nutrition lesson by pointing out that it didn’t grow due to the lack of fruits and vegetables in its diet.

If you live in the US, you can think of the Tió de Nadal as a twist to the Elf on the Shelf.  Mash up these traditions by moving the wooden chunk around the house after the kiddos have gone to sleep. Personally, I am not sure which is creepier: knowing an elf is watching your every move or that a poop log is clinging to your every move.

Now for the real fun. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you decide, move the full grown caga christmas-log-2tió and position it so half is in the fireplace and the other half hangs out as if it is squatting.  In Spain, children sing a wonderful carol to the log. Here is a sampling of the lyrics, which I have edited to make less explicit:

“Poop log,
Poop nougats,
Hazelnuts and mato cheese,
If you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
Poop, log!”

The log really doesn’t have a chance. No matter what it does, the children take turns hitting the log they have cared for with a stick. A side note, before the singing begins, the children are to go into another room and pray for good presents before the beating begins. During this time, sneaky adults put tiny prizes under the blanket at the rear end side of the log. After the children sing and spank the caga tió, they reach under the blanket to pull out a prize. This continues until someone pulls out an egg or piece of garlic. This clearly signals that the fun is over.

I like this Spanish tradition for many reasons, one which relates to my work. Poop and the act of creating it is a very taboo subject, especially in polite company gathered for the holidays. (Heck, I don’t even admit that I do it, because I don’t.)  We need to break the taboo surrounding poo.  This topic needs to be discussed because there are real consequences to not discussing this bodily function. This holiday season 2.4 billion people will not have access to a toilet and improved sanitation. If we don’t talk about this because we are embarrassed by the subject, we are creating a barrier to prevent us arriving at a solution. The poop log could help to lighten the mood and get people talking about a serious matter. Improving world sanitation is a gift worth beating a log for.

I hope you consider adding the Tio de Nadal tradition to your home. I only learned of this tradition today, which means I need to go out and make a poop log to present to my child tonight. This family tradition is one guaranteed to not be a stinker.


Some have doubted the authenticity of this holiday tradition.  Here is video proof.  I can’t make this up.

My Project WET Certification Experience: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

 This blog was written by WCO intern Elise McDonald

What is Project WET?

      Project WET is a program developed in 1984 in response to the intense water misuse and pollution that reached an all-time high in the 1970s. WET is an acronym that stands for Water Education for Teachers.  Its mission is “to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues.”(Project WET Foundation site). Project WET provides workshops for educators focusing on fun and comprehensive ways to integrate water activities (many of which incorporating conservation-heavy concepts) into any subject, curriculum, or grade level. Participating in the workshop gains you certification as a Project WET educator, an entire curriculum book jam-packed with multi-faceted and highly adaptable hands-on activities, and a deep understanding of why water education and outreach are so important in our global pursuit of sustainable water use.

My Experience

      First off, I have wanted to become Project WET certified for a couple of years. I have a background in environmental education and am very passionate about it. Needless to say, when the opportunity presented itself to be certified through my job as a water education intern, I was immediately on board!

The structure and schedule of individual workshops vary depending on the facilitator, but my workshop was split between two consecutive Tuesdays, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM.

Day 1: After doing a warm-up exercise to introduce workshop participants to one another and establish the importance of water in our lives, we learned about the history of water use and all about Project WET and the resources it offers. The facilitators then walked us through how to use our exclusive Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guides, complete with over 60 activities organized by subject, curriculum, and grade level compatibility. We also learned about the online Project WET resources available to us, one of the most valuable of which I will describe further down. We also discussed the Urban Watershed Guide and the international art and poetry contest River of Words (link). Before leaving, the workshop participants were divided into groups and assigned one of the activities in the book to lead the following Tuesday.

Day 2: The second workshop day was reserved primarily for experiencing each activity lead by the different groups and learning to modify the outlined lessons. My group was assigned “The Incredible Journey,” a water cycle activity where students become a water molecules that spend time in up to 9 different destinations as they travel through the water cycle. As detailed in “The Incredible Journey,” there is more to the water cycle than just precipitation, evaporation, and condensation. Water spends a lot of its time in places such as bodies of water, the atmosphere, and living organisms. In this educational activity, students are dispersed among the 9 stations, each with a large cube that determines where the next water cycle destination will be for every individual.

The four activities lead by other groups were just as fun and impactful, each focusing on a different aspect of water. We received advice and feedback from the facilitators about each activity, and discussed how they could be modified for different class settings. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves, and the time passed very quickly!


So what did I think about it?

Well, first of all, the activities in the curriculum guide are INCREDIBLE. They really are just as adaptable as they claim to be. Regardless of the circumstances you will be teaching under, the activities will bend around them. Plus, THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN! Along with the activity guide that is only available to those who attend a WET educator workshop (to ensure the quality use of the materials), there are thousands of adaptations uploaded by Project WET educators all over the world available on the Project WET online portal. You gain access to this exclusive portal when you become certified!

If you have been considering getting certified, just do it! The price of the workshop is usually around $20-$30, which will cover the cost of your guide (and possibly food and supplies), as the instruction is free. The knowledge and resources you will gain are invaluable regardless of your subject or educational platform, and the certification is a well-recognized asset to any skill set or resume.

      If you are interested in becoming certified, click here to access the map of contacts for WET facilitators in your area!

En-Gauging in Your Community: the Streams of the University of Georgia


Many are unaware of the extensive watershed that spreads through the University of Georgia’s campus. If you had to guess now, how many streams would you estimate there are on the premises? How many have you actually seen?

If you guessed three streams, then you are correct! It may have been difficult to guess though because portions of these streams are located underground, beneath the campus. The streams that run through UGA are Tanyard Creek (arguably the most well-known of the three), Lilly Branch, and the Steam Plant Stream. Additionally, Lake Herrick and the Founders’ Spring are also contributors to the UGA storm drainage system and watershed. All of these streams and sources empty into the North Oconee River, which is a major drinking water supply source for Athens, Georgia.

Tanyard Creek begins flowing from the intersection of Milledge Avenue and Broad Street, and is piped underneath the UGA campus before it reemerges at Baxter Street and Lumpkin Street near the Tate Center and new Bolton Dining Commons. Tanyard Creek then travels via pipe under Sanford Stadium and into the North Oconee River (about a 1 mile long distance in total). It is perhaps the most well-known stream due to the Chew Crew’s involvement here. The Chew Crew began in 2012 when a College of Environment and Design student, Zach Richardson, wrote a grant proposal and was funded to use goats as a method of prescribed grazing along the stream. The prescribed grazing aids in removing invasive plant species from the creek such as kudzu, privet, and English ivy, and helps to reestablish the health of the stream’s ecology. The program has been very successful, with the goats coming every spring, and hundreds of students gathering together to volunteer in stream cleanups, sampling, and vegetative surveying. The Chew Crew loves any and all volunteers so be sure to check them out if you are interesting in volunteering with them!

funny goat puts out its tongue

Lily Branch, formerly known as “Stinky Creek,” is roughly 2 miles long and flows above ground near South Five Points and the Lamar Dodd School of Art; it flows beneath the University in pipes between these two areas. Due to the stream’s lack of riparian buffers and therefore poor water quality, the Odum School of Ecology Environmental Practicum Course created a collaborative initiative to clean and manage the stream starting in 2014. While this has been a difficult task, monitoring has shown that Lilly Branch exhibits signs of improvement; however, it is still far from ideal conditions.

Lastly, Steam Plant Stream is a little less than a mile long. It begins on South Campus near Boyd Hall, flowing near the UGA Steam Plant and Facilities Management Area. It is then piped through campus and daylights along River Road. The Steam Plant Stream watershed has a lot of issues with overgrown invasive species and appears yellow, which may be due to an iron-oxidizing bacteria.

For a map showing UGA’s watersheds click here and proceed to “Campus Watershed Maps”.

River pollution - Stock Image

We can reverse and prevent pollution that has accumulated like this on campus- we just have to do our part! (not a photo of a UGA stream)

All of these streams are heavily urbanized and need our help! Now that you have been enlightened on the not so fresh, not so clean facts about UGA’s streams, what is there that you can do about it??

  • Always clean up after your pets!! Animal waste is a major contributor to “poo-llution” in stream runoff that ends up in streams.
  • Don’t litter! You would think this is common sense people, but you would be amazed at the amount of trash volunteers pick up along these streams!
  • Do your part- Volunteer, help remove invasive species, and pick up trash whenever you see it! Become a stream steward! Check out Watershed UGA’s latest initiative- Daylighting the Watersheds
  • Educate! Educate those around you, especially children, to understand the importance of keeping our streams safe.

So get out into the community and let’s all promote the betterment of our local watersheds!

Laughing girl showing thumbs up.

Other sources: here under Watershed Management Plan Fall 2014 Update