Beat the Rush: How to Sign Up for ACC Water Services

This week’s blog was written by Ben McMichael, the creative media and education intern at the Water Conservation Office.

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Hundreds of people visit the Water Customer Service building each day from mid-July thru mid-August.

As the second week in June comes to a close, the realization that summer is almost halfway over is not a welcoming thought. With summer flying by, there are a few things here in Athens that are inevitable: finding fun summer activities, avoiding a heat stroke and on the same day getting washed away during a torrential downpour, and the Summer Rush here at the Water Customer Service Center. While these occurrences are certain to happen, what are the odds that the Summer Rush could be avoided to make more time for some fun in the sun?

The “Summer Rush” is what we have dubbed the time from mid-July to mid-August.  It is the time when University of Georgia students and other new residents rush into the water Customer Service Center to get their water, sewer, and trash services set up.  

Sign up for water NOW and BEAT THE RUSH!
If you are moving to Athens soon or will be starting a new lease, we encourage you to get your water service set up before the summer rush begins. Below is a graphic to walk you through each step of the process.  Keep it handy and download it on your smartphone for future use.  The information is also available at the Public Utilities website.

I am an established customer.  Does Rush matter to me?
If you are an established water customer, Rush affects you, too.  Hundreds visit the office every day during Rush, which makes the parking lot even more crowded.  It is sometimes standing room only in the lobby area.

Want to avoid the Rush crowd?  Try one of the other options available to pay your water bill:

  • Pay your bill online
    First-time users will need their water account number to set up an online account.  Create a customer ID and use that to pay bills online in the future.
  • Pay by bank draft
    Complete the bank draft authorization form and bring a voided check to the Customer Service Center. The checking account will be automatically debited each month for the amount of the water bill on the due date shown on your bill.
  • Mail still works
    Tear of the payment stub and use the enclosed envelope to send a check or money order to:
    The Unified Government of ACC
    Public Utilities Water Business Office
    PO Box 16869
    Atlanta, GA  30321-0869

Want to call us during Rush?
To better serve our customers, a Call Center is now in place with dedicated staff available to answer phone calls.  However, our team still must field hundreds of calls each day, which can result in longer hold times due to increased inquiries regarding about starting/ending service.  We know your time is valuable and will get to your call as quickly as possible.

We perform thousands of tests on our waters throughout the year to ensure the drinking water quality.  The reports are available online.  The Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department is proud to deliver this water to all of our customers, both new and old.  Welcome!

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An Athenian in Cape Town

This blog was written by Marilyn Hall who is lucky enough to travel the world with friends.

Last month I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa in search of water conservation ideas……Here are some things I learned.

Cape Town is really far away. We drove an hour to the Atlanta airport, flew 9 hours to Amsterdam, had a two-hour layover, and then flew 11 hours to Cape Town. When we arrived all I wanted to do was splash some water on my face, wash my hands, and brush my teeth. Much to my disappointment, there was no running water at the sinks at the airport!

airport sink

Splashing hand sanitizer on your face is not very refreshing.

Cape Town is experiencing an epic drought.  Drought reminders were everywhere, so I decided to take photos to share with the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office. Hands sticky from hand sanitizer, I proceeded to customs and immigration.  These are some of the things I saw.

airport toilet

We were encouraged to embrace the “If it’s yellow it’s mellow” philosophy at the airport.

airport hallway

Signs the size of billboards lined the walls at the airport.

on the line

Their water use is “on the line”. Clever outreach idea.

airport billboard

Save like a local? What does that mean? I was about to find out.

 

Four million people call Cape Town home and they are three years into the region’s worst drought on record.  The reservoirs supplying South Africa’s second most populated city are almost empty.  Residents are limited to 50 liters per day, only 13.2 gallons.  The average American family uses more than 300 gallons every day, and that is just at home!

I also saw several signs promoting investment in Cape Town.  The economic impact of a drought like this must be enormous.  Imagine seeing signs claiming that Cape Town is running out of water next to signs promoting investment there.

invest

Due to phone battery problems (thanks, Apple), I don’t have any photos of the investment signs at the airport.  But they looked something like this.

What could the impacts be?  I asked my travel companions and they were concerned about public health, civil unrest, and social equity.  One asked what the city would do if there was a fire.  I added that there are economic impacts such as lower rates of investment and job losses.

 

Day zero is the date when officials believe that Cape Town will run out of water. By the end of my trip, the number of days to Day Zero had increased to 136.  The fact that I was there probably had little to do with the improvement, but you never know.

Assuming it rains during their rainy season, political leaders believe that Day Zero will not happen in 2018...  But what if it doesn’t rain?

Years ago water resources planners knew this was coming.   I spoke with a lot of people while I was there.  I asked my Uber drivers, restaurant staff, people working at the hotels, etc.  They all told the same story. It went something like, “The government knew that they were going to run out of water, and ‘they’ were going to fix it.”  Years ago, if they had implemented recommended strategies such as augmenting water supplies with recycled water, they would not be in the position they are now.

newspaper old

Although water planners knew drought would be a problem, political leaders chose not to invest in infrastructure.

I am not sure what the people in Cape Town are going to do if Day Zero arrives.  One Uber driver told me has never had reliable drinking water and he will survive Day Zero.  I admire his resilience, but I am worried for the 4 million residents of Cape Town.

It is nice to be back home in Athens where we have conscientious local leaders who are willing to take responsibility for the future.  In February 2107, Athens’ Mayor and Commission approved the three recommendations of a risk-based water assessment. First, implement a water reuse program to send recycled water to industrial users that will offset demands for potable drinking water.  Second, develop additional conservation measures to reduce per capita demands by an additional 10%. Third, investigate the feasibility of additional raw water and recycled water storage.  These solutions will ensure that Athens will have reliable water supplies in the future.

I would love to travel to Cape Town again.  Hopefully, they will have resolved their water crisis before my next visit.

How much water is left in Cape Town today? Check out their water dashboard.

To learn more about the water crisis in Cape Town check out this great website from the University of Cape Town.

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 MyWaterPledge.com. 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.

prizes

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!

Little Lily Hops to Rome for Drinking Fountains and Kitties

Little Lily Hops to Rome for Drinking Fountains and Kitties

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

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

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

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

 

GA EPD: The Time to Prepare For Drought is Now

This week’s blog is written by Marilyn Hall, Water Conservation Coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

We are in between droughts.  There is no better time to prepare.  

To help water providers prepare for the next inevitable drought, the Georgia DNR Board adopted rules that replaced the Outdoor Water Use Rules in August of 2015.  As far as I can tell there has been little, if any, information developed to help utilities, irrigation/ landscape professionals, and other water users implement these rules.  They are confusing, but in a nutshell, the new “Drought Management” rule does four things: creates provisions for a drought response committee; requires pre-drought mitigation strategies; introduces new drought indicators and triggers; and requires a series of drought response strategies.

There are substantial changes in the new rules that require new and specific actions.  The rule introduces three new drought levels.  The first level requires a little bit of public notice and the third requires nearly an outdoor watering ban plus mandatory drought surcharges and other actions that many utilities and water users may find challenging and should prepare for.

In order to make sense of the new rules and how they will impact utilities and water users, the Georgia Water Wise Council has enlisted the assistance of law students at the University of Georgia to develop a Guidance Document for the Drought Rules. This guidance should be ready in March, 2016.  In the meantime it is important for Utilities to start preparing for some of the requirements now.  The most urgent of which is conservation rates.

Local water systems that do not have water rate conservation pricing in place are required to develop a “drought surcharge program” by June 24, 2016.  These surcharge rates would be required under a Level 3 Drought Response.  EPD considers the surcharge to be a “temporary price incentive for customers to reduce water demand during a declared drought”(Responses to Comments Received During the Public Comment Period April 13, 2015-May 13, 2015 ).  Some systems that demonstrate to EPD that their billing systems are unable to charge distinctive rates or are unable to apply a surcharge rate only to the volumetric portion of the bill may be exempt from this requirement.

To learn more about conservation rates look at the EPD Guidance Document prepared in August 2007, “Conservation-Oriented Rate Structures” (http://www1.gadnr.org/cws/Documents/Conservation_Rate_Structures.pdf)

Recognizing that at any given time we are either in a drought or in between droughts, EPD introduces a “predrought” condition with this rule. During predrought times the odd even schedule does not apply. The rule is consistent with the Water Stewardship Act and allows for outdoor water use 7 days a week after 4:00 PM and before 10:00 AM.  Exemptions like drip irrigation, wells, food gardens, etc have not changed.

The predrought mitigation strategies apply only to outdoor water uses for the purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants. This leaves predrought restrictions on outdoor water uses such as pressure washing, swimming pools, fountains, etc unclear.   It is up to local governments to apply limits to these water uses during non-drought periods if needed to ensure drought resilience. (This is just my take on this, don’t modify your ordinances before confirming with EPD.)

Drought declaration decisions will be made by EPD using a set of drought indicators.  There are three Drought Response Levels that build on one another.  In other words, Level 2 requires that both Level 1 and Level 2 requirements be implemented.  All that is required in Level 1 is the implementation of a minimal public information campaign that only includes public notice regarding drought conditions.  If your area is entering a drought it would be a good idea to ramp up your public outreach efforts above and beyond the minimum requirement.  A good source of water conservation materials for customers is EPA’s WaterSense Program.

Drought Response Level 2 brings back the familiar odd/even schedule.  Outdoor irrigation can occur on Thursday and Sunday for odd addresses and on Wednesday and Saturday for even addresses. Watering cannot occur between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.  All the non-drought exemptions still apply.  For example, drip irrigation and watering of plants for sale can go on without any restrictions.  Drought Response Level 2 is where the non-plant related outdoor water use restrictions kick in.  Using water to wash hard surfaces, fountains, and car washing are not allowed.  This is also when the Drought Response Menu comes into play.  Water providers must implement four or more of the menu items and submit a monthly report to EPD detailing their chosen strategies and the extent of implementation and enforcement during level 2.

Drought Response Level 3 does not allow for any outdoor irrigation, however many of the non-drought exemptions still apply.  For example, hand watering, watering of food gardens, and golf courses is allowed twice a week and professional landscapers can still install and work on irrigation systems.

When Drought Level 3 is declared, public water systems must adopt every strategy on the Menu, including drought surcharges.  A utility does not have to adopt drought surcharges if they have a tiered rate system, do not serve retail customers, or their billing system cannot implement them. It is up to the discretion of EPD whether they will implement numeric reduction requirements during Drought Level 3.

Confused yet?

The new Drought Rules will impact a wide variety of groups and individuals.  The WaterWise Council promotes sound water efficient policies and practices in Georgia by bringing together environmental NGOs, water industry professionals, and green industry professionals.  As such, the council represents a well-balanced view of water issues.  The Council asked the University of Georgia law students who are working on the guidance document to consider the Rule’s impact on water providers and a variety of different water users including landscape and irrigation professionals.

Stay tuned, in March there should be some good guidance on what these rules mean to you as a water user or water provider.  In the meantime, remember that we are in between drought so be smart.  You have control about how severely the next drought will impact you.  Be smart about what you plant, the plumbing fixtures you install, and your water use habits.  When a drought comes, and you know it will, you will be ready.

 

 

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

What Do You Mean Summer is Almost Over? It Was Just May!

This week’s blog was written by Christina Abner, an intern who loves making bucket lists as much as she loves summertime

It really seems like this summer has gone by fast.  Just last week, there was still a beach accessory section in every store and this week they’ve all turned into back to school supplies.  I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not ready for summer to go! In just a couple of weeks our beloved town will have many people returning here for another year of school, and most parents will be rejoicing. Don’t get me wrong.  I love football season and being squished into Sanford Stadium calling the Dawgs, but summer just leaves so fast, that it almost feels like an unfinished project. Since this is my last week in Athens, I thought what better way to send off the summer than with a fun, “water themed” bucket list! Continue reading