Sewer Heroes Take Over the Athens Water Festival!

We all had the dream at some point in our lives.  Maybe you wanted to grow up and be Wonder Woman with a magical golden lasso.  Or you may have imagined yourself with the ability to talk to sea life, just like Aquaman.  Perhaps you and your sibling spent hours hoping to activate your Wonder Twin powers and change form.  How did this work out for you?

If your Superhero dreams were foiled, never fear.  There is still hope for us all.  With a remarkable dedication to fighting grime, a strong desire to protect the public, and a little H2knOwledge, you can transform into a Superhero.  Well, maybe not a Superhero from the comics, but definitely a real-life Sewer Hero! 

Don’t believe me?  Look to the recent Athens Water Festival for the hard evidence.  Hundreds of Athenians came out to the annual event and tapped into their hidden potential to earn official, certifiable Sewer Hero status.

With great flushing power comes great responsibility.  Let it flow.  Be a Sewer Hero.

Make plans to attend next year’s Athens Water Festival, September 8, 2018.

 

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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

          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.

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!

Conservation: Music to Our Ears

This week’s post was written by Caroline Cummings, WCO Intern and music junkie. 

Living in Athens, we are lucky enough to experience firsthand some of the best music in the country. Whether it’s nationally acclaimed rock legends like R.E.M., local college kids that like Chinese food (hint: the B-52s), or the street performers that can turn anything, including buckets, into instruments, there’s no denying that the people of Athens know their music. Assuming you at least listen to, like, or maybe even LOVE music like I do, music festivals seem like the ideal place to make our dreams come true; it is important, however, that we are aware of the impact our beloved music festivals have on our environment, especially our water.

It’s no surprise that thousands of people gathered into one venue produces waste, uses water, and leaves behind a nasty carbon footprint. What is pleasantly surprising, however, is the initiative many festivals are taking to reduce their waste production and water consumption, as well as promote sustainability in the lives of their attendees. With the recent release of many festival lineups, ‘tis the season to make travel arrangements and purchase tickets to see your favorite bands. Lucky for us, there are festivals all over the country covering all genres that are determined to make a positive impact on our water conservation and sustainability efforts.

1. Tortuga Music Festival, April 15-17, 2016

rtoLocated in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, TortugaFest is one of the most environmentally conscious festivals of its kind. With a mostly country, rock, and roots lineup and headliners such as Blake Shelton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tim McGraw, Tortuga Fest has attracted like-minded fans from across the country to enjoy a weekend at the beach. Aside from guaranteeing proper waste disposal with the help of the Clean Vibes organization, Tortuga puts an emphasis on water conservation and protection. Portions of ticket purchases are donated to Rock the Ocean, an organization consisting of 30+ groups that promote conservation of our oceans through interactive activities, events, and educational programs such as funding field trips to local waterways for low-income students. Rock the Ocean’s presence at the festival is almost as big as the bands playing there; they set up an entire “Conservation Village” within the festival grounds. Here, festival-goers can learn ways to conserve water, reduce pollution in the oceans, and even win a chance to meet one of the headliners of the festival. The goal of Conservation Village, best stated by the festival itself, is to “allow fans to leave the festival with an ‘awakened consciousness’ of the issues our oceans and marine environments are facing, and most importantly, what they, the fans, can do to make a difference!” Who doesn’t love an awakened conscience?

http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com/conservation/

2. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, June 9-12, 2016

Named for the French words “bonne” and “rue,” meaning “good” and “street,” respectively, Bonnaroo, located in Manchester, Tennessee, is considered the “best on the streets” by many festival-goers. While it’s hard to beat seeing artists such as Pearl Jam, Tame Impala, Dead & Company, plus ~100 more musicians and comedians, many other large festivals also can’t hold a candle to Bonnaroo’s sustainability efforts. By partnering up with Rock the Earth and Carbon Shredders, Bonnaroo teaches its attendees the basics of conservation of natural resources and leading a more sustainable life, including reducing water consumption. Paired up with Carbon Shredders is We Are Neutral, an organization that works with large-scale events to reduce their large-scale energy and water usage, which has made Bonnaroo one of the greenest festivals in the world. The festival also teams up with Clean Vibes to ensure proper waste disposal to divert from landfills and prevent pollution. Similar to our office’s Certified Blue program, Bonnaroo also implements aBroo15_News_Post_Sust “Sustainable Vendors” badge of honor.  Vendors that are labeled with this badge use locally grown products and make conscious efforts to decrease their waste production and resource consumption. If the Certified Blue-like program at ‘Roo isn’t enough to draw you away from Athens for a couple days (which it should be!), consider going to see some of our very own local bands perform at this festival. Past lineups have included Athens bands Drive-by Truckers, Neutral Milk Hotel, Futurebirds, Reptar, and Radiolucent.

http://www.bonnaroo.com/get-involved/sustainability

3. Rock the Green Music Festival, September 17, 2016

A music festival completely built on sustainability, Rock the Green has definitely lived up to its name. Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this festival has featured nationally recognized artists like Third Eye Blind, Ben Folds, and Atlas Genius. Alongside these well-known performances, Rock the Green also hosts and promotes many local artists, a notion we Athenians embrace. Although the 2016 lineup has yet to be released, it’s safe to say this festival will not disappoint musically or conservationally. Rock the Green 2016 will be located at a new venue in Milwaukee’s Reed Street Yards, an eco-industrial park located on Freshwater Way. When not in use for the festival, the park focuses on Milwaukee’s growing water industry and the technologies that help ensure water is both abundant and clean. Due to the new venue, Rock the Green 2016 will also feature another welcome change: a focus on water conservation. Along with creating near-zero waste, Rock the Green is working with the 15222879439_09af23833b_bMilwaukee Water Council to promote freshwater sustainability at the festival using Reed Street Yards’s research and initiatives as a basis. Rock the Green’s mission statement perfectly sums up what this festival is all about: “to educate and empower the community to take actionable steps to live sustainably.”

http://www.rockthegreen.com/rock-the-green-festival-returns-september-17th-2016

4. Lightning in a Bottle, May 25-30, 2016

Last on our list but certainly not least is the festival Lightning in a Bottle, which will take place in Bradley, California this Memorial Day weekend. Described as “a fourth dimension where only the weird and wonderful flourish,” Lightning in a Bottle is a conglomeration of music, yoga, art, education, and sustainability. This summer it will host artists such as Chet Faker, Grimes, and Jamie XX. Of course here at the ACC Water Conservation Office, we like to focus on the sustainability aspect, and this festival does not disappoint. With an atmosphere dedicated to community, Lightning in a Bottle makes sure to keep the community surrounding the festival clean, happy, and sustainable. The festival has put in place several water initiatives that promote conservation, including an on-site environmental impact assessment and educational signs to encourage reduction in water use. The impact assessment lets festival staff and attendees rest assured that no waste from the festival negatively impacts nearby Lake San Antonio while the signs within the festival grounds educate attendees on things such as the benefits of low-flow toilets, water fountains, and shower taps. They also make use of the festival’s grey water by spraying it on the grounds to prevent dust and air pollution. Aside from all the amazing water initiatives the festival has implemented, they also do their part to reduce festival energy costs and create a net-zero energy usage through carbon offsets. The main goal of what they callethos “Ethos” (their green initiative) at Lightning in a Bottle is “… to change lives. We want people to not only be inspired at the festival, but to leave and make a big difference at home in their communities.”

http://2015.lightninginabottle.org/ethos/

From home- If you’re unable to make it to any of these festivals this year, there is another awesome way music can help you conserve water from home. Try picking out a favorite song to play in the shower and use it as a timer to take quicker showers and save more water, but don’t forget to sing along!

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

AthFest is so much Cooler when you recycle

AthFest is so much Cooler when you recycle

This week’s blog was written by Christina Abner, an intern at the WCO

It’s that time of year again where many Athenians and people from all over congregate for our local music festival “AthFest” and we will be there! The Water Conservation Office is participating in KidsFest where we will be making fun crafts that incorporate music and of course, Water!

If you would like more information about AthFest visit the link: http://athfest.com/

If you would like more information about AthFest visit the link: http://athfest.com/

So make sure to plan on joining us for one of the best events Athens has to offer

Water is not the first thing you think about when thinking of a music festival, but with a large number of people coming to Athens, it’s interesting to think of the logistics of it all. I know for a fact that AthFest and their crew are all about Recycling, but what about conserving water? I had the opportunity to speak with an AthFest representative, Jill Helme, and ask the cold watery facts about this beloved music festival.

When we asked Ms. Helme about ways they were conserving water at AthFest this year she mentioned that since it will be hot out there they will be using low-flow misters at KidsFest, and are going to try to use as little water as possible in other places around the festival. We hoped that there would be water bottle refilling stations for people who brought bottles but she said, “the city stopped letting us use fire hydrants to let people fill water bottles because they didn’t feel able to ensure the cleanliness of the line/pipes.”  As an alternative to this Athfest will be selling bottled water at the event and will have recycling and composting containers throughout the festival.

People at Athfest can save water by reusing those bottles and recycling them when they are done.

water recycle

Did you know it takes about 24 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic? That’s a lot of water! Recycled plastic requires less water to make water bottles, so “Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling” saves water too! In 2013 alone, the United States produced over 33 Million Tons of plastic and only 9% of it was recycled.  Here in Athens we can do a lot better! So this weekend reduce your water bottles by reusing them, and remember when you are done with them recycle!!! We have the power to leave a lasting mark on our community by simply making better choices today.

recycle

We hope yall enjoy AthFest and remember to reuse and recycle your bottles this weekend.  Here are some useful last minute quick tips as it’s going to be a scorcher this weekend!

A couple last minute quick tips from the water conservation office:

  • We love our Puppy companions, but please do not let them come to AthFest!   It is hot, and their little paws will burn on the hot concrete and will be no doggie watering stations.
  • Wear sunscreen! It’s going to be hot, the sun dries out your skin and having a sunburn is never fun!
  • Avoid heat exhaustion, “Stay HYDRATED”, bring a reusable water bottle to refill so when the heat hits 90 degrees you’ll be ready!
  • One important reminder about Port-a-potties, they are not trash cans!  Remember your 4 P’s  because someone has to manually take out the trash from those things!

Have a great AthFest and stay cool!!  See you there!!!

Special Thanks to Jill Helme, Executive Director of AthFest Educates for taking the time to answer our questions!

More information about the Nonprofit event: http://athfest.com/

The First Classic City Sprinkler Spruce Up at Clarke Central High School

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

sprinkler-spruce-up_infographicA couple of years ago I watched as Sanford Stadium, home of the Georgia Bulldogs, went through the Ultimate Sprinkler Spruce Up.  The University replaced the old water-wasting irrigation cannon with an efficient system of watering zones and computerized flow meters.  With a price tag of about $200,000, it was a lot more than just a “Sprinkler Spruce Up”.  An actual “Sprinkler Spruce Up” should be done annually, is simple, and not expensive. There are four steps to a Sprinkler Spruce Up:  Inspect, Connect, Direct, and Select.   This is what we did at the Clarke Central High School Baseball field for this year’s Classic City Sprinkler Spruce Up.

Before getting started, I knew we needed to find an expert, so I went to the WaterSense Website and found Randy Boatenreiter of Aquatech Irrigation.  He is a local WaterSense Irrigation Professional.  WaterSense is a program like Energy Star. WaterSense helps people save water with a product label and tips for saving water indoors and out. Products bearing the WaterSense label have been independently certified to perform well; help save water, energy, and money; and and encourage innovation in manufacturing.  Irrigation professionals certified by WaterSense can help reduce water consumption, save money, and maintain a healthy and beautiful landscape by maximizing the efficiency of an irrigation system.  We did all four steps of the Sprinkler Spruce Up.

outfield

Randy Boatenreiter, a Certified WaterSense Irrigation Professional, inspects the irrigation system in the outfield of the Clarke Central High School baseball field.

Step 1 – Inspect  Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads.  Randy went over the whole system.  Most of it was in great shape.  Only a few heads had been broken or had been turned the wrong direction. The grass looked good because the Spring had been rainy.  When I commented on how nice the grass looked, Clarke Central’s Baseball Coach Tray Henson joked, “To be a coach you need a minor in Turf Management!”

Step 2 – Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes.  Randy did not find any pooling water or large wet areas.  That was good news because a leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.

IMG_4937

When sprinkler systems only turn on late at night, it is easy to miss water-wasting problems. These problems are found and repaired during the annual Sprinkler Spruce Up. This zone outside the baseball field was turned off completely.

Step 3 – Direct.  Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to your lawn or prized plants. Clarke Central Baseball has made some great changes to the field over the years.  They made some positive changes to the sprinkler system too, but some things went unnoticed.  This is very common when the sprinklers run at night when nobody is around to see what they are doing. Sprinklers that were not efficiently watering grass were adjusted or removed from the system entirely.

Select.  Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. The school’s baseball field had an older, but good and reliable timer.  Randy assured us that the timer was fine and money would be better spent on a rain gage or soil moisture meter.  Randy installed a rain sensor that will shut off the sprinklers if it is raining.  He also disconnec

promolabel_blue_look

Chose a Water Sense certified irrigation professional!

ted two zones that Coach Trey said he didn’t need, and adjusted the zones that were not operating at maximum efficiency.

 

Conducting a Sprinkler Spruce Up is a big task at a baseball field.  It took a few hours to find and fix all the problems, but the payoff will be great.  The school will save money on their water bill and the kids will have a beautiful and safe field to play on.

Thanks to Coach Trey, and everyone at the Clarke County School System who helped
us with this Classic City Sprinkler Spruce Up.