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.


Water Bottle Safety…Fact or Fiction?

In this day and age of increased water awareness, more people are drinking bottled water. In 2008, Americans drank 9 billion gallons of bottled water, which comes out to be approximately 30 gallons per person that year. Bottled water is convenient and seems innocent enough, but is bottled water safer than tap water? Not necessarily.

Tap water is tested multiple times a day to ensure that the water is safe to drink. In Athens, the water that reaches your tap is tested every hour of every day! Bottled water however, isn’t tested as often. A study conducted by the Natural Resource Defense Council tested over 1,000 bottles of water. “About 22 percent of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits.” They also found that some of the bottled water was just tap water, 25% or more in fact. The tap water in some cases was treated further, other cases it wasn’t.

If you haven’t noticed, bottled water is expensive! Why buy bottled water when there is water coming from your tap? Bottled water can cost anywhere between$1 and $5. Let’s say you buy a $2.00 20 ounce bottle of water, did you know that would equal $12.80 for a gallon of water! That’s more than three times the price of a gallon of gas! Now look at the table below and see how much a gallon of water costs in Athens-Clarke County.

Tier 1: Winter Average (WA)

0.00342 cents/gallon

Tier 2: 10% over WA

0.00428 cents/gallon

Tier 3: 10-25% over WA

0.00513 cents/gallon

Tier 4: >25% over WA

0.00855 cents/gallon

So would you rather pay 0.00855-0.00342 cents a gallon for water or $12.80?

Now to tackle the bottle itself. It actually takes at least twice as much water to make the bottle than to actually fill it. It takes 3 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water. A lot of water can be saved by simply using a reusable water bottle. Also, plastic bottles are one of the main pollution sources and often end up in our oceans.

Not enough bottles are being recycled; one statistics says 75% of bottles are thrown away. And in a time of oil dependency, there are 17 million barrels of oil that are used to produce water bottles every year.

So bottled water is pricey, not necessarily safer than tap, and the bottle can be a harmful pollutant to our environment. This is a huge industry that isn’t going to change overnight but here are a few things you can do!

  • Buy a reusable water bottle. They hold large amounts of water and are easy to just grab and go.

  • If you must buy a bottle of water, some places don’t allow reusable water bottles, recycle the bottle. That will be one-less bottle that could end up in the ocean.

  • Tell your friends! You are the change, consumers control demand.
  • Go to www.tappedthemovie.com/for more even information! I just watched this for the first time and it really got me inspired.

Next time you see a bottle of water at a store, take a step back and reconsider buying it. It could just be tap water or even worse, it could have harmful chemicals in it. Drink smarter!


WCO intern

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 4/23/13

Thank you, Athens-Clarke County Citizens

I hate to be a party pooper, but the 50 year celebration of wastewater treatment in Athens-Clarke County (ACC) must come to a close.  Athenians are fortunate to have essential and exceptional wastewater services that safely reclaim, refresh, and returnthe water we use to the environment. Our treatment systems have continually grown and improved as the community has expanded and technology has advanced over the last 50 years. Water reclamation plays a significant role in our health and quality of life in Athens. 

During our celebration we have highlighted several of our dedicated ACC Public Utilities employees in the “Unsung Hero” section of the ACC website.  Lucky for us, they are performing essential – and often not so glamorous – jobs that are vital to the health of our community. These unsung heroes make sure that you have safe and reliable wastewater services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Lily Anne Phibian reminds us toilets are not trash cans!

Lily Anne Phibian reminds us toilets are not trash cans!

Before we end our commemoration, we must acknowledge one more unsung hero in the world of wastewater. This person does not work for ACC, but plays a significant role in the treatment of our effluent.  Who is it?  YOU, the beneficiary of improved sanitation in Athens. After potable water is used, it becomes wastewater.  It is created with the flush of a toilet, the washing of dishes, the rinsing of clothes, and the draining of a bathtub.  We all contribute to the outflow, whether it is from our own homes or used by local businesses to produce the items and services we consume.

Tommy Hall recycles used FOG at one of several collection sites in ACC.

Tommy Hall recycles used FOG at one of several collection sites in ACC.

The citizens’ role in wastewater treatment is more than a passive one.  Anything and everything you put down the toilet or drain has an effect on our water reclamation facilities (WRF).  Our systems are equipped to handle the usual suspects found in wastewater: pee, poo, and paper.  However, other items, such as plastics, prophylactics, paper towels, baby wipes, and pharmaceuticals, are harmful to the WRF equipment.  Fats, oils, and greases (FOG) result in clogs, which lead to sewer overflows.  We thank you, another one of our unsung heroes, for remembering your toilets and sinks are not trash cans.  We thank you for putting FOG in the trash can or recycling it to protect our waters.

Athens Counsel on Aging conserved water by replacing exisiting toilets with new, low-flow ones and also repaired leaks.

Athens Counsel on Aging conserved water by replacing exisiting toilets with new, low-flow ones and also repaired leaks.

We appreciate all of your efforts toward water conservation. Like anything else used daily, the components of the WRF suffer from wear and tear.  Larger volumes of wastewater entering the plant contribute to this deterioration.  Efficient water use in your household improves the functioning of our WRFs, increases the lifetime of each facility, and reduces maintenance and repair costs. We ended 2012 with a greater appreciation for you, and all of the Unsung Heroes, who helped Athens-Clarke County reach 50 years of successfully reclaiming, refreshing, and returning our waters to the source.  This has been something to celebrate.  Party on.Thank you.

Laurie Loftin

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 1/8/13