5 Great Songs for National River Month

Today’s blog is by Laurie Loftin, who enjoys music by the water

June 1 begins National River Month.  What a perfect time to visit a river, whether it be to float down on a kayak or to take an early morning walk along the bank.  Bring a cooler, friends, and a playlist and you are ready to go.  To help you along with the music, I share with you my favorite five river-themed songs.

#5.  “Proving Ground,” Widespread Panic

OK, this one might be a stretch as a river song, but our favorite songs are often based on the memories we associate with a song.  The self-titled Widespread Panic album came out the summer I graduated from college.  I spent many an enjoyable day with friends by the rivers in Athens listening to the songs of this album.  “Proving Ground” talks about discovering just how strong you are when you are in over your head.  Jump in the middle of the river to find out just how tall you are.

River Fact:  Those rivers I lounged beside and in were more than just a spot to relax and plan my future.  The Middle and North Oconee Rivers are two of the three drinking water sources for Athens, GA.

#4.  “The River,” Bruce Springsteen

I recently got involved in a conversation regarding the best Bruce Springsteen song ever.  I fully backed “Rosalita,” the rebellious song about forbidden love.  My friend is not always as upbeat as I, so he picked “The River.”  Though I still throw my support behind Rosie, I can’t argue with his choice.  “The River” doesn’t have the same burst of rock-and-roll energy, but the haunting harmonica and lyrics of struggle always lead you to the river, a symbol of dreams and hope for the young couple.

River Fact:  In the song, the young couple marries and join as one.  The Middle Oconee and North Oconee River join as one to form the Oconee River south of Athens, just before Oconee County.

#3.  “Take Me to the River,” Talking Heads

Flowing back to the idea that memories make a song special, I turn to The Talking Heads, “Take Me to the River.”  When my son was three, Schlotzsky’s was a go-to stop for lunch.  This song came over the speakers and Dylan began to sing the chorus:  “Take me to the river, drop me in the wa-wee”.  Even though David Byrne clearly says “water,” my little guy could not pronounce “water” and loudly sang away with the carefree spirit of a child.  As an added bonus, the restaurant had a Big Mouth Billy Bass on the wall.  Dylan would push the button for the fish to sing along.  The song still puts a smile on my face, whether it is Dylan, David, or Billy singing.

River Fact:  The Middle Oconee and North Oconee headwaters, or starting point, are found in Hall County.   The rivers flow 55-65 miles before joining to form the Oconee River.

#2.  “Burn On,” Randy Newman

The song immortalized the Cuyahoga River in lyrical art.  Randy Newman puts music to what was once a travesty.  Almost a dozen times, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught on fire.  Yes, water caught on fire.  The city treated the waterway as if it was an industrial sewer pipe.  The lowest life forms could not survive in the muck.  A fire on the river in 1969 attracted national attention, later sparking the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972.  Today, the Cuyahoga River is a source of pride.  Cleveland coordinates clean up efforts that have resulted in a habitat for more than 60 species of fish, beavers, and birds.

River Fact:  Every year, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful organizes a river clean up for the Middle and North Oconee Rivers.  In 2017, 405 Rivers Alive volunteers came out to help clean up 21 sites. They collected 3.1 tons of trash, 1 ton of recycling, 1,440 lbs of metal, and 150 tires during the event!   Volunteer for the next Rivers Alive this fall.

#1.  “Down the River,” Chris Knight

I believe the secret to an exceptional song is the ability to tell a complete story in about five minutes.  “Down the River” accomplishes this with such beauty and subtle intensity,  the final verse still gives me a case of goosebumps and earns my Number 1 spot for Best River Song.  Close the door, turn off the phone ringer, and give the tale an uninterrupted listen.  Then you will understand why I have no doubt Wilson’s cousin will forever be looking over his shoulder.  Unfortunately for him, his alertness and caution cannot save him.  He will never see Walter’s brother coming.

River Fact:  In addition to supplying Athens with drinking water, the North Oconee and Middle Oconee Rivers are home to White Bass, Black Bass, Crappie, Bream, and Catfish.  Maybe these were a few of the fish Walter caught before falling over the boat’s side.

I hope the songs inspire you to visit a local river.  Not sure how to get to the river?  Check out the following options.

Visit the North Oconee River:  Walk along the Oconee Rivers Greenway.  Take a tour of the Greenway while listening to a podcast about the river.  Bring a picnic lunch and visit Dudley Park.

Visit the Middle Oconee River:  Go fishing at Ben Burton Park.  Float down your drinking water source on a kayak.  Walk along the White or Orange Trials a the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Share photos of yourself visiting the river with us on Facebook or Instagram, #LilyAnnePhibian.  Stay Blue, Athens!

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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.

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.

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

New Water Type Pokémon Have Evolved! Catch ’em All!

promolabel_blue_lookI am one of the millions of people choosing to live in augmented reality. I downloaded Pokémon GO. While racking up steps to hatch an egg (Really? Another Pidgey?!?), my mind wandered to what the world would be like if Pokémon were real. How could we put them to good use? Instead of battling other Pokémon , could they battle real world problems?
Clean water and the lack thereof is a real problem everyone on the planet either faces or may face in the future. Practicing water-efficiency is an action we can all take to prolong our local water supplies. Imagine if Pokémon could be used to protect the future of our water. With just a few carefully trained water type Pokémon , they could evolve to earn the WaterSense badge and become shining examples of water efficiency.

Here are four Pokémon I believe would be perfect for such evolution.

Mega Blastoise
WSBlastoise-MegaYes, this is the final form of Squirtle after a Mega Evolution, but let’s take this guy even further. With mighty water cannons on each arm and a giant cannon on its back, it is the perfect Pokémon for irrigating the yard. An average of 50% of water used for watering yards and gardens is lost to evaporation. Not with this WaterSense labeled Pokémon. The Mega Blastoise’s cannons are extremely accurate. Use this Pokémon to deliver water evenly to your landscape with a constant flow rate. Remember, he only comes out between 4:00PM – 10:00AM, the best times to water your yard for less evaporation. Mega Blastoise won’t back down to the extreme Solar Powers of the sun or of Mega Charizard! See for yourself:

Octillery
Install one of these in every bathroom in your house. The need to remember to turn off the water whenwsOctillery_Dream brushing your teeth becomes a thing of the past with a handy Octillery. It can use one of its eight tentacles to shut it off for you. And that’s not all it can do. Use Octillery’s ink spurting ability to help you test your toilets for leaks. Put a little ink in the back of the toilet tank. Wait about ten minutes, then check the bowl to see if any ink seeped into the toilet bowl. If it did, you and Octillery found a leak. Put the powerful yellow suction cups on this WaterSense Pokémon to work and to help check, twist, and replace any leaks you find. Octillery’s ability to save and protect our water will amaze you:

Golduck
Evolve this Pokémon and use its psychic powers to turn on and off your sprinkler system. Golduck uses wsGolduck_Dreamthe weather in your area to decide if the sprinkler should be on, just like a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller. When you see the red gem on its forehead start to glow, don’t get worried. This simply means it is sensing the amount of moisture in the soil. If the soil is moist, the sprinkler is off. Another great benefit to evolving this Pokémon to WaterSense status is it can act as a rain sensor. No more will you suffer the embarrassment of being “that neighbor” by having your sprinklers going while it is raining out. See the transformation happen before your own eyes…

 

Vaporeon
Certainly everyone has captured an Eevee or two. Expose one to a Water Stone and it evolves into a wsVaporeonVaporeon. Another name used for it on the trademark filings is “Showers,” making this the perfect Pokémon to evolve into a WaterSense Pokémon. If you are hyped about Vaporeon, bring it into the shower with you. Attach it to your traditional showerhead and it will slow the flow of your showerhead from 2.5 gallons per minute to 1.5 gallons a minute. The best part is, you won’t even notice a difference in the water pressure or spray coverage; that is how all WaterSense labeled showerheads earn their prestigious label. Check out how excited Pokémon Trainers get when they find a Vaporeon, a Pokémon capable of uniting us all in the quest for clean water:

So these are a few Pokémon I would use to make the world a better place.  How would you have them evolve?

Summer DIY: Water Edition

Summer DIY: Water Edition

This week’s blog post was written by Camilla Sherman, Water Conservation Office intern and avid DIYer.

Do it yourself, DIY for short, is a phrase many arts-and-crafters love. The term DIY can be found littered throughout Pinterest and can act as a call to action for crafters who want to take on a new task. However, you do not have to be artistic or even creating a craft to DIY!

Water is the basis of life on earth, the basis for most man-made materials, and can be the basis for all types of DIY projects. I am going to share a few water based DIY activities for the summer that will help you realize how cool and important water truly is while having fun. By the end of this blog post, you will be ready to become a water DIY extraordinaire!

To start out our water DIY journey, here is an easy and fun craft for kids. You can make a washable Sidewalk Chalk Paint for your kids to enjoy this summer.

SidewalkChalkPaintRecipeALittlePinchofPerfectsquare2copy

Materials:

  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/2 Cup cornstarch
  • Food Coloring
  • Containers for your paint (Could use an old SunnyD bottle)

Step 1: Mix all the ingredients in the container.

Aaaaand that’s it! You now have a self-made washable sidewalk paint for your kids to play with this summer.

To go along with playing outside this summer, you may want to make a Mosquito Repellant Mason Jar to keep those pesky insects from ruining the fun.

mason_jar_mosquito_repellant

Materials:

  • 1-2 Lemon Wedges
  • 1-2 Lime Wedges
  • A couple sprigs of Rosemary
  • Water (fill remainder of jar with water)
  • Active Ingredient: Lemon Eucalyptus oil (7-10 drops)
  • Floating Tea Candles

Step 1: Mix all of the ingredients in the mason jar.

Step 2: Top off the mixture with the floating tea candle and light it.

Let this sit outside in the area you plan to use for a few minutes beforehand and then enjoy your mosquito-free and fragrant space.

For those of you that have always wanted to be artistic but felt you lacked the talent, here is a fun and easy art project. Make your own Marble Mug with water and nail polish to pass the time or give as gifts this summer!

water marble mugs-1

Materials:

  • Disposable container
  • Nail polish
  • Wood coffee stirrer or toothpick
  • Mug
  • Sponge brush
  • Glossy acrylic sealer

Step 1: Fill the disposable container with warm water. Drip nail polish into container and allow pockets to form.

Step 2: Quickly use stirrer to expand the pockets of nail polish. step-2 for marble mug

Step 3: Dip your mug in a circular motion to allow the nail polish to paint the mug.

Step 4: Let dry. Then add a glossy acrylic sealer with a sponge brush just over the design. You might need to add more layers of sealer, depending on your design. Be sure to let dry between applications.

Tip: Hand wash this mug with mild soap and warm water because it is no longer dishwasher safe.

For those of you who love science, this Salt Water Etching technique is perfect for you! You can use this technique on your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated in style this summer.

saltwateretchingtechnique

Materials:

  • Stainless steel or aluminum water bottle
  • Pattern to be etched (Can be made from vinyl, a stencil, or even duct tape)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 9V battery
  • Q-tips
  • 2 wires with alligator clips

metal-etching-process-3-of-6Step 1: Pick your design to etch onto your water bottle and adhere it to the bottle.

Step 2: Mix 1/2 c. of water with the 1/2 t. salt in a jar and stir.
Add a bunch of Q-tips to the jar.

Step 3: Hook one wire from the positive terminal of the battery to the metal of the water bottle.

metal-etching-process-5-of-6Step 4: Hook the other wire from the negative terminal of the battery to the wet end of one of the Q-tips. The clip has to be on the wet part of the Q-tip.

Step 5: Place the Q-tip on the bottle where you want the design to appear.  Move the Q-tip around to dab the entire area. The top of the Q-tip will become discolored as metal is transferred from the bottle to the Q-tip. So replace the Q-tip often.

Step 6: Try to cover the area evenly.  When you think it is done, dry off the design and remove the stencil.  Wash the outside of the bottle to remove any remaining liquid.

You just customized your reusable water bottle yourself to create a work of art!

My favorite find for water DIYs is the Edible Water Bottle. To make your very own water-droplet-resembling edible water bottle you will need a few things that you might not normally have lying around the house.

edible water bottle

Materials:

  • 1 g of sodium alginate (a natural substance derived from brown seaweed)
  • 5 g of food-grade calcium lactate (a type of salt that can be found commonly in cheese and gum)
  • A bowl filled with 1 cup of drinking water
  • A bowl filled with 4 cups of water
  • A bowl filled with water for rinsing off the “bottles”
  • An immersion blender (you could also use a regular blender)
  • A deep spoon like a measuring spoon

STEP 1: Add 1 g of sodium alginate to 1 cup of water. Then use an immersion blender to dissolve the sodium alginate. Once dissolved, set the mixture aside and let sit to allow any air bubbles to rise up and out.

STEP 2: Add 5 g of calcium lactate to 4 cups of water and mix well using a spoon.

STEP 3: Scoop up some of your sodium alginate solution using a deep spoon. Very carefully plop the sodium alginate into the calcium lactate bath. Repeat with the remaining sodium alginate but do not crowd the bath.

STEP 4: Stir the sodium alginate bubbles very gently for 3 minutes.

STEP 5: After 3 minutes, remove the “bottles” from the calcium lactate bath using a slotted spoon and transfer them to a water bath to stop the reaction.

Congratulations! You just made a zero waste water “bottle” that you can eat. How cool is that?

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.

 

Water Conservation for Every Season

This week’s blog post is written by Caroline Cummings, WCO intern and someone who’s not sure how to dress for 30-degree mornings and 65-degree afternoons.

The transition from winter to spring in the southeast is always…interesting. The weather is unpredictable to say the least, considering this time two weeks ago it was heavily snowing yet last week it was in the 70s. In Athens, we are “blessed” with the opportunity to experience all seasons in a short amount of time—in as little as two weeks if we’re “lucky.” It can be hard to keep up with all these fluctuations, so here are some tips on how to conserve and appreciate water in every season!

Winter-

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  • Winterize your outdoor pipes: wrap in insulation to keep outdoor pipes from bursting when temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Drip faucets: this may seem counter-intuitive, but by keeping faucets lightly dripping through the coldest hours, you can prevent bursting of pipes which can waste up to TWO bathtubs full of water!
  • Insulate hot water pipes: this will help keep pipes warmer and allow showers and sinks to produce hot water faster, saving many gallons of water. This will also help winterize these pipes and prevent bursts.
  • PLAY in the snow!

Spring-

Jamie Calkin crop final_thumb

Jamie Calkin. 2012 ACC WCO Roll Out the Barrels

  • Prioritize outdoor watering needs: take time to figure out which areas of your yard (depending on what is planted there) will need the most watering. Focus your water usage on these areas and let natural rainfall take care of the rest!
  • Weed gardens: as weed populations begin to grow with the rain and warmer weather of spring, make sure to manage them by weeding your gardens. This will prevent the weeds from stealing water away from your other plants.
  • Capture and recycle rainwater: using rain barrels (can be bought at Walmart, Home Depot, Amazon, etc): capture all the excess rain to use for future plant watering or car washes.
  • Use your creativity to decorate your rain barrel: they aren’t just functional pieces of equipment, but artwork for your home!

Summer-

  • Wait until the cooler hours to water lawn: to prevent water loss from evaporation, water your lawns and gardens during the cooler morning hours. This will also help prevent fungal g5b9085241875855d969a8b0be49ebfd7rowth that may occur at dusk and throughout the night.
  • Drink from reusable bottle: we are bound to get thirsty in the hotter months. Every time you use a reusable bottle, you can help save the 3 liters of water that it takes to make a 1 liter disposable bottle.
  • Use a soaker hose/sprinkler wand instead of standard hose: particular hose attachments can help distribute water more efficiently and help prevent loss from mist, runoff, and evaporation.
  •  Go swimming, rafting or kayaking: get outdoors and cool off with some fun water-related activities!

Fall-

  • Be aware of plant water needs: as the temperatures begin to drop, the water needs of your plants drop with them.
  • Do laundry only when the load is full: as you start to wear more layers, be sure to only do laundry when you have enough clothes to make a full load. One load requires around 30 gallons of water so make sure to use them wisely. anigif_enhanced-9469-1436632452-3
  • Sweep with a broom, not a hose: as the leaves begin to fall, keep your driveways and paths clear by using brooms to sweep up the leaves instead of spraying off with a hose.
  • Hike to nearby waterfalls and enjoy the view: check out this link! Georgia Waterfall Hikes