BY BRITTNEY CAIN
When the Athens Community Council on Aging sensed its Hoyt Street building was wasting water, it decided to take action with the Athens Water Conservation Office.
After they reviewed and inspected the building, experts from the Water Conservation Office knew a solution for their problem.
The Council on Aging retrofitted 10 toilets, which cut their water bill in half.
For their ability to save water and attract citizen attention, the Council on Aging won the 2012 Fix-a-Leak week competition, awarded annually by the Water Conservation Office.
The Council on Aging is similar to organizations across Athens who strives to save water daily, and officials offer a solution.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that household water leaks waste nearly one trillion gallons of water each year.
In hopes of educating citizens about wasted water, they organize Fix-a-Leak weeks in cities across the United States.
These selected cities across the U.S. sponsor educational events and leak-fixing efforts. In the North Georgia area, local governments within Districts planned a Water Drop Dash 5K race and Water Festival. The festival features water conservation education and related activities.
Athens, the EPA noted, runs alongside the best cities and organizations partnering with the WaterSense program. The WaterSense program encourages water efficiency across the U.S. through the use of a special label on consumer products.
In 2012, the EPA congratulated Athens for its outstanding approach to fixing leaks with “helping hands” by partnering with the University of Georgia.
“Volunteers from student organizations at UGA performed water conservation audits at local businesses, showed residents how to audit their own homes and distributed free water saving devices,” the EPA stated in regard to the 2012 partnership.
Currently, the 2014 Fix a leak week is in the process of receiving nominations.
Last year, there were nearly seven to eight applications. This year, they received two to three.
The Athens Community Council on Aging remains one of the biggest success stories with the Fix-a-Leak week program.
Toilets persist as the main source of water use in homes and account for nearly 30 percent of the average home’s water consumption.
Older toilets use as much as six gallons per flush, while WaterSense toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush or less.
By replacing the inefficient toilets with WaterSense models, the average family can reduce water usage for toilets by 20 to 60 percent, saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water every year and more than $110 per year in cost.
In comparison to households, the Council on Aging replaced a total of 10 toilets, which cut back on their water cost tremendously.
The Athens Community Council on Aging stood as a perfect candidate in 2012 for the Fix-a-Leak week project due to its massive size and the media attention that it would gain.
Marilyn Hall, Coordinator at the Water Conservation Office, said that everyone reaps the benefits, not just the official winner.
“Runner-ups also get water assessments. The Water Conservation Office visits their facilities, checks for leaks and offers them water saving advices,” Marilyn Hall stated in regards to the remaining nominees.
Although the Water Conservation Office does not directly fix their leaks, the assessment and advice serves as a starting point in conserving water.
“Our Daily Bread” Soup Kitchen was one of these runner-ups in 2013.
They installed a new pre-rinse spray valve, which helped conserve water when spraying down dirty dishes. The advice given by the Water Conservation Office stated that the kitchen spray valve continues as a major water waster.
Organizational kitchens that switch to WaterSense labeled pre-rinse spray valves can save more than $115 yearly in water and energy costs.
Action Ministries was the 2013 retrofit winner during the Fix a leak week.
As a part of their winnings, they received a Water Sense toilet and a new kitchen faucet, which expected to cut the cost of their water bill.
According to Erin Barger, Executive Director of Action Ministries, they are grateful for the support of the Water Conservation group, but unfortunately their facility burned down in April 2013 shortly after installation. They were not able to see the benefits from the project.