Most of Georgia depends heavily on stormwater runoff to replenish our water supply. Water suppliers do an excellent job cleaning the water before we use it, but the dirtier our rivers, lakes and streams are the harder and more costly it is to treat the water for all us to use. According to the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, in metro Atlanta we use approximately 600 million gallons of water every day. Nearly all this water (99 percent) comes from surface water sources, the vast majority from Chattahoochee River/Lake Lanier and the Etowah River/Lake Altoona, which combined provide more than 80 percent of the region’s total water supply. We are located near the headwaters of our rivers and streams, which means they are relatively small.
There are a number of water efficiency measures that are easily implemented and of little or no upfront cost to the school, resulting in substantial savings (typically a 25% ‐ 75% reduction of municipal water use). Schools can take the first step by switching out the aerators on faucets to increase the air mixture and reduce the water flow. The next step is reducing the water use in toilets and urinals by replacing the flush valves or installing a conversion kit for tank type toilets. Another essential first step is to check your water system for any leaks (faucets, hoses, pipes, sinks and toilets) and make any necessary repairs.
According to the EPA’s WaterSense website, as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems. The first step should be an analysis of your plantings to see if irrigation can be reduced or eliminated as they mature. Water requirements of new plantings should be considered as most native plantings do not require any additional watering once mature.
Grass is one of the largest consumers of water in a landscape but essential for children’s recreation and sports, so careful evaluation of the irrigation system should be made on an annual basis. Every year advances are made in irrigation technology focused on water efficiency. Replacing sprinkler heads is a low cost (quick ROI) way to ensure you have a water efficient irrigation system.
Storm Water Reuse
The number one water quality issue in Georgia is from nonpoint source pollution. The pollution comes from erosion and sediment; fertilizers and pesticides; animal wastes; runoff from roads and parking lots; illicit spills and illegal dumping; and leaking septic systems. The hardest part is that there is no easily identifiable source and everyone contributes.
You can do your part by effectively managing the storm water on your property. This includes simple steps by looking at the storm water runoff on your site to ensure silt is not entering the storm sewer system to reusing storm water. Storm water reuse can be as simple as a rain barrel used to water a garden to a complex treatment system that treats storm water for use in cooling towers. Cooling towers use millions of gallons per year and Georgia has some of the highest water rates in the country. There are very good systems that treat stormwater to a quality that can offset this water use often with ROI’s of less than 3 years. Are you paying sewer fees on the water that is going into your cooling tower? Most municipalities offer a sewer fee credit on cooling tower makeup water, and sewer fees are typically double the rate of water fees! Careful integration of your water systems, including storm water, can drastically reduce your water use.
Water Facts: http://www.conservewatergeorgia.net/
3 million people depend on the water from Lake Lanier or direct releases from Buford Dam.
The average Georgian uses 100 gallons of water each day.
Historically, Georgia experiences a drought that lasts 3 years or more every 40 years.
The River Basin Management Planning program in Georgia provides a framework for addressing each of the key issues: (1) the control of toxic substances, (2) the reduction of nonpoint source pollution, (3) the need to increase public involvement in water quality improvement projects, and (4) a sustainable supply of potable water.
 Nonpoint Source Pollution: The Nation's Largest Water Quality Problem, EPA, <http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/outreach/point1.cfm> (22 August 2012)
Complete a School Water Audit through the EcoSchools form and present the findings to the leadership of the school. The presentation should include water consumption indoors and outdoors as well as no and low cost suggestions for improving the water efficiency of the school.
Water Conservation Strategies for Schools, USGBC GA is a list of options to reduce water consumption locally developed for schools, some are no- or low-cost strategies.
My Drop Counts includes links and activities based on water issues in Metro Atlanta and around the state of Georgia, includes water use calculator for home usage and links to lesson plans that are aligned with Georgia Standards.
Project WET is Water Education for K-12 Teachers! Their goal is to promote awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of water resources through classroom-ready teaching materials and educator workshops.
Rivers Alive is a program to help you find ways to organize river cleanups in your area. Through this website, you can locate a cleanup, organize a cleanup and share your results. There are also education resources for the classroom and the community.
Water Sense for Kids is an EPA site that has activities for kids and information for teachers about how water can be saved at home.
Greenshortz has videos about energy, water and recycling that are produced in Georgia.
Winning Water: The Children’s Water Festival Trailer through Keep Georgia Beautiful has information on the children’s water festival trailer used to educate students (around the age of fourth grade) about ground, drinking, surface water (watersheds) and water quality in a fun hands-on atmosphere. The trailer with activity supplies can be loaned out for special events.
Watershed Education from Athens-Clark County Stormwater offers a number of activities and presentations to classrooms, educators, after school groups, scout troops, and clubs.
The Clean Water Campaign is a collaborative public education initiative that brings together local, state and federal government agencies, environmental and community groups and corporate partners who all share the common vision of protecting water quality in metro Atlanta. The mission of the Clean Water Campaign is to educate the general public about the sources of water pollution due to stormwater runoff, and its negative effects on our water supply, recreational opportunities, aquatic ecosystems and quality of life. The site includes brochure “Here’s the Scoop” and “Rain Gardens for Home Landscapes”
Water bottle filling stations can be installed as an addition to retrofit an existing water fountain or as part of a new system. This can be done as part of a campaign and give out water bottles to use.
Water Conservation at Home is part of Improvenet.com and shares information on home improvements. The Water Conservation information includes the why and how information as well as additional activities. This resource was contributed by Mary, 3rd Grade.
Water Use it Wisely for Kids is an Arizona based water program with games and lesson plans to encourage conservative use of water.
The Water Institute is a California based water program that does presentations on the importance of water and rehydration.
We can help you get started on projects and connect you with LEED subject matter experts in your area. If you have additional resources that you think should be added, we would love to hear from you.
Contact Suzanne Haerther at email@example.com or 404-431-5213.