Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department First Utility to Win U.S. EPA Sustained Excellence Award

ARTICLE | Oct 11, 2017

The Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department's Water Conservation Office (WCO) was awarded the Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its major contributions to WaterSense and water efficiency. The WCO was recognized at the 2017 WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas for helping Americans to save water, energy, and money. Athens-Clarke County is the first utility to win the Sustained Excellence Award. Previous winners include Home Depot, Kohler, Lowes, and KB Homes. The utility previously earned 2013 and 2016 WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year Awards and the 2014 WaterSense Excellence in Education & Outreach.

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by the EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering consumers and businesses simple ways to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services. In 2016, the WCO educated their customers through a total of 126 interactive programs, including school visits, camps, local events, tours, festivals, and workshops, reaching nearly 9,000 children and adults.

“Athens-Clarke County recognizes that one of the keys to having a healthy, livable, and sustainable community is protecting our water resources,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson. “We are committed to water efficiency. WaterSense plays an important role in helping our residents and businesses be as efficient as possible.”

Throughout the school year, WCO's Little Lily Pad Hop Project educated Clarke County School District students and families about water efficiency and WaterSense. Little Lily reached 1,283 families in 2016 and a follow-up survey showed that parents’ familiarity with WaterSense increased significantly.

To support Fix a Leak Week, the department partnered with a local hospital and replaced showerheads with WaterSense labeled models. During the premiere for the WCO’s annual Ripple Effect Film Project, audience members learned about leaks and won WaterSense labeled prizes. WCO also designed custom popcorn bags and coloring pages featuring WaterSense for local movie theaters and restaurants in its Certified Blue water conservation program. The WCO tapped into the Pokémon Go craze to promote WaterSense, holding a scavenger hunt for WaterSense logos at their annual Athens Water Festival. The festival later received coverage in Treatment Plant Operator magazine, extending WaterSense label promotion to a national audience.

Over the past decade, the County’s Water Conservation Office and nearly 2,000 other WaterSense partners have helped consumers save more than 2.1 trillion gallons of water; more than the amount used by all U.S. households for 75 days. In addition to water savings, WaterSense labeled products and homes have helped reduce the amount of energy needed to heat, pump, and treat water by 284 billion kilowatt hours—enough to power more than 26.3 million homes for a year—and save $46.3 billion in water and energy bills.

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