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Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz poses for a portrait in the Commission Chamber in City Hall in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Mayor Girtz sat down with The Red & Black for an interview a few months into his term. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

In the heart of University of Florida territory, Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville, Florida donned UGA spirit wear and unenthusiastically shouted “Go Bulldogs” in front of a camera on May 29. 

Poe’s seeming betrayal came on the heels of losing a bet with Athens mayor Kelly Girtz. The two mayors challenged each other to see which city could conserve the most water in the 2019 Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. For cities with 100,000-299,999 citizens, Athens placed first and Gainesville placed sixth.

Every April since 2012, The Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with the support of companies and government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water, host this competition to save water and educate citizens about water consumption. This year, mayors from 35 states participated in the challenge.

The ACC Water Conservation Office promoted the competition to locals to raise awareness about water consumption and improve “drought resiliency and water quality.”

Residents and organizations of winning cities will have their names in a drawing to win various “eco-friendly and water-saving products” from the supporting companies, such as home irrigation equipment and a water fixture makeover for a local school.

While citizens of Gainesville pledged to save approximately 24 million gallons of water, citizens of Athens pledged to save 73.2 million gallons of water over the next year and to do other preventative measures, such as reducing runoff and fixing water leaks in homes.

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