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The Oconee River in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, March 26, 2018. (Photo/Shubham Kadam)

In the United States, the average family can waste 180 gallons of water per week from household leaks, according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s enough water to do more than 300 loads of laundry.

Across the country, people are using water at almost every minute of the day — whether they're washing dishes, cooking, taking a hot shower, or just filling up a glass to drink — and water is being consumed constantly.

Although it may seem common, water is just like any other resource; it needs to be conserved.

The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Water Conservation Office is devoted to helping conserve water in Athens. Jackie Sherry, the program education specialist, works alongside Laurie Loftin, who serves as water conservation coordinator, to spread awareness about water conservation in the county.

“Together we work on efforts to conserve water here in Athens through a variety of avenues being K-12 education and adult education, community events, tours of facilities, really all-encompassing any education we can do and community outreach,” Sherry said.

In March of 2019, the ACC’s Water Conservation Office will be bringing back their Ripple Effect Film Project initiative. The project encourages Athens locals to submit short films, anywhere between 30-90 seconds, focused on preventing water leaks.

The main effort of the film project is to create awareness about where the water in Athens comes from, and how locals can take efforts to conserve water in their own way.

The event is held in conjunction with the EPA’s WaterSense annual Fix a Leak Week campaign that runs from March 18–24, 2019.

Veronica Blette, Chief of the WaterSense Branch at the EPA Office of Wastewater Management spoke on the mission of WaterSense.

“WaterSense is an EPA voluntary partnership program which seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people simple ways to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services,” said Blette. “The program helps consumers make smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance.”

The EPA’s Fix a Leak Week was started in 2009 and is designed to build awareness about water waste and easily fixable leaks.

“The average house wastes more than 10,000 gallons per year through leaks and WaterSense encourages homeowners to check-twist-replace those leaky fixtures during the annual Fix a Leak Week,” Blette said.

WaterSense partners with local organizations and government from across the country that host events to help spread awareness. The Water Conservation Office decided to create their initiative using the medium of film.

“It was something different that we hadn't done, specifically getting into films,” Sherry said. “We were curious of being able to solicit some films that we could use through the year in marketing and social media, as a way to engage the community to create these announcements and PSAs about conserving water and about fixing leaks.”

Anyone with connections to the Athens area is eligible to submit a film for the contest.

“Here in Athens we get a wide range,” Sherry said. “We get some professional adult ones, we get some elementary age and then we get some college.”

The criteria and categories for the films are decided after the entries have been received. Film submissions are due by Jan. 25, 2019, and the final awards ceremony, the “Ripple Effect Blue Carpet Premiere,” will be held at the Morton Theatre on March 23. Winners can be awarded up to $1,000 in prizes, including $500 for “Best in Festival," a Classic City water meter trophy and may be shown on ACTV Government Access Channel.

“Our water sources here in Athens are the rivers — the Middle Oconee River, the North Oconee River, [and] the Bear Creek Reservoir,” Sherry said. “Educating people and making them aware of the water that they drive over on the bridge, or float down, or see at the park, that's actually their drinking water and having that connection to your water resources and the water that’s coming out of your taps. The more you are aware of it, the more you appreciate it, the more you’ll take care of it.”

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