Reader Profile: Marilyn Hall

June 1, 2018

“HOW OFTEN DOES a water conservation manager get to throw a wedding to demonstrate how you can save water at a big event?” asks Marilyn Hall, AICP, ENV SP. Hall, the water conservation coordinator for the public utility department of Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, GA, did just that two years ago, promoting water efficiency efforts throughout her wedding and reception and blogging about it for Bride 2 Be magazine. Every detail aimed to save water.

The wedding and reception were held at a Certified Blue business (a program in which water assessments are conducted at restaurants and bars, with the business owners given aerators and pre-rinse spray bottles in exchange for educating staff and customers). Hall recommended guests stay at a hotel within walking distance. Vegetarian food was served. Hall wore a thrift store wedding dress, citing the textile industry’s water use. The only cut flowers were in her bouquet. Recycled paper products were used to avoid dish-washing. Decorations and tablecloths were given by friends for reuse at the wedding. “Driving less and consuming fewer resources is a global water conservation effort,” notes Hall. There were no wedding favors, which Hall calls “little trinkets people throw away” that take a lot of water and electricity to make in the manufacturing and shipping process.

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The county’s water conservation efforts have earned two EPA WaterSense Promotional Partner of the Year Awards for such efforts as the Certified Blue restaurant conservation program and the annual Athens Water Festival in which participants earned free T-shirts by finding the WaterSense logo hidden in different locations, resulting in a 72% increase in the logo’s brand awareness. The Little Lily’s Pad Hop Project promoted education and fun activities at local schools. Froggie Care Packages containing Fix a Leak bookmarks and other WaterSense goodies were distributed to students in 21 elementary school classrooms, reaching more than 1,000 families. The utility developed a partnership with a local cleaning service cooperative, teaching its staff to locate leaks, look for the WaterSense label, provide household water assessments, and distribute free aerators and showerheads for its customers.

What She Does Day to Day
Hall’s duties range from visiting people’s homes to identify leaks leading to high water bills to managing special projects, such as a solar array installation at one of the county’s wastewater plants and initiating a reuse program. Hall also does drought response, outreach, and public information efforts.

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What Led Her to This Line of Work
Hall earned a B.A. in economics from Northwestern University, did graduate work in urban and regional planning at the University of Iowa, and transferred to Georgia Institute of Technology, where she earned a Masters’ degree in city planning, focusing on environmental planning. Hall did consulting work in comprehensive plans, stormwater planning, and rate and cost of service studies for water and sewer utilities. The recession negatively impacted her consulting work, leading her to accept the Athens-Clarke County water conservation job.

What She Likes Best About Her Work
Hall enjoys everything, including participating in a large community event, managing the watershed protection plan, or doing a stream walk. “It’s important for me to be part of the community and help people out,” she says.

Her Biggest Challenge Water supply and water resources planning are the biggest challenges. A wake-up call came during the area’s 2007 to 2008 drought, when “we were down to a 30-day water supply in our reservoir,” with that being the biggest drought on record as they get “worse and worse,” notes Hall. “We’re at the very top of the watershed and 100% dependent on two rivers and a reservoir. The reservoir is set off of one of those rivers. It’s a pump storage system, so we really need to think ahead.” Residential per capita water use is less than 45 gallons a day and while those conservation efforts are encouraging to Hall, “when we project out over the next 50 years, we need more water.” A reuse system is in its implementation stages with a feasibility study and hydrological models. “We could probably get an extra 4 to 6 million gallons a day of high-quality treated effluent with an eye towards potable reuse in the very long term,” says Hall.
About the Author

Carol Brzozowski

Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to resource management and technology.

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