By Greg Gelpi
Water is a precious resource. But while the county's population grows, the amount of water remains the same.
Through foresight and planning, Clayton County has prepared its water resources and continues to adapt and design ways to keep clean water in the county, Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Crandle Bray said.
"Water is our most critical resource," Bray said to students at Adamson Middle Wednesday. "You are our future, and you are the conservation of our future."
And the responsibility of caring for the future is in the hands of both children and adults, Bill Greene, the head of the county's social studies classes, said.
"The world was not given to you by your parents," Greene said. "It was loaned to you by your children."
The county adapts through innovative projects and educating its youth.
"If we do nothing to help the earth, the earth will do nothing to help us," eighth-grader Amanda Watson wrote in an essay.
Watson, a student at Adamson Middle, wrote the winning essay in the Clean Water Campaign/WaterSmart environmental essay contest. Her essay was chosen as the best in the county.
One innovative water reuse project the county is employing is conservation wetlands.
Filtering water through a series of man-made ponds, the Clayton County Water Authority uses nature and gravity as one means to clean its water, conservation wetlands Coordinator Alice Cook said. Water is treated at a plant and pumped to the top of the conservation wetlands on Panhandle Road in southern Clayton County.
Plants in the ponds attract microbiological organisms that clean the water, she said. Gravity pulls the water through the system of ponds until it reaches the bottom. The water is pumped to the county's reservoir, where it is stored for future use.
About 2 million gallons of water flows through the 56 acres of conservation wetlands, Cook said, adding that more wetlands will be created at another of the water authority's sites.
Along with the wetland method, the county uses spray irrigation, letting water seep through soil after being sprayed by an irrigation system.
Unlike most counties in the state, all of Clayton's water comes from within the county, Bray said, adding that he remembers when the county had 40,000 residents. Since then, the county has grown to about 250,000, yet the amount of water remains the same.
The county also gets drinking water out of the Flint River.
"Be careful what you flush because it comes back to you," Bray said.
The county reuses water, he said. The Clayton County Water Authority recycles waste water and pulls water from area creeks as well. This means that rain water and runoff washes fertilizers, pesticides and other substances into waterways.
"All of it washes into the creeks, and the creek water is what you drink," Bray said. "It behooves you to take care of it."
Watson advised repairing leaks, composting vegetable waste and using mulch around plants and gardens, she said in her essay.
"Life seems so easy," Watson wrote. "Most people in the general public are not aware of the ongoing shortage of Clean Water."
This was the second year for the essay contest. More than 250 students participated, almost double last year's participation.