Thursday, August 16, 2018

BLOG: What are PFAS?

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

PFAS: You've seen them in the news, on social media, and all around the water world as of late. So let's dig in and try to understand this emerging groundwater contaminant.

What are they?
According to the National Ground Water Association, PFAS refers to per- and poly-fluoralkyl substances. In layman's terms, they're a group of man-made chemicals that have been around since the 1940s, but recently have been discovered in water supplies. They're used in many ways - in firefighting, stain resistance, water repellants, and other industrial uses.

There are literally thousands of chemicals in the PFAS family. These chemicals were extensively manufactured, but were phased out in the early 2000s in the U.S. and Europe. Current manufacturing processes minimize potential adverse effects.

Source: EPA
Why are they in the environment?
PFAS are durable and have a long half-life, which means they can accumulate in the environment and in our bodies. Even though they are no longer manufactured in the U.S., items that may contain these chemicals are still imported. They may also still be present in landfills that have been receiving waste since the 1950s and in facilities that use aqueous film forming foams (AFFF). AFFF are used to fight fires and basically act as a blanket to coat and suppress the fire.

Source: EPA
Why are they a problem?
Since PFAS have been in widespread use, most Americans have had some exposure to them, through water, food, inhalation, using products that contain PFAS, or working in manufacturing facilities that use these chemicals.

Because there are thousands of chemicals classified as PFAS, the health impacts are still unclear. However, studies of some of these chemicals have found associations between PFAS exposure and health problems such as liver and kidney damage, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, certain types of cancer, decreased response to vaccines, and increased risks of thyroid disease, fertility issues, and asthma.

What's being done?
If you have a private well and are concerned about PFAS contamination, you'll need to use specific testing labs that have this testing capability. Find out more.

Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA started the process to evaluate a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFAS chemicals in public drinking water supplies. The agency is also looking at cleanup recommendations and working with partners to address PFAS. EPA is currently holding public meetings across the U.S. to talk about how it's addressing PFAS contamination.

How can I find out more?
The National Ground Water Association ( has developed a variety of resources to help understand PFAS and what they mean for you. Find their PFAS Resource Center at You can also find information from EPA at

Information in this blog was adapted from NGWA's PFAS FAQ document.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Frannie’s Adventure Downstream: Part 1}

Frannie and her friends need cool, clear streams to live in. A while ago, Frannie explored a local creek.  The story of her adventure is a good visual activity to learn how different sources of pollution can affect a clear stream and eventually make it unsuitable for wildlife such as fish.

For this activity, you will need:

A fishing lure to represent Frannie - one that looks like a fish, with hooks removed, preferably weighted or sinking lure that is colorful. Frannie is on a fishing line suspended in a gallon jug or fish bowl of clear water.

Gallon jar, fish bowl, or small fish aquarium

Gravel for the bottom of the bowl/aquarium (optional)

Pencil or ruler placed of the top of jar to hold Frannie suspended halfway in the jar under water

10 small containers or plastic bags to hold contaminants

1.     Sediment
Potting soil, sand and gravel mix
2.     Manure
Raisins, dry beans, chocolate-puff cereal
3.     Fertilizer
Green powdered drink mix
4.     Road Salt
5.     Litter
Torn paper and plastic bits
6.     Motor Oil
Vegetable oil
7.     Acid Rain
Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar tinted orange/pink
with food dye
8.     Leaking Storage
Film canister with a cracked lid filled with red/blue food dye and water
9.     Industrial Waste
Liquid dish/hand soap/lotion and nails/screws/bolts/
10. Pesticides
Baking soda or salt mixed with instant coffee or tea

One day, Frannie left her shady, cool pool and headed downstream on an adventure.

After a little while, Frannie noticed that the sun was shining and the stream was no longer as cool and dark. She looked out of the water and noticed that all the trees had been cut down and sediment from the banks was washing into the water.

Add the first item to the bowl – sediment: Sprinkle some soil over the water and allow it to slowly settle over Frannie. 

“Oh no! Poor Frannie!”

After a while Frannie poked her nose out of the water and do you know what she saw? Big black and white animals coming down to visit her. Cows! As they walked in the water they stirred up mud and left some smelly “presents.”

Add the second item to the bowl – manure: Sprinkle some raisins or cereal and let them sink in the water.

“Oh no! Poor Frannie!”

Frannie continued to swim downstream and passed some cornfields, but was no longer feeling very well.

Add the third item to the bowl – fertilizer: Sprinkle in green powdered drink mix.

“Oh no! Poor Frannie!”

Frannie wasn’t ready to go home and continued to swim downstream.

Check back to see how Frannie's adventure continues!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

BLOG: 4 Simple Ways to Start Saving Water At Home Today

by Sally Phillips, Freelance Writer

Water is a necessity for life. Our survival depends on the availability of water and our consideration of its usage - a factor that often slip our minds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average American family of four uses roughly 300 gallons of water a day, 70 percent of which is used indoors. Many of our daily tasks involve water; showering, cooking, gardening even ironing (steam irons). Growing concern over water usage has spurred interest in ways we can be  more efficient with our usage. Businesses and industries including agriculture and aquaculture are seeking ways to conserve water. But how can we save water at home?  Check out these simple ways you can implement at home to get behind the conserve water movement.

Practice Efficiency With Your Faucets
One of the simplest things we often do that leads to water wastage: leave our taps running. Leaving the water on while brushing our teeth or washing our dishes, or even just neglecting to fully turn off the tap can waste liters of water each year. When using your taps, get into the habit of just switching them on when needed. For example, keep the tap switched off while you brush your teeth and only turn it on to rinse. Switching the water off can save valuable water and dramatically decrease your water bills. Don’t hesitate to fix leaks and faulty fixtures, such as toilets. Leaky toilets can waste up to 20 liters of water each year.

Get Behind Re-purposing
There are some great innovative, yet simple, ways you can reuse water in your home. Simple tricks around the house such as installing a shower bucket and capturing and reusing your pasta water and water used to rinse fruits and vegetables can help reduce your water use and ensures maximum efficiency of the water you do end up using. A great idea for re-purposing and reusing water is to install a grey water recycling system which is typically connected to your home’s plumbing system and can save as much as 35 percent of the water that would otherwise be returned to the sewers.

Time Your Showers
A 10 minute shower uses an average of 25 liters of water while a bath can use between 35-50 liters each time. Turning off the shower while you lather up can save you hundreds each year in water costs. If you tend to lose track while showering, try setting a timer to keep you from losing track of time. The installation of a low-flow showerhead in your shower costs just a few dollars but can turn out to be one of the most effective tips for going green in your residence.

Upgrade Your Appliances
Regular daily-use appliances such as your washing machines and dishwashers are often major determinants of your household water usage. However, with the progression of technology and support of sustainability, there are now a magnitude of more efficient appliances available. When using, only run full loads of laundry or dishes or if you generally have smaller loads, consider installing a smaller model, certified by Energy Star. Opting for an Energy Star washer and dryer can save a household up to $370 over its lifetime. Energy efficient washers can use up to 33 percent less water than standard models.

When you are conserving water, you are not only conserving the Earth’s resources but also reducing your energy usage and in turn, your household bills. By using these simple water saving techniques around your home, you can see the result from the very first month. The future of the planet and your pockets will thank you.

Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years experience writing across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Water Drop Scavenger Hunt}

If you were a tiny raindrop on top of the roof of the Groundwater Foundation, how would you get to the ground?

It may not be obvious, but the answer is right in front of you.  Do you see that pipe on the left side of the picture?  The pipe allows water to drain off the roof of the building onto the ground below.

When we draw the water cycle, we often forget to include the rain that gets stuck on rooftops or in parking lots. But a tiny droplet will travel to many unexpected places.  Look at the picture below and see if you can find one way that a water drop can travel from the sky to the ground and back again.

  • Precipitation falls from the sky and can either get caught up in trees or rooftops or it might make it all the way to the ground.
  • From the roof or trees, a drop of water can evaporate or flow down into the drainage pipes and run off into a collection point.
  • Trees also are able to perform transpiration, which means that they can release water into the air through their leaves.
  • A lawn might have a sprinkler system to keep it green and fresh.
  • Any extra water that reaches the ground from precipitation or irrigation can either evaporate, run off into a collection point like a drainage system or body of water, or seep into the ground to restore soil moisture and recharge groundwater levels.

Now it’s your turn to try this at home! Take a picture somewhere in your community and try to find all the places where a water droplet could travel.  Bonus activity: on a rainy day, try following a water drop or two, or two hundred!  Good luck!