Wednesday, August 5, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {TAPS Manual Part 3: Leaky Underground Storage Tanks}

Frannie's friends at the Groundwater Foundation recently published the second edition of the Training About Protecting the Source (TAPS) Manual. The manual guides users through hands-on activities that explore potential threats to groundwater and challenges them to think about what can be done to protect this key drinking water source.

This manual can be used inside the classroom and is aligned to the national Next Generation Science Standards, but Frannie loves just learning about groundwater, no matter where she is. For the next few weeks, you can join her as she works through the different activities. 

Frannie will be using the Groundwater Foundation's Awesome Aquifer Kit, but if you don't have one, you can follow along with materials that might be found around your home. This is the second part of Frannie's exploration of the TAPS Manual. You can follow the link to see what she learned about improperly abandoned wells and the over-application of fertilizer.

Today's activity is....Leaky Underground Storage Tanks.
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An underground storage tank system (UST) is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. Underground storage tanks can contain fuels, chemicals, and wastes. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency there are over 550,000 underground storage tanks that store fuels or other hazardous substances. These tanks may leak and when they do, they can contaminate surrounding soil, groundwater, surface waters, and even affect indoor air quality.


For this activity, you will need:
  • Awesome Aquifer Kit, OR
    • Plastic box
    • Gravel
    • Plastic tube
    • Hand pump or Syringe
    • Nylon
    • Rubber band
    • Food dye
  • Small plastic container with lid (ex. a film cannister, sprinkles or spice container, etc.)
  • 16 oz cup of water
Activity Steps

1. Read through all the instructions first before you begin to build the model. Make sure you have all the needed materials and supplies.
 
2. Fill the plastic box with gravel until it is about ¼ full.
 
3. Add water so that half of the rocks are covered. (This will represent an aquifer.)
 
4. Create a well by covering the end of the plastic tube with nylon, securing it with a rubber band.
 
5. Insert the well, with the well screen on the bottom, near one corner of the plastic box. Push the well down so that it reaches the bottom of the model.
 
6. Add more gravel until the box is about ½-¾ full. The surface of the gravel should be fairly level across the box.
 
7. Dye about 1.5 oz of water with three or four drops of food coloring and use it to fill the plastic container. Seal the container when full.
   
8.Using a tack, carefully poke holes in one end of the film canister or container.
 
9. Dig a small hole in the gravel on the opposite side of the model from the well. Place the canister/container inside the hole. The end of the container with the holes poked in it should be facing down. Cover the container, either partially or entirely, as long as at least 10% of it is underground.
 
10. Pour water on the surface of the gravel to simulate rain. Observe what happens to the colored water inside the storage tank after it rained. 
 
11. Pump the well by inserting the tip of the syringe into the well (plastic tube) or attaching and pumping the hand pump.




Frannie observed that once the water "rained" over her aquifer, the red water, which was contained in the storage unit, leaked out into the aquifer below. As it rained more and more, even more leachate entered the aquifer. Very quickly, the whole aquifer becomes contaminated  and when Frannie tried to pump water up from the aquifer, it was pink from the contaminant. 

Storage tanks are a common and useful way of storing and disposing of toxic waste, but they must be monitored carefully to prevent contamination of our drinking water sources, crops, and livestock.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {TAPS Manual Part 2: Over-Application of Fertilizer}

Frannie's friends at the Groundwater Foundation recently published the second edition of the Training About Protecting the Source (TAPS) Manual. The manual guides users through hands-on activities that explore potential threats to groundwater and challenges them to think about what can be done to protect this key drinking water source.

This manual can be used inside the classroom and is aligned to the national Next Generation Science Standards, but Frannie loves just learning about groundwater, no matter where she is. For the next few weeks, you can join her as she works through the different activities. 

Frannie will be using the Groundwater Foundation's Awesome Aquifer Kit, but if you don't have one, you can follow along with materials that might be found around your home. This is the second part of Frannie's exploration of the TAPS Manual. You can follow the link to see what she learned about improperly abandoned wells.

Today's activity is....Over-Application of Fertilizer.
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Fertilizers promote plant growth and green lawns by helping plants meet their nutrient needs, primarily for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plants, however, are limited in the amount they can absorb and use. Fertilizers applied in excess can soak down into the groundwater or run off into surface water bodies. This pollution of surface and groundwater can impact our drinking water supplies.


For this activity, you will need:
  • Awesome Aquifer Kit, OR
    • Plastic box
    • Gravel
    • Plastic tube
    • Hand pump or Syringe
    • Nylon
    • Rubber band
  • 1 packet or 1 tablespoon of colored powdered drink mix (ex. Kool-Aid, Gatorade, etc)
  • 16 oz cup of water
Activity Steps


1. Read through all the instructions first before you begin to build the model. Make sure you have all the needed materials and supplies.
 
2. Fill the plastic box with gravel until it is about ¼ full.
 
3. Add water so that half of the rocks are covered. (This will represent an aquifer.)
 
4. Create a well by covering the end of the plastic tube with nylon, securing it with a rubber band.
 
5. Insert the well, with the well screen on the bottom, near one corner of the plastic box. Push the well down so that it reaches the bottom of the model.
 
6. Add more gravel until the box is about ½-¾ full. The surface of the gravel should be fairly level across the box.
 
7. Sprinkle ½ a packet, about 1 tablespoon, of powdered drink mix (i.e. Kool-Aid) 
on the surface of the gravel to simulate fertilizer.
 
   
8. Pour water on the surface of the gravel to simulate rain.
 
9. Make observations
 
10. Pump the well by inserting the tip of the syringe into the well (plastic tube) or attaching and pumping the hand pump.
 
11. Observe what happens to the fertilizer and water when the well is pumped.



Frannie observed that once the water "rained" over her aquifer, the colored drink mix, which represents fertilizer, quickly mixed with the recharge and infiltrated into the groundwater below. Very quickly, the whole aquifer was contaminated with the red drink mix. When she tried to pump groundwater out, Frannie wasn't able to get any clean water. 

Frannie knows that fertilizers help plants grow healthy and strong, but there are ways and times to apply them responsibly so that plants can absorb all of the nutrients they need without any extra leaching in the groundwater below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {TAPS Manual Part 1: Improperly Abandoned Wells}

Frannie's friends at the Groundwater Foundation recently published the second edition of the Training About Protecting the Source (TAPS) Manual. The manual guides users through hands-on activities that explore potential threats to groundwater and challenges them to think about what can be done to protect this key drinking water source.

This manual can be used inside the classroom and is aligned to the national Next Generation Science Standards, but Frannie loves just learning about groundwater, no matter where she is. For the next few weeks, you can join her as she works through the different activities. 

Frannie will be using the Groundwater Foundation's Awesome Aquifer Kit, but if you don't have one, you can follow along with materials that might be found around your home.

Today's activity is....Improperly Abandoned Wells.
---

It's not uncommon to find old wells which are either out or service or no longer usable. These are called abandoned wells. Abandoned or forgotten wells can pose risks to the physical safety of people, livestock, or equipment. They can also become a direct channel for pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals, to flow directly into groundwater. It is required that these wells be sealed, or decommissioned according to state guidelines, but what happens if they are not?

For this activity, you will need:
  • Awesome Aquifer Kit, OR
    • Plastic box
    • Gravel
    • Plastic tube
    • Clay
    • Nylon
    • Rubber band
    • Food coloring
  • Aluminum Foil (heavy duty recommended)
  • Pencil, Pen, or Marker
  • 16 oz cup of water

Activity Steps

1. Read through all the instructions first before you begin to build the model. Make sure you have all the needed materials and supplies.

2. Prepare your materials by filling the plastic box with gravel until it is about ¼-½ full and, if you choose, lightly dyeing the cup of water blue.

3. Add 1/5-1/4 of the water to the box. Do not fill water to the top of the gravel. (This will represent an aquifer.)

4. Create an impermeable, or confining, layer using the foil. This should be approximately the length and width as the inside of container. You can use the lid of the Awesome Aquifer kit as a pattern. Use heavy duty foil or make a double layer of foil.

5. Once you have a piece of foil that fits inside the container, make a mark on the foil about two inches towards the center from one of the short sides of the box. Place the foil on top of the gravel being careful not to puncture the foil.
 
6. Roll the clay into a long, skinny roll and use it to seal the edges of the foil to the box. You have now created a confined aquifer.

7. Model a well with the plastic tubing by covering one end of the  tube with the nylon, securing it with a rubber band.
 
8. Insert the well (well screen/nylon end first) at the spot marked earlier on the foil. You 
can use a pencil or pen to puncture the foil in order to get your well inserted.
 
9. Add more gravel on top of the foil and around the well until the container is about ½-¾ full.

10. Apply colored water to the gravel surface evenly. Make sure to pour the same amount all over the surface and the well.

11. Observe where the colored water travels.


Frannie noticed that, even though she had formed a water tight seal around the boundary of the aquifer, when she poured "polluted" dyed water over the gravel it would flow through the hole in the foil that was made by the well.

Frannie imagined that she was living on top of that aquifer, a short drive away from the abandoned well. She imagined that she depended on the aquifer to supply water for her daily needs and the needs of her friends and family. If the pink-purple water actually carried harsh chemicals like those often found in household cleaners, herbicides, and pesticides, she could have gotten really sick once the plume arrived at a well on her property.

Now Frannie needs your help: how can we solve this problem? How can we prevent the pink purple water from entering the aquifer? How can we get the pink-purple water out once it gets in? Do you know?

Send in your answers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and we'll share those ideas next week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Activities Library}

Frannie is always looking for new fun things to do in the summer. Luckily, the Groundwater Foundation has the Activities Library, a searchable database that features over 70 activities for any kind of setting. From wet-and-wild outdoor games to crosswords and coloring sheets, you can fill your long summer days with fun groundwater education!

You can search for activities by:
  • Age
  • Duration
  • Key topic (i.e. - irrigation, water quality, climate/weather, etc.)
  • Category (i.e.-outdoor, messy, arts and crafts, etc.)


You can also search for activities directly by name, such as "Growing with Groundwater." Results display an image of the activity, the activity name, a description and a link to a how-to video (if available), and a link to additional details and to download the instructions.




Check out this awesome tool and let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!