Monday, September 19, 2016

BLOG: Build the Relationship Before You Need the Relationship

by Christine Spitzley, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing, Michigan

People dedicated to the protection of groundwater resources know that pollution prevention is easier, cheaper and more effective than cleaning up contamination. As Groundwater Guardian Team since 1995 our goal is simple, protect groundwater before it is polluted. The tricky part is messaging that goal in a way that is heard, believed and evolves into action. How do you effectively share messages about an unseen resource that everyone uses and yet takes for granted? How to you make it a priority in a world full of seemingly urgent information? How are you heard amidst all the noise? Is it worth it?

Randy Roost is the immediate past chair Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association and a Lansing Board of Water and Light employee. He succinctly summarized what we have been actively working towards in the Greater Lansing Area for decades: “You have to build the relationship before you need the relationship.”

Roost’s wisdom is directly on target. Confidence is earned. Locally, we do what many do across the country to tell our drinking water story. We host plant tours, write articles, bring booths to schools and fairs, engage in social media and give interviews. It can seem endless and repetitive. But when a boil water advisory becomes necessary, or an unexpected spill takes place, educated consumers who know their providers and understand their resources are more likely to trust that those responsible will put public health and safety first. Likewise, as the need to invest in aging water infrastructure continues to grow, stakeholders need to understand where their water comes from and how it is delivered. It is difficult for people to support what they do not understand.

If you are part of the media, seek out water professionals before an emergency. A resource every single person depends on daily IS interesting. A product that is delivered to every home and business daily IS worth noting.  

If you are a teacher please include water in your curriculum as part of science, math, and government. Create a generation of wise consumers who understand the many facets safe water.  

As a consumer, seek information and ask questions.  

If you are a Groundwater Guardian Team, keep sharing the message and building relationships.  

It’s worth it.

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Christine Spitzley is the Chief Environmental Programs Planner for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in Lansing, Michigan. She is also the team leader for the Greater Lansing Area Groundwater Guardian team, and has been since the team was formed in 1995. Reach Christine at cspitzley@mitcrpc.org.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

BLOG: From Festivals to Pharmaceuticals...

by Cathy Lotzer, Marshfield Utilities, Marshfield, Wisconsin

Groundwater Guardians for the Marshfield Area earned their first designation as a Groundwater Guardian Community in 1997.  Fast forward 20 years later and volunteers are still active in their community.

Why did we get involved?
Getting involved with The Groundwater Foundation (and Groundwater Guardian program) has proved to be very successful for our group.  For a very small annual fee to participate, a wealth of information and resources were made available to us.  In addition, we were able to make contact with other communities facing similar groundwater issues.  Rather than reinvent the wheel in our community, we learned what others were doing and mirrored their efforts.  Now, 20 years later, we are paying it forward, sharing our successes with others who are looking to get started in their communities.

The group first became active in our area because Marshfield’s water supply was very vulnerable, sitting on a sole source aquifer with shallow wells (50-90 feet deep).  With no viable options for new supply, protection of the current groundwater source was critical.

What have we done? 
In the early years, our team hosted many Water Festivals at area elementary schools.  Age specific activities were led to teach the concepts of groundwater protection, conservation, and overall water education aimed at teaching students about the value of our precious resource.

In 2001, one of our Water Festivals was filmed for a television production called
 
Into The Outdoors which aired on statewide TV.

Our group also led the constructed of two Rain Gardens in our community.
In 2006 we began our most successful project, our Rx Round-Up Pharmaceutical Take Back Program.  Marshfield was the first in the state of Wisconsin to collect pharmaceutical products (both controlled and non-controlled substances). For two years our group held multiple one-day collections, until we were able to open a permanent collection site at our local Police Department in February of 2008.  Since 2006 we have collected nearly 10,000 pounds of meds for proper destruction.  
Our group also worked with our local utility to become the first Groundwater Guardian Green Site in Wisconsin.  Marshfield Utilities has continued to earn this award each year since 2008.

Our group has also hosted several community day-long learning events for area youth and adults. Interactive workshops were held that targeted water education.

In 2014, our group hosted our first Girl Scout Let's Keep It Clean event.  Over 90 Girl Scouts attended, all earning their first patch “Ask Me About Groundwater”.
This past summer, we held a second Girl Scout event, with over 50 girls earning their first patch.
Why do we stay involved?
Our water supply hasn’t changed, neither has the need to protect it and sustain it for future generations.  The Groundwater Guardian program is the perfect fit for us!
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Cathy Lotzer is the Technical Services Manager for Marshfield Utilities in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and has been the chair of the Marshfield Area Groundwater Guardian team since it was formed in 1997. She also serves as Chair of The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors. She can be reached at cathy.lotzer@marshfieldutilities.org.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

BLOG: Groundwater is a Labor of Love

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The Labor Day holiday got me thinking this year about how the work we all do to educate people and protect groundwater is truly a labor of love.

There's no glory, or fame, or riches in the work we do. We do it because it's important. Because groundwater is vital to our lives and communities. And who doesn't love a glass of cool, clean water?

This is most evident by the efforts of the Groundwater Guardians teams we work with across North America. These teams implement activities from wellhead protection to classroom presentations and festivals, pharmaceutical take backs to community events and PSAs, and much more. They care about groundwater because they care about their community. It's a labor of love.

A few Groundwater Guardians a the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference.
Over the next several weeks, the Groundwater Blog will feature stories from Groundwater Guardians about the work they do in their communities. I hope they give you new ideas and inspire you to take action in your community.

Want to join their ranks? It's easy to get started as a Groundwater Guardian. Find out how.