Monday, June 26, 2017

BLOG: Clean Car, Less Water

by Sally Phillips, freelance writer

If you're washing your car at home, you could be wasting a lot of water. The average home car wash uses about 80 to 140 gallons of water. This water picks up all the pollutants off your car, such as fuel, gas, oil, and tar and mixes it with the soapy car wash ingredients. This soapy, oily mixture then flows from your yard, to the storm drain, and ultimately to streams and lakes where it damages the environment and causes harm to marine animals. So how can we keep our car in top shape while still protecting the Earth and its fellow inhabitants? Here are some eco-friendly tips for washing your car at home.


Do Away with the Open Hose
Many people prefer washing their car at home, but to reduce the amount of water you use, try an automatic shutoff nozzle for your hose. This nozzle prevents the continuous flow of water and can save up to 70 gallons of water per wash. You can also use a power washer, which uses about 2-5 gallons of water per minute, compared to an open hose which uses 10 gallons per minute. Simply using a bucket is also a great way to manage how much water you use. Fill your buckets with water and refill only when necessary. This will allow you to calculate exactly how much water you’re using and force you to cut down.

Watch Where You Wash Your Car
Most people wash their car in their driveway, but this water goes directly to the storm drains. These typically don’t lead to sewage treatment plants but instead go directly into our lakes and streams. An eco-friendly approach to car cleaning is to move your vehicle to a grass or gravel surface. This allows the ground to soak some of the water and filter out the harmful contaminants that make their way into runoff water.

Use the Right Products
Many soaps that we use to wash our cars have chemicals that are harmful to the environment. These chemicals decrease water quality and damage the life of aquatic species. Instead, opt for a waterless cleaner. You can get a spray-on product and wash your car with minimal or no water at all. These solutions are also biodegradable so they don’t add any chemicals or pollutants to the environment. Simply spray on your car and use a microfiber towel to remove dirt.


Following these three tips will help reduce the amount of water you use when washing your car, and ultimately protect the aquatic environment from harmful pollutants.

__________


Sally Phillips is a freelance writer. Reach her at sally@diamondmail.net.

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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

BLOG: 7 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Groundwater This Summer

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Summer is a time for fun and adventure. Combine those with some hands-on learning about groundwater and you've got a win-win summer activity! 

Mini-terrarium
1. Build a mini-terrarium with a clear plastic cup, gravel, potting soil, a few seeds, plastic wrap, and a rubber band (get full instructions here). Learn about groundwater's role in the water cycle and in helping plants grow. It also gives kids a plant to nurture over the summer.

2. Dig a hole. Kids love dirt. Ask them to explore the hole. Is the soil warm or cool? Is it damp or dry? How does the soil change the deeper you dig? Pour a bucket of water in the hole - where did it go? It became groundwater, filling the cracks and crevices beneath the earth's surface.

Betty Crocker website
3. Make a contamination cake. Start by baking a white cake, then turn it into a poke cake (here's a recipe for a strawberry poke cake, but you can use any flavor gelatin you want). Cut a piece of cake, and talk about how the gelatin is like contaminants in groundwater, seeping into the ground (or cake). What happened to the gelatin when it was poured onto the cake? How is this like a contaminant being poured on the ground? Talk about these things while digging into a yummy piece of cake.

Edible Aquifers
4. Another yummy - but educational - dessert activity! Make an edible aquifer. Build a simple aquifer out of ice chips, cereal, ice cream, sprinkles, clear soda, and a straw. Find the complete instructions here. Have fun and be creative! Of course, the final step is to eat your aquifer creation.

5. Build an aquifer in a cup (get full instructions here). All it takes is a clear plastic cup, rock/gravel, and water. For more fun, add a clean soap or lotion pump to simulate a well and pump the groundwater out of the model aquifer.

Visit a water body
6. Visit a local lake, river, or stream. Talk about the connections between groundwater and surface water. Groundwater contributes to stream flow, and stream flow recharges groundwater. Add a community service project to your visit and clean up litter around the water body.

7. Find a cool spot in nature. What can you discover by simply looking around and listening to the surroundings? Imagine the path taken by a drop of rain from the time it hits the ground to when it reaches a river, groundwater, or the ocean. Draw a picture and/or talk about the paths it might take.

Keep the fun and learning going this summer! For more fun educational ideas, visit www.groundwater.org/kids

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BLOG: Be in Boise!

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The City of Boise was one of the original pilot communities in the Groundwater Guardian program since it began in 1994, and it has been designated every year since. That kind of longevity and consistency has made them a leader in groundwater protection.

The Groundwater Foundation's 2017 National Conference will be held in Boise October 24-26, 2017. I've never been to Idaho, and am very much looking forward to my first visit! Boise seems like a pretty cool place, for lots of reasons:

  • It's pronounced "Boy-see" (not "Boy-zee" which is how I've always said it!)
  • It's located 2,730 feet above sea level with a population of over 250,000 within city limits (and over 680,000 in the metropolitan area)
  • It's nickname is the "City of Trees." French-Canadian fur trappers named Boise in the early 19th century. After crossing the hot, dry desert, the trappers crested a hill and saw the woods surrounding the Boise River and exclaimed "Les bois! Les bois!" ("Woods! Woods!") The wooded Boise River is now the scenic backdrop for a popular greenbelt path, and so many species of trees have been planted that today Boise is known as the "City of Trees."
  • Fort Boise was established in 1863 to keep peace in the mining camps and to protect Oregon Trail pioneers from Indian raids. The City of Boise was quickly established and served as a service center for both gold and silver miners in the nearby mountains and foothills.
There's a lot to do in Boise (besides learning about groundwater at the conference!)
Come early and/or stay late and check out some of these sights and attractions:
  • Basque Museum & Cultural Center - Only one block from the conference hotel, this unique attraction provides a look into the heritage of the Basque communities of Idaho. www.basquemuesum.com 
  • Greenbelt/Boise River - The Boise River Greenbelt stretches 25 miles along the Boise River, providing place for fishing, biking, roller blading, jogging, or a leisurely stroll. Bikes are available for rent at a variety of bike shops. www.cityofboise.org/parks
  • Downtown Muesums - Find art, history, human rights, and more all within walking distance of downtown Boise. www.boise.org
  • Southwest Wine Region - The history of Idaho wines dates back to 1864 when the first grapes were planted. A perfect combination of soil, climate and water, Idaho is home to more than 50 wineries to explore. www.idahowines.org
  • Idaho State Capitol - In the heart of downtown, the State Capitol of Idaho is one of the state's most treasured buildings. It's the only Capitol in the nation heated by geothermal water. The building is open 24/7. www.capitolcommision.idaho.gov
To find more attractions and to plan your trip to Boise, visit www.boise.org. Early bird registration for the 2017 conference will open in the next few weeks. Sign up for our newsletter to receive conference updates. We'll see you in Boise!