Monday, November 24, 2008

What does “green” mean to you?

In preparation for the 2008 Groundwater Foundation National Conference, “Going Green for Groundwater,” I spent a lot of time thinking about what being “green” means. To me, being green means acting in the best interest of nature, and in the best interest of Planet Earth. This prompted me to think about the global consequences of my individual actions, both positive and negative; how recycling one aluminum soda can saves enough electricity to power a TV or a 100-watt light bulb for three hours and recycling my junk mail helps save energy and trees, but how I sometimes drive a short distance when I should walk or ride my bike instead, and how I have a mountain of plastic bags at home that could be replaced with reusable grocery bags.

It also made me think about a quote I discovered by Leonardo da Vinci, who said “Water is the driver of nature.” Water has the awesome power and responsibility of keeping our planet viable for life. Water drives every process in nature, so if being green is acting the in best interest of nature, I think protecting our water supplies, including groundwater, is the ultimate act of “going green.”

Being “green” is very trendy right now. Businesses, industries, individuals, products, buildings, cars, energy – all are working toward that “green” label. And while the steps these different facets of our society are taking to go green are most certainly positive, I want them to remember the words of da Vinci, and those of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau who said, “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” I want them to “go green” by helping protect our precious water resources.

We want to hear from you – what does being “green” mean to you? What would you like to see from businesses, industries, individuals, etc. to be more green? How are you working to go green in your life?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Green for Groundwater: Interviews from the Conference

We are pleased to bring you interviews from the 2008 Groundwater Foundation National Conference in Desert Hot Springs, California. In a world where going “green” is all the rage, has groundwater been forgotten?

Several interviews were collected during the conference by Rachael Seravalli of USGS and are presented online in the form of audio podcasts. Together let's examine the importance of including groundwater in green efforts, opportunities for green groundwater actions, and how to share this message with your community.

Listen in and weigh in.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Growing Groundwater Crisis: A Guest Blog

A Guest Blogger from Tallahassee, FL. writes...

"Recently, the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) addressed the Congressional Water Caucus in Washington D.C. to alert them to the growing ground water crisis. Scott Kell, the GWPC president, presented the GWPC's Ground Water Report to the Nation: A Call to Action which reveals that the current rates of water use are unsustainable and are already leading to critical shortages in some areas. Mr. Kell also noted some alarming facts about our ground water:

* The Ogallala Aquifer in the High Plains provides water to eight
states from South Dakota to Texas and has been intensely tapped for irrigation since World War II. As a result, the water levels in this "bread basket of the nation" declined more than 100 feet in some areas.

* Los Angeles' only local water supply, the San Fernando Aquifer, is contaminated with industrial solvents. The contamination is spreading, and pumping is severely restricted, forcing Los Angeles to import 90% or its water from outside sources.

* In water-rich Florida, consequences of the overdraft include dried-up wells, reduced surface water levels, degraded water quality, saltwater intrusion in coastal wells and sinkholes.

To view the full GWPC report presented to Congress please visit"

The Groundwater Foundation and the Ground Water Protection Council welcome your comments on this report.

Get A Free Groundwater Guardian Green Site Road Sign

This limited time offer is available now through August 31, 2008.

Complete and submit your Groundwater Guardian Green Site application by August 31 and receive:
  • A FREE Groundwater Guardian Green Site road sign.
  • Recognition in the Fall 2008 edition of The Groundwater Foundation’s quarterly publication, The Aquifer.
  • The opportunity to showcase your site’s groundwater and environmental stewardship on The Groundwater Foundation’s website.
Download your free Groundwater Guardian Green Site application online at or call 1-800-858-4844.

Applications can be submitted to The Groundwater Foundation by email (, fax (402-434-2742) or mail (P.O. Box 22558, Lincoln, NE 68542-2558 USA).

Applications must be submitted to The Groundwater Foundation by August 31, 2008. Site must earn a minimum 70% on all applicable questions to be eligible for Groundwater Guardian Green Site designation and to qualify for this promotion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lessons from the Dust Bowl

“Dirty Thirties” Offer Valuable Lessons in Conservation, Stewardship

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

When you hear the term “Dust Bowl,” what comes to mind? Dust storms? The Great Depression? Struggle? Poverty? Drought? Pioneers? I would be willing to bet “conservation” or “stewardship” don’t come to mind; however, these concepts may be the biggest lessons learned from this dusty period in U.S. history.

I recently read “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan, which tells the “untold story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl.” Reading this book made me think about where we are as a country, and what we can learn from the Dirty Thirties.

“Riches in the soil, prosperity in the air”

The country was still expanding in the 1910s and 1920s. Settlers were pouring into the High Plains, lured by aggressive investors, cheap land, a pure and “inexhaustible” groundwater supply, favorable crop prices, and ironically, steady rain and clean air.

And so they came, plowing up millions of acres of grass and planting wheat. No one knew this was the beginning of a massive environmental and economic disaster. When the rains stopped and the plants shriveled, the earth took flight.

Egan writes about Bam White, the cowboy who became the face of the Dust Bowl in Pare Lorentz’s iconic 1936 film “The Plow That Broke the Plains.” After one of the first dusters in 1932, Bam’s son Melt recalls his father telling him, “The earth is on the move.” When Melt asked why, his father replied, “Look what they’ve done to the grass. Look at the land: wrong side up.”

Black Blizzards

I try to imagine what it must have been like to see a dust storm, or “duster,” approaching. Settlers called them “black blizzards” and said they looked like they were alive as they rolled and tumbled across the naked land, stripped of the grass that held the soil in place for centuries. I imagine it would have been terrifying.

The worst duster of the decade came on April 14, 1935. Egan writes that the dust storm of “Black Sunday” carried twice as much dirt as was removed to construct the Panama Canal; more than 300,000 tons of topsoil took to the air that day. The storm produced enough static electricity to power New York City.

In 1935 alone, Egan reports that more than 850 million tons of topsoil had blown off the plains, which equated to roughly eight tons of dirt for “every resident of the United States.”

Dealing with Dust

Drought compounded problems. Egan notes that in all of 1932, only 12 inches of rain fell in the region of Oklahoma’s panhandle called No Man’s Land, which is half of the necessary minimum to produce a crop.

As the drought and wind continued, officials began to grasp the immensity of the Ogallala Aquifer sitting right beneath their feet. Since the rain wouldn’t come from the sky, local officials wanted it to come from the ground since the water was just “there for the taking.”

Change Behavior, Not the Weather

Rather than blame the drought, Hugh Bennett, who Egan calls a “well-spoken doctor of dirt,” placed the blame directly on man for the blowing soil. A former employee of the Department of Agriculture, Bennett saw the signs of a disaster in the making. While the Federal Bureau of Soils continued to proclaim that “the soil is the one indestructible, immutable asset that the nation possesses. It is the one resource that cannot be exhausted, that cannot be used up,” Bennett cited reports that showed Oklahoma had lost 440 million tons of topsoil and that over 16 million acres of Texas were severely eroded. Bennett called the dust storms a result of “our stupendous ignorance.”

Bennett was also the champion of a new concept of the time – conservation. He knew he couldn’t change the weather, so instead set about trying to change human behavior. A new organization led by Bennett, the Soil Conservation Service, was created to help change the practices of the farmers on the High Plains.

Learning from the Past

A recent study from the Earth Institute at Columbia University reports that the dust that flew in the 1930s likely amplified the natural drop in rainfall and turned an ordinary dry cycle into a natural and agricultural disaster. The study finds that the dust may have doubled the drop in rainfall, and even moved the drought farther north into other farming regions.

“It was a process that fed itself,” said lead study author Benjamin Cook. Co-author Richard Seager says that studies predict many subtropical regions may be dry in coming years. “That, in combination with the pressure from rising populations and demand for food, could lead to a similar cycle of drought, dust storms, and more drought,” Seager said. “The lesson of the Dust Bowl is there to be learned.”

The Dust Bowl was the result of a variety of factors all innocuously converging – World War I, a European wheat shortage, a government-guaranteed wheat price of $2 a bushel, new farming machinery, the plowing up of millions of acres of drought-resistant grasslands, and a natural decline in precipitation.

Is there a similar situation brewing? The U.S. is currently involved in conflict overseas, there is talk of global food scarcity, corn prices are at record highs, continued advancement in technology allows producers to plant more acres, and parts of the country are still facing drought.

We can’t chose when drought comes and goes. We can’t chose when Mother Nature decides to make it rain. But we can make choices in how we care for the earth’s natural resources, and learn the valuable lessons from past experiences. Learning from the past will help us all make the future one of conservation and stewardship.


  • Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time. New York: Mariner Books, 2006.
  • Columbia University. May 1, 2008. “Columbia Scientists Warn of Modern-Day Dust Bowls in Vulnerable Regions.” Retrieved May 28, 2008 from

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prescription Drugs in Drinking Water: Guest Blog

A Guest Blogger from Sacramento, CA. writes...

"I recently heard an interview [with an employee from The Groundwater Foundation] on the radio. She repeated the mantra prevalent in the municipalities and administrative circles that cleanup of the water is impracticably expensive. The place to address the problem is with the sewage discharges, not water treatment for drinking as she seemed to imply, and I beg to differ about cost. Combine wetland treatment with reverse osmosis and you greatly lower the costs, while preventing the accumulation of drugs, nitrates, chloride and other salts in our water supplies -groundwater and surface water- in the first place. "

"The California Central Valley has perfect conditions for such a solution and a pressing need unacknowledged by the state water regulatory boards. To counter this there is also a pressing need for a cost study showing practical cost levels rather than the extreme one usually referred to which calls for reverse osmosis of the sewage discharge directly, without wetland. The state here is -- by policy -- now directing new urban sewage discharges to land over our aquifer and they will foul it in short order unless compelled or persuaded to change. Can you help?"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ann Bleed Resigns

It was with great surprise that we learned of Ann Bleed’s resignation. It has been a pleasure to work with her over the years of her service. On behalf of everyone here at The Groundwater Foundation I would like to thank Dr. Ann Bleed for her leadership at the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. Ann has faced her challenges with knowledge and passion. We will miss her and wish her all the best in whatever the next step in life may be for her.

Please share your thoughts on how her departure will affect our state and the water issues we are currently facing.

Jane Griffin

President, The Groundwater Foundation

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reflecting Upon Richard Louv and the Child-Nature Movement

by Carla Otredosky, Youth Programs Coordinator, The Groundwater Foundation

On Tuesday, February 19, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” at the Lied Center for Performing Arts here in Lincoln, NE.

As an environmental educator and self-proclaimed nature-lover, I am both professionally and personally interested in the movement that is sweeping the world to reconnect people with nature. While the lifestyles of today’s youth wires kids to electronics, leads to childhood obesity, and spurs an increase in attention deficit disorder, there is a new movement gaining momentum. We have the tools and the know-how to make this change and get people back outdoors.

I was motivated by Louv and his stories of people he has met, just like me, who are emotionally connected to the Earth and who are concerned that today’s children have missed out on establishing that same emotional connection. Louv illustrated the image of a grey-haired farmer he met, wearing cowboy boots, denim jeans and a Stetson, who was moved to tears by memories of the land he so loves. Louv described a woman, whose fondest memories of the environment include riding on the back of her horse as she leaned over to pluck bright orange survey sticks from the rolling hills of land near her home. Louv himself, admits to retreating to happy memories from his own childhood, constructing tree houses with scavenged materials in the wooded area just beyond his own backyard. It was during his solitary moments in these woods, that he called his own, where he fell madly in love with nature.

Hearing these stories made me ask myself, at what point in time did I fall madly in love with nature? For me, it is hard to pinpoint an exact time or place. However, I know that my parents had a heavy hand it. As an infant, I spent many of my weekends secured in a car seat in the back of their Jeep as we 4-wheeled off-road through the Rocky Mountains. My parents took my brother and I on a variety of camping trips every other weekend during the summers when we were growing up. We camped in tents, a pop-up trailer, and even owned a motor home for several years. One of my favorite camp grounds that we frequented was named Colorado Heights Camp Ground. There, my brother and I were given free reign to run, play, dig, catch, and explore until sunset. In high school, I went to a week-long summer camp where we back-packed (yes, carried all of our food and supplies on our backs) in the Pikes Peak Wilderness Area. It was exhausting, the food was terrible, and the nights were cold…but I loved every minute of it!

I consider myself lucky to have been given a childhood with so many experiences in nature. Imagining my childhood without these adventures makes me feel sad. Without nature, I believe I would be a different person, with different values. But more importantly, I believe that sharing these memories and experiences with others is a vital part of the process to reconnect humanity with nature.

I am interested to know; what is your story? What is your fondest memory of time spent outdoors in nature? Why is nature important in your life? What childhood or adult experiences have you had that shape who you are today?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome from Jane Griffin

Hello Groundwater Friends, Colleagues, and Partners,

It is with great enthusiasm that I am taking over the reigns of this outstanding organization. It is both an honor and a challenge to strive to guide the foundation and ensure another successful era, such as the one Susan so gallantly led.

With only 4 days under my belt I have become fully aware of one thing: The Groundwater Foundation has done not only an amazing amount of incredible projects, but has done them with the utmost integrity; continuously offering top-quality products.

I am in admiration of the efforts and look forward to enabling the mission of the organization as we face the difficulties of the new century. Difficulties include both the complexity of the “water issues” and the difficulties that non-profit organizations face. Due to the importance of the resource we are educating individuals and communities about: groundwater. We will turn these difficulties into challenges and ultimately into solutions.

I am looking forward to hearing from you with thoughts on groundwater, with reflections on your experiences you have had (directly or indirectly) with our foundation, and with water ideas/issues that should be addressed.

Thanks for visiting our site and blogging with us!

Jane Griffin
The Groundwater Foundation

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tell Us Your Topic Ideas

The Groundwater Foundation wants to hear from you. What groundwater-related topics do you want to discuss? What concerns you about the environment? What issues are on your mind? Click on "comments" below and leave your suggestions. Your ideas will become discussion threads throughout the upcoming year.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Fond Farewell From Our Fearless Leader: Groundwater Foundation President Retires

It is with mixed emotions that I’m wrapping up my responsibilities here at the Groundwater Foundation. As many of you know, I founded the Groundwater Foundation almost 24 years ago with the intention of helping people understand and protect this precious but widely unknown resource. Many programs later, I feel good that the Foundation may have helped move groundwater into a more prominent position in the environmental world and helped it become more visible as it continues to nourish us in so many ways.

I always knew that it would be important to leave at some point—before my ability to make a difference was diminished. I also believe that it is crucial to have a smooth transition when founders and long term leaders leave a position and I am so pleased with the hard work of our board and staff in this process. We are all excited to welcome the new Groundwater Foundation President, Jane Griffin on Monday, February 11, 2008. Jane will bring her own vision and talent to groundwater, the Groundwater Foundation, and our members and partners.

Jane will be entering a challenging position in a challenging non-profit environment. Resources are increasingly scarce and meeting standards of accountability and accounting take up more and more of every non-profit’s time and energy. As business demands have grown, I started to dream about returning to my first passion, educating youth. I am very blessed to be realizing this dream through my current course work at the University of Nebraska and practicum at a local High School.

As I leave, questions remain. How do non-profit organizations achieve a balance between business and mission in these competitive times? Why are funding sources dictating programs rather than allowing their grantees the freedom to create and innovate? How will non-profit organizations survive and thrive in the 21st century—at a time when the importance of their work and messages is growing by leaps and bounds? Please chime in on these important questions—and help launch a lively blog discussion for the ages!

I look forward to hearing from you and wish all of you good health, good groundwater, and many blessings in the years ahead!