Friday, July 29, 2011

Cruel Summer

By Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

I heard the song “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama on the radio the other day.  It was well into the 90s that day in Lincoln, with the heat index over 100 degrees.  The extreme weather that’s been plaguing much of the country as of late leads me to believe it is indeed a cruel summer.

“Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning…”

Portions of the U.S. are experiencing drought categorized as “exceptional” by the U.S. Drought Mitigation Center (  Records for heat have been shattered across the country.  In northern Texas, Amarillo reached the 100 degree mark for 30 days in a row.  On July 19, Knoxville, Iowa had a head index of 131 degrees!  Talk about cruel.

“It’s too close for comfort, this heat has got right out of hand…”

While the heat and humidity have me longing for the cool crisp days of fall, summer, with the heat it brings, is an opportune time to promote water conservation.  Whether it’s installing water efficient appliances and fixtures in your home, utilizing native plants in your landscape, watering efficiently, or simply turning off the water when you brush your teeth, it’s important that each of us take measures to reduce our water use in these hot summer months, and encourage our friends, neighbors, and family members to do the same.

As far as the heat?  Well, I have to agree with Bananarama:

“It’s too hot to handle so I got to get up and go…"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Float Down the Niobrara

by Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

Hopefully many of you read the most recent post “Beating the Heat in Water”; it gives some great suggestions for summer activities – many that are made possible by groundwater!

I personally had the opportunity to do one of the suggested activities: float down the Niobrara River.

In addition to being a beautiful trip, it was relaxing and inspiring.  I highly recommend the trip to an amazing portion of the state of Nebraska.  In addition to enjoying the float down the river the area is full of places to discover.  One of the most remarkable is Smith Falls, but just as inspirational is the opportunity to enjoy the diverse nature and the different sounds and scents.  

Constantly I was reminded of what is so important to creating this amazing area – groundwater.  You don’t have to look very hard and you find evidence of its presence.  For instance, from this photo taken from the Cowboy Trail southeast of Valentine, you can see the beautiful bend in the Niobrara River.  You might think, that is nice but it is not groundwater.  Well, in fact 80% of the streamflow of the Niobrara comes from groundwater, through the riverbed! 

Share an experience you have had on the Niobrara – or elsewhere in water!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beating the Heat in Water

by Jamie Oltman, The Groundwater Foundation
It’s summer! In Nebraska that means heat and humidity. 

To beat the heat of summer many of us tend to visit water rich places to cool off.  Popular destinations in Nebraska include Lake McConaughy, the Missouri River, and the Niobrara River. 

What does the summer of 2011 bring for these water rich destinations?

Lake McConaughy
Lake McConaughy is Nebraska’s largest reservoir spanning 35,700 surface acres. This summer flows have reached almost 100%. Last year the lake was at 75% capacity. The lake has not reached this capacity in over 10 years. Inflows to the lake have been above normal this year due to above average snowpack in Colorado and Wyoming. The lake is a great place to visit. To learn more about Lake McConaughy visit,

The Missouri River
In past years the Missouri river welcomed many recreational water sports. This summer the US Coast Guard closed the Missouri river to all recreational boat traffic. High rainfall from Montana has increased water releases from the reservoirs upstream causing the need for increased discharge at Gavins Point Dam. There are many Nebraska State Parks along and close to the Missouri river. The flooding has caused the boat docks to close but the parks are still open and welcoming visitors. Visit to learn more about the effects of the Missouri River flooding and impact on the State Parks. 

The Niobrara River
The Niobrara River flows along the northern border of Nebraska and is known as a great river to canoe, tube, or kayak. The river provides beautiful views of prairie and bluffs. With all the rain and snow causing flooding this spring the Niobrara Scenic River portion of the Niobrara has not been affected. This is because this portion of the river is mainly fed by groundwater from the High Plains Aquifer. The river is impacted more by water withdrawals due to irrigation than rainfall and snowmelt. To learn more visit

Where does the water in your favorite lake, stream or river come from? Think about the environmental and human impacts that could affect that body of water. Is it currently affected by drought or flooding? Are there potential pollution hazards? Are there things you can do to help keep your favorite spot clean and healthy? 

Next time you sit back and relax on a hot summer day with your toes in the water at your favorite water rich location take a second to reflect on this precious resource.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


As we celebrated our country’s independence this past weekend, we should also celebrate our precious resource water every day!  Our country is blessed with ample, clean water supplies in comparison to other countries around the world.  For example, almost one fifth of the world’s population (about 1.2 billion people) lives in areas where the water is physically scarce.  One quarter of the global population also live in developing countries that face water shortages due to a lack of infrastructure to fetch water from rivers and aquifers.  (World Health Organization)

Water is an essential resource to sustain life.  As governments and community organizations make it a priority to deliver adequate supplies of quality water to people, individuals can help by learning how to conserve and protect the resource in their daily lives.

The Groundwater Foundation’s program called Groundwater Guardian encourages communities of all types (cities, counties, watershed, etc.) to begin and enhance groundwater education and protection activities.  Groundwater Guardian supports communities in their efforts and recognizes their achievements.  You can learn more about the Groundwater Guardian program at

As you drink a glass of water, take your shower, water your garden—remember how precious water is to you and your fellow Americans.  Take steps today to protect and conserve this precious resource—share your ideas with your friends and neighbors!