Thursday, February 11, 2016

How We View Water

By: Anthony Lowndes, The Groundwater Foundation

With close to half of the United States relying on groundwater for drinking water, it is important to ensure a sustainable supply. In Nebraska, it’s close to 85 percent. The 2015 Statewide Groundwater-Level Monitoring Report indicates that Nebraska’s groundwater supplies are on the rebound. Aside from subsiding drought conditions and heavy rainfall, the implementation of technological advances in irrigation have reduced water consumption. On the domestic water use side, public awareness and the installation of water saving appliances has helped lower demand.

But quantity is not the only issue facing Nebraska, or any other area. While drought often causes increases in the amount of water withdrawn from the ground resulting in declines, contamination can ruin an entire source of water. There are several contaminants highlighted in the 2015 Nebraska Groundwater Quality Monitoring Report that are not so unique to Nebraska, such as nitrates and uranium. We need to continue to think critically and creatively when it comes to protecting water sources.

In several states, communities can proactively develop local protection measures for source water through Wellhead Protection programs. For the 43 million Americans who supply their own water through a private well, be sure to have your well tested on a regular basis and check with your local USGS office about potential contamination concerns.

Water issues can be shared through a wide variety of mediums. For example, Kaneko, a public non-profit cultural organization in Omaha, NE, is currently exploring water issues in the Midwest and around the world through a variety of research and technological innovations and fine art displays, drawing the viewer into the world of water. One particular exhibit caught my eye. It is a to-scale outline of Nebraska that is over eight feet tall. The data points from the Quality Monitoring Report are represented by pompoms and color coded for each type of contaminant. Another is a fantastic artistic rendition of a combine and center pivot circling an enormous water drop.

Creating ways for people to visualize a resource that is often taken for granted is the goal of both the reports and the K
aneko Water exhibit. Find out more about water in your area and get involved in conserving and protecting it.

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