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! 

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

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. 
  • 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.
  • Downtown Muesums - Find art, history, human rights, and more all within walking distance of downtown Boise.
  • 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.
  • 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.
To find more attractions and to plan your trip to Boise, visit 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!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Improperly Managed Landfill}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about why you should care what goes into your landfill.
We all know how to pick up litter and throw it away properly, but where does our trash go and how is it taken care of after the garbage truck drives away?

That’s right! The landfill!

All of the gross things we don’t want near are homes are going to a landfill.  When it rains, the water infiltrates the landfill.  In other words, it filters down through all the layers of trash to reach the earth.  Once the water has trickled down through all that trash, it starts to look and smell like a garbage soup.  Scientists call this soup “leachate”.

Leachate then seeps down into the ground where it can interact with our groundwater, the same water we pull from our wells to drink and use in preparing our food.  If we are not careful of what we put in the trash or if the operators of the landfill are not careful to check the garbage trucks for harmful and toxic items, then our wells are in danger of critical pollution.

Luckily, there are special landfills for dangerous chemicals.  These can be underground storage tanks, septic systems, or recycling plants that treat or transform toxic trash until it is useable again.  You can help at home by doing more recycling, even for items like broken electronics, batteries and light bulbs!

You can learn more about landfills here and visit your local landfill to see what they are doing to keep your ground and groundwater safe.

Monday, June 5, 2017

BLOG: The Wistful Recycler

by Julie Diegel, Nebraska Recycling Council

Are you a wistful recycler? Have you ever wondered if a certain material was recyclable, and not knowing for sure, put it in the recycling bin anyway? Lesser of two evils, right?

Actually, no.  Your hopeful gesture is creating a big contamination problem for recycling processors. And it’s sending volumes of materials to the landfill that otherwise would have been recycled.

This year at local Earth Day events, the Nebraska Recycling Council offered a Recycling Challenge.  A bag of 13 materials was given to intrepid recyclers to test their knowledge.  Two disposal options were presented:  one for landfill and one for recycling.  (Organics were not included in the interest of simplicity.)  Admittedly, there were some “trick” items, such as the Pepsi bottle containing a little bit of soda, and the pizza box with grease spots. Most people placed a high percentage of their materials in the correct bin; however, our little Challenge confirmed what we already know: virtually all of us are confused about what can be recycled and/or how materials should be handled (i.e. rinsed, flattened, emptied, etc.) before recycling.

Recycling is not as simple as it once was. For one thing, product packaging has changed.  Plastics and mixed materials dominate. Many of these materials are not recyclable, and if they can be, the recycling company that services your home or business may not accept them.  There is no universal guarantee of recyclability just because there is a recycling symbol on the packaging.

The automation of recycling processing centers has also complicated matters. Materials moved quickly through a system of conveyors and sensors. Flattened cans can be “read” as paper. Plastic bags jam equipment. Glass shards contaminate paper fibers, making them useless as feedstock for new items. Having said that, these high-tech processing centers and their companions, “single stream” collection bins, have allowed far more materials to be recycled by orders of magnitude, and it is a business model that won’t go away anytime soon.

So, let’s all step up our game on recycling.

From a grassroots perspective, there is a lot we can do. We can re-learn recycling practices and conform to the new reality. We can reject goods packaged in materials that have no place to go except the landfill. We can inform political leaders of the need for packaging standards, and demand new rules that divert more materials from our taxpayer-funded landfills.

These actions don’t all rest on the shoulders of product users, however; and they shouldn’t. New standards are needed up and down the value chain. Manufacturers need to keep the end in mind when they design packaging. Retailers should be compelled to “take-back” products and packaging for reuse and recycling. Haulers and processors need to take more responsibility for educating customers by providing ongoing, consistent messaging on what and how to recycle. Haulers should be licensed under strict standards to ensure resources meant for the recycling center are being taken there instead of the landfill.

Uniformity in signage and bin configuration is needed in public spaces and businesses so that recycling can become second nature to all of us. There is no excuse for a stand-alone trash bin without a recycling companion by its side. Color standards are important. Use blue for recycling, black for landfill and green for organics. Container labels should be consistent, with photographic imagery showing exactly what materials belong in each bin. These simple design changes are proven to increase recycling and reduce contamination.

Now, let’s move ahead and get on with it. Let me reiterate: let us remember to activate our voices for change, and rededicate ourselves to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and re-soil (compost) repeatedly!

No more being wistful, no more being stuck, no more excuses.


Julie Diegel is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Recycling Council. Reach her at 

Friday, June 2, 2017

BLOG: Communities and Collaboration: Upcoming Groundwater Foundation Events

by Sara Brock, The Groundwater Foundation

June is an exciting month for The Groundwater Foundation as we bring many of our collaborative projects to fruition.

Working with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and educators in Western Nebraska, we bring the Recharging Groundwater Education program to a teacher’s workshop in Ogallala. Among the other useful tools teachers can use to enhance student science learning, we’re providing classrooms with Awesome Aquifer Kits and supplementing the traditional curriculum with new and updated activities, worksheets, andtechnologies.

Mid-June is marked by an exciting collaboration with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute with the WELS2 program. It will bring Nebraska’s science educators the HydrogeologyChallenge program with an emphasis on model-based learning. Participating teachers will use the week to prepare and develop a groundwater curriculum that they will use during the 2017 – 2018 academic year. Understanding the concept of models and the Hydrogeology Challenge through Nebraska’s new College and Career Ready Standards for Science will empower teachers to incorporate groundwater education into their science classes, as well as provide students with a modern environment to learn and boost their problem-solving skills.

Finally, the Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network, another partnership with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, will have its quarterly meeting on June 21st in Hastings, Nebraska.  Beyond sharing updates and ideas for education and outreach programs, attendees will also have the chance to learn about and tour Hastings’ brand new Aquifer Storage and Restoration facility. Begun in July 2016, the nearly-complete project aims to increase drinking water storage and quality and simultaneously reduce the economic burden of clean water on taxpayers. Interested in attending? Register here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Improperly Abandoned Well}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about why you should properly seal abandoned and unused wells.

Did you know that 42 million people in the United States use a private, or individual well to provide water for their families?  But as cities grow and develop, more and more people are turning to municipal systems to get clean, treated water directly to their faucets.  An unused well is basically a direct line for contaminants to enter the groundwater, so it is very important that, if a well is going to be decommissioned, then a well contractor should be called to seal it properly.

But what actually happens if a well is not sealed properly?

In rural areas, such as homes on or near farms, an open well can be contaminated with animal waste, fertilizers, and pesticides.  After a rain, runoff may simply pick up these dangerous chemicals and flow right over the open will, depositing them into the groundwater supply.   If a well is dug deep enough and is connected to other water supply sources in the area, it could contaminate large sections of the aquifers and prevent many other people in the area from being able to access clean water.

Forgotten wells are a big problem too.  Well casings may rust or break down and, even without the help of any outside contaminants, pollute the groundwater.
Wells that are dug, instead of drilled, are typically shallow enough not to majorly affect groundwater quality.  However, if these wells are not sealed properly, their wide shape may cause unsuspecting people and animals to fall into them and injure themselves.

To learn more about wells and to find out where you can go to test and protect yours, visit The Groundwater Foundation's Wells and Wellhead Protection webpages. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BLOG: Take It Back to the Pharmacy

by Hallie Schimenti, Nebraska Pharmacists Association

The Nebraska MEDS Coalition was formed in response to studies by the U.S. Geological Survey that found traces of pharmaceutical and personal care products in drinking water sources across the United States. In response to this emerging environmental crisis, the Coalition has worked to create one message in regards to drug disposal: “Take it to the pharmacy.” 

From January 1, 2016 to April 31, 2017 nearly 27,600 pounds of unwanted and leftover medication has been collected across the state of Nebraska. Nebraska MEDS provides over 300 pharmacies with boxes for non-controlled substances and envelopes for controlled substances utilizing the Sharps Compliance TakeAway Environmental Return System. This program exists with no cost to the consumer or pharmacy; it is fully funded by grant appropriations from the Nebraska Environmental Trust

The Coalition stresses the environmental importance of proper pharmaceutical disposal. Flushing medications down a toilet or drain can infiltrate the water, and trashing medication ends up in a landfill. The Statewide Drug Disposal initiative is the most environmentally-friendly way to destroy pharmaceuticals. After a box or envelope has been filled in a pharmacy, it is sent to a medical incinerator in Texas. 

Pharmacies continue to join forces with the MEDS Coalition to make “Every day a take-back day in Nebraska.” Nebraska MEDS utilizes grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to educate consumers and providers, visit pharmacies, and market the take-back initiative to pharmacies and consumers around the state. KETV television out of Omaha has created commercials, print and online ads, and radio segments as part of a marketing campaign. Additionally, Nebraska MEDS personnel continue to exhibit at various health professional conventions, seek partnership with those in political office, and raise awareness via social media.

The Nebraska MEDS Coalition is made of up of diverse agencies and organizations committed to proper medication disposal and environmental protection. 

For more information about the Coalition or to find a participating Nebraska pharmacy, visit


Hallie Schimenti is the MEDS Project Coordinator for the Nebraska Pharmacists Association. Reach her at

Friday, May 19, 2017

BLOG: Nebraska Groundwater Guru Joins Foundation Board

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Jim Goeke at the Platte River near North Platte, 2002
Jim Goeke said he always knew he wanted to be a scientist, but when asked why he chose hydrogeology, his answer was "Thirst." Fall football practices and games throughout high school and college made him appreciate the countless bottles of water needed to sustain him. 

Years later, Jim would become one of the foremost experts on Nebraska's groundwater. He was part of the founding of The Groundwater Foundation in 1985, and last week was elected to the Foundation's board of directors.

"The Groundwater Foundation is thrilled to have Jim on our board," said Groundwater Foundation President Jane Griffin. "As a hydrogeologist, His vast groundwater knowledge, expertise, and experience will be invaluable to the Foundation's mission."

Jim joined the University of Nebraska in 1970, after earning a Bachelors Degree from the University of Wisconsin and Masters Degree from Colorado State University. As a University of Nebraska professor and proud member of the University's Conservation and Survey Division (CSD, the state's geological, water, and soil survey), Jim was responsible for the CSD/U.S. Geological Survey test hole drilling program to delineate the Ogallala Aquifer. Over 1,100 test holes later, he has an intimate familiarity with the Ogallala formation and its water riches. 

According to his biography from the University's School of Natural Resources, Jim's main research interests dealt with groundwater and groundwater management, particularly under conditions of scarcity. He worked to gather data to model unconfined aquifers in the central Platte region and stream-aquifer research in the Republican River Valley. He served as the University's liaison to the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, and worked with USGS on the High Plains Regional Aquifer System Analysis (RASA) and the High Plains National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA). 

Jim retired from the University in 2011 and became a professor emeritus.

Jim has been active in education and outreach, given countless presentations about Nebraska's groundwater to schools and community groups, and has a long history of involvement with The Groundwater Foundation. In 2001, he received the Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award from The Groundwater Foundation, among his many accolades.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Sinkholes}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is about sinkholes and how they are formed.

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground caused by the erosion of the soil or bedrock underneath.  They occur when acidic water seeps down and percolates through soluble, or easily dissolved, layers of soil like sandstone, chalk, or limestone.  Over hundreds or thousands of years, more of the rock dissolves while loose soil and sand shifts down to fill the cracks.  For a long time, the land is able to hold its own weight and even the weight of buildings constructed on top of it.  However, as even more of the rock dissolves and becomes empty space, the land becomes too heavy and will collapse suddenly.
For this activity, you will need a pitcher of warm water, sand,
a piece of paper, a cup with a small-medium size hole,
a coffee filter, scissors, and sugar or powdered creamer.
To observe this in our aquifer kits, we’ll start by collecting our materials: a cup, sand, sugar, a paper tube, a pair of scissors, and a coffee filter or sponge.

Frannie starts by cutting a small hole, the same width as the tube, in the bottom of the cup and placing the coffee filter on top of it, keeping it in place with just a little bit of sand.

Next, she puts her tube over the coffee filter and fills the tube a part of the way with sugar.  The sugar represents the soluble rock that will dissolve when the ground gets wet.  While the tube is still in the cup, she pours in the sand so that it comes to about the same height as the sugar.  The sand represents the rest of the ground and will hold the soluble layer in place.

Slowly remove the tube without disturbing the sand or sugar too much and then pour more sand on top, just enough so that none of the sugar is showing.  Carefully pick up the cup and place the bottom into the water and in just a few moments, the water will infiltrate the sand and sugar, dissolving the sugar and creating our sinkhole.

Check out this cool graphic to see what's happening inside the cup!

Graphic by PBS

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! [Awesome Aquifer Kit: Erosion and Weathering}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about the concept of erosion and weathering.

Photo credit:
Weathering is the slow destruction or wearing away of soil or rock which is followed by the process of erosion, where the broken particles are then carried away.  This is a very important concept for groundwater and it can happen in two ways: mechanical weathering or chemical weathering.

Mechanical weathering is when rock or soil is physically broken down by constant exposure to flowing or moving water.

Imagine a river that’s moving quickly, picking up sand from the beaches and carrying it downstream.  That’s an example of the beach being mechanically broken by the stream, which carries the sand downstream and makes those beaches smaller.  The same thing can happen underground where, as water slowly flows and picks up particles of soil or rock, the land might get worn down and even sink slightly. 
Photo credit: USGS
If the sinking of the land occurs over a long period of time, we call that subsidence.

Chemical weathering is when the rock or soil mixes with the water and dissolves to become a new substance.

This usually happens when polluted rain seeps down into a carbonate type of bed rock.  The acidic water comes into contact with the basic soil and changes the chemistry of the rock so that it breaks down and forms new particles that move with the water flow.

Photo credit: ABC News
It is this kind of weathering and erosion that is usually the cause of sinkholes, a type of sudden natural disaster that results with a large hole in the ground.  Frannie will show us more about sinkholes next week.

BLOG: How Much Do You Know?

by Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

Next week (May 7-13) is Drinking Water Week. About half of us in the United States drink groundwater, but how much do you know about it? Take this short quiz to test your knowledge (answer key at the end of post):

1. Groundwater is:
        a. The water on the earth’s surface
        b. The water in the ground
        c. The deepest part of the water in the ocean
        d. The water contained in clouds

2. An aquifer:
        a. Is a geological formation that contains water
        b. Can be confined
        c. Is below the earth’s surface
        d. All of the above

3. When an aquifer is replenished it is called:
        a. Recharge
        b. Discharge
        c. Water table
        d. Saturated zone

4. The Ogallala is part of the:
        a. Edwards Aquifer
        b. Hawaiian Aquifer
        c. High Plains Aquifer
        d. Central Valley aquifer system

5. Groundwater is used for:
        a. Drinking water
        b. Irrigation
        c. Industrial use
        d. All of the above

How’d you do? 

There's a lot to learn about groundwater. Why not have some fun learning with our hands-on activities? Check out our Activities Library to find something that's right for you.

Do you want more quizzes about groundwater? Download our free Water1der mobile app and get your fill of groundwater trivia. See how much water you use in a day with our free water tracking app, 30by30, and find ways to use less water.

Get involved in local groundwater protection and education with a local Groundwater Guardian team. Is there one near you? Find out. If there's no team in your area, be a sparkplug and get one started - here's how.

Groundwater - it's the water many of us drink. Think about it during Drinking Water Week, and get yourself started on knowing more about this magical resource and involved in protecting it for future generations!

ANSWER KEY: 1. B, 2. D, 3. A, 4. C, 5. D

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BLOG: Developing Science Literacy Through Environmental Education

by the WELS2 Project Team (Tina Vo, Cory Forbes, Nick Brozovic, and Jane Griffin)

Around the globe, humans face an array of contemporary challenges associated with food, energy, and water systems. To prepare future generations of problem-solvers equipped to address these challenges, education must go beyond merely disseminating information. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, has identified important components of environmental education that include an emphasis on awareness, knowledge and understanding, attitudes, skills, and participation in environmental challenges. When focused on these challenging issues of today, science literacy can involve:
  • Explaining, describing, predicting natural phenomena  
  • Considering multiple viewpoints and different stakeholders invested in the system
  • Identifying issues, biases, or limitations within research
  • Accounting for various mechanisms and their effects within a system 
  • Evaluating the validity of data collection methods
  • Creating and evaluating arguments around environmental topics
  • And a myriad of other science-oriented tasks and practices 
This knowledge and the associated skills define scientific literacy about interactions between humans and the environment. Supporting audiences to become more scientifically literate requires cultivating a culture and perspective that values critical thinking, problem-solving, and informed decision-making.

For example, decisions about water resources are complicated and involve human and environmental concerns.  A scientifically-literate person is one who’s prepared to ask questions such as: Who/what benefits from resource allocation? Who/what might be hurt by these decisions? What evidence do we have to support these claims and how did we obtain that evidence? How will this impact the water availability for others? Have we considered the natural and economic factors will be influenced? And these are only a few aspects to consider. While issues like this are complicated, frameworks like the ones developed at the University of Nebraska help untangle them by providing guidance such as where to start, who to ask for help, and how to educate ourselves.

Another way these key components of environmental education are highlighted and science literacy is supported is through the adaptation of state and national standards that acknowledge the role of ‘science practice’ as a way of doing and knowing science and requesting these practices be taught in the classroom. Teachers can support students through meaningful and directed educational experiences by providing opportunities to develop knowledge about food, energy, and water issues (e.g. water resource management) and scientific practices (e.g. scientific modeling). 

One aspect of environmental education that can prove challenging for learners of all ages centers on the complexity of hydrological phenomena. Complicated environmental issues develop around balancing humans’ use of groundwater against depletion and recharge rates. Supporting and fostering critical thinkers who can find solutions for these multifaceted issues will take dedicated educators who are well versed in science practices and environmental education. 

A program targeted to support these dedicated teachers to provide quality classroom instruction is the WELS2 project. Based at UNL, this project is a collaboration between the UNL Science Literacy Program, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, and The Groundwater Foundation

The WELS2 project (Water Education Leaders for Secondary Science) is committed to providing high school and middle school teachers in Nebraska with the training, supplemental educational materials, and experiences around hydrological phenomena, to support their food, energy, and water education efforts in the classroom. Through this professional development program, teachers can earn up to 9 hours of graduate course credit through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as a stipend, to support their ongoing professional learning. WELS2 introduces teachers to various resources including computer-based water modeling tools, pedagogical strategies for encouraging students' model-based reasoning about water, and strategies for grounding these experiences in real-world, issues-based contexts. Teachers will learn to use these resources to develop their professional skill sets, as well as how to use them in their classrooms to enhance their students’ learning about water systems. Participating teachers use part of this experience to collaborate with educational specialists and scientists and tailor resources suited to their students’ needs. This collaboration is an important facet of the project which highlights the expertise of the participating teachers to assess and develop materials specifically for their use. If you are interested in joining this program or would like to learn more, please inquire here.

Environmental education is an important part of supporting and developing science literacy in audiences of all ages. Educators who wish to help students develop these tools for critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving need to be supported and provided opportunities to do so. By partnering with institutions and organizations like the UNL Science Literacy Program, Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, and The Groundwater Foundation, educators can leverage additional tools and resources delving deeper into environmental challenges and supporting their students in building critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. 

The WELS2 Project Team includes Cory Forbes, Associate Professor of Science Education, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Science Literacy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,; Tina Vo, PhD Candidate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,; Nick Brozovic, Director of Policy, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute,; and Jane Griffin, President, The Groundwater Foundation,

Friday, April 21, 2017

BLOG: Groundwater Guardians Go Big on Earth Day

by Sara Brock, The Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Guardian Program, launched in 1994, has teams across the United States from California to the Carolinas.  Year round, the teams work to increase awareness and education on groundwater issues and on special occasions, like this Saturday’s Earth Day, they get to go big.  Here are 5 communities using Earth Day to bring a little light to this underground resource.

Hamilton to New Baltimore’s Groundwater Consortium plans and implements an entire Earth Day Celebration Butler County aimed at increasing public awareness of local groundwater protection efforts.  By collaborating with local environmental groups and educators, they are able to provide over 25 exhibits and demonstrations of the area’s groundwater and surface water protection programs.

Lincoln’s Groundwater Guardian team is one of 73 sponsors of the Lincoln Earth Day event.  Schools, private businesses, government offices, and scientists are represented at various booths at this event with local food, music, and speakers. Check out the line-up here: 

The team in Valparaiso is hosting an informational booth at the Northwest Indiana Earth Day Celebration.  As regular presenters at this fair, they are prepared with educational materials and reusable water bottles for the over 2500 people expected to attend this year. If you live in the area, you can even stop by and pick up a rain barrel or compost bin for your home!  Find out more here:

Moving away from the fairs and festivals, the Chippewa Falls Groundwater Guardian team puts on a targeted program that, while is still associated with the city’s Earth Day Festivities, provides volunteers with a deeper understanding of and chance to experience groundwater protection in their area.  They do this by attaching “Dump No Waste, Drains to River” buttons on catch basins and illuminating the issue of contamination and drainage in informational sessions before and after. 

The Groundwater Guardian team at the Central Regional Groundwater Protection Planning Committee keeps things running through the weekend with their Clean Water Celebration. Celebrating their 25th anniversary as one of the largest clean water festivals in the world, this year is made extra special by keynote speaker Dr. Jacqueline Quinn, an engineer, inventor, and payload manager for NASA.  Check out the schedule and the speakers here:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Exploring Permeability}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about exploring the key concept of permeability.
For this experiment, you will need water,
a syringe, a timer, sand, and gravel.
Permeability is the ability of a sediment to transmit water.  In other words, permeable materials allow water to easily pass through it and impermeable materials do not let the water move through them.

We’re going to test the permeability of sand and gravel to discover which one is more permeable.

First, we will make a hypothesis about which material water will travel through the fastest.  Frannie thinks water will travel through gravel more quickly than sand.

Now we’re going to take apart the syringe and fill up the inside with gravel.  We’ll measure out one ounce (oz) of water with a small measuring cup and pour the water into the syringe, careful to hold it over a cup so it doesn’t spill everywhere.  For extra fun, we can time it with a stopwatch and see how long the water takes to go through the gravel.

Water flows quickly through the empty syringe on the left, a little more slowly
through the gravel in the middle, and very slowly through the sand on the right.
Next, we’ll empty and dry the syringe before filling it with sand and, again, watching how long it takes 1 oz of water to move through it into our cup.  Does the water move faster or slower than the gravel?

Frannie has found that the water moves faster through the gravel than it does the sand which means that the gravel is more permeable. She was right!

Permeability and porosity are related.  Materials with more open space can hold more water.  More space also provides a quicker flow of water through the material. Materials that have a higher porosity also tend to have higher permeability.  Clays, however, have a very low permeability but are very porous which means they can hold a lot of water but they won’t release it very quickly.  Clay and harder materials that also can’t transmit water very quickly, like shale and granite, are called impermeable layers.

Friday, April 7, 2017

BLOG: BMPs - An Industry's Response

by William Bieck, Heritage Hills Golf Course

“When disagreement or conflict is imminent, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.” 

This is an often used statement that recognizes it is better to correct problems before they exacerbate into a more difficult dilemma. It is easy for Golf Course Superintendents in the turf industry to discuss, debate, and share stories of new regulatory policies and the difficulties and costs to achieve compliance. But, when we “speak to the choir” amongst ourselves, we are not communicating to those who really decide our fate. Superintendents and the golf industry do not legislate...the government does.

This fact alone should compel those dependent on the golf industry or other industry that is under heightened scrutiny to share their strategies and positive environmental stories to those outside their circle of influence. I have been a golf superintendent for over 42 years and consider myself a strong advocate for environmental stewardship. As an industry, I have seen the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSAA) support its members with unlimited access to educational resources pertaining to environmental protection, conservation, and research. The golf industry has responded very positively to water issues. Over the past several decades, turfgrasses have been developed that can tolerate drought or poor-quality water. Technology advancements in irrigation equipment have greatly improved irrigation efficiency and uniformity resulting in less water use. Still, even with all these efforts to protect and sustain our environment, the golf course industry is commonly perceived to be a significant source of pollution and bad for the environment. These comments are simply not true and this perception needs to change in order to improve golf’s image.

In response, the GCSAA is increasing their emphasis not only to educate its members to the importance of responsible and sustainable stewardship, but to also share golf’s positive environmental stories with everyone, including detractors. 

BMPs, Best Management Practices, are the adoption of science-based agronomic practices that support proactive environmental stewardship. BMPs are a tool that will demonstrate to legislators, regulators and consumers the environmental policies that will augment trust and credibility into our management programs. BMP programs help superintendents manage golf facilities in an efficient manner while providing quality playing surfaces and protecting the environment. They also enable the golf course facility to operate where regulatory pressures exist, and they offer the industry a significant platform for advocacy, education, recognition, and demonstration of professional land management.

GCSAA has also recently launched an aggressive initiative of offering a BMP Planning Guide and Template to its state chapters to help develop and customize fundamental BMPs according to each state’s needs and requirements. It is the goal of the GCSAA to establish BMPs in all 50 states by 2020, a lofty goal that illustrates a sincere commitment to environmental improvement.

Credit: GCSAA

BMPs will address the many facets of golf course management. They are the method or techniques found to be the most effective and practical means of achieving an objective, such as preventing water pollution or reducing pesticide usage. Topics will include wellhead protection, irrigation efficiency, wetland protection, nutrient management, pesticide management, and surface and groundwater monitoring, conservation and protection.

Credit: GCSAA

Why use BMPs as a format to persuade golf’s detractors, environmental activists, and policy makers?  BMPs are the shared language recognized by regulators, conservationists, engineers and others as a means to driving improvements. It is important to note that BMPs are recognized in federal and state TMDL (total maximum daily load) policy as a major component of water quality improvement plans.

Credit: GCSAA

By implementing these practices, each facility will demonstrate to state regulatory agencies that their management practices are science-based and environmentally sound. By allowing governmental regulatory and compliance agencies to be involved in drafting these BMPs the industry has encouraged an open dialogue leading to positive changes that can have a significant impact on TMDLs and other measurable components. The end result of a successful BMP will be a healthy golf facility and a management plan that supports environmental improvement.

BMPs are the response of the golf industry to achieve a greater legitimacy and credibility. Many facilities will implement BMP approaches not just in reaction to mandated regulations, but as a proactive environmental stewardship business policy, that is, the best operations strategy for sustainability of the environment and the golf business.

William K. Bieck, CGCS, is the Course Operations Manager for Heritage Hills Golf Course in McCook, Nebraska. Heritage Hills was one of the pilot sites participating in the Groundwater Guardian Green Site program, and has been designated every year since. Reach Bill at