Thursday, December 28, 2017

BLOG: A Look Back at 2017

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

As we quickly approach 2018, here's a quick look back at the happenings during 2017 at The Groundwater Foundation.

We debuted a new look! The Groundwater Foundation adopted a new organization logo, replacing the logo that had been in use since the early 1990s. Complementary logos were also created for the Groundwater Guardian and Green Site programs.





Jim Goeke joins the Groundwater Foundation Board of Directors. Jim is a groundwater legend in Nebraska. He spent many years with the University of Nebraska's Conservation and Survey Division, becoming intimately familiar with the Ogallala Aquifer and its water riches.

The 2017 National Conference visited Boise. Boise spoiled us with beautiful fall weather and sunny skies, and the conference was a great opportunity to connect with old and new groundwater friends and peers.






Groundwater Foundation President Jane Griffin was appointed a member of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council (NEEAC). The Council is made up of representatives outside the federal government who provide EPA with advice on environmental education.

We educated over 30 Nebraska educators in an intensive week-long workshop as part of the Water Education Leaders for Secondary Science (WELS2) project with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


We continued as an active member of the Nebraska MEDS Coalition. The Coalition works to promote safe drug disposal as part of protecting water supplies and the environment, as well as preventing accidental overdose and abuse. Over 300 pharmacies in Nebraska take unused or expired medications back as part of the program.

The Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network met quarterly throughout 2017, including meetings for state Senators and staff at the Nebraska State Capitol and a tour of a community aquifer storage and restoration project. The Network brings together organizations across Nebraska working on wellhead protection.




Hydrogeology was part of the 30th anniversary of Science Olympiad during May's 2017 National Tournament. Hydrogeology involves simple computer groundwater modeling, and has been adapted for classroom use.

Jack Daniel named 2017 Kremer Award Winner. The retired administrator of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services earned the award for his leadership and contributions to the state's groundwater resources.



We're excited for 2018 and want you to be there for everything along the way. Get involved in one of our programs, become a member, and learn more about groundwater!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {The Gift of Water}


The end of the year is a good time to reflect on the successes of year as much as the challenges, on what we have lost as much as what we have taken for granted.

Frannie had an amazing 2017 at Girl Scout Camps, nature camps, Science Olympiad, and in Boise at The Groundwater Foundation's National Conference.  She learned a lot about what communities across the United States are doing to take care of their water and she enjoyed sharing what she learned with all of you!

As Frannie turns her thoughts to 2018, she can't forget that there are still people in the United States and abroad who struggle to have access to clean water.  Parts of the Colorado River are running dry and experts fear that Lake Mead, in Arizona, may be gone by 2021, yet many people don't understand why that's the case or how they can make small changes to save water in their communities.

Groundwater is the water we drink and the water we use to grow our food.  Educating ourselves and each other is an important first step in protecting this precious resource.  Over the last year, Frannie has shown you tools and tips to save water at home.  Next year, she wants to take you out into the field to learn about the Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network, Groundwater Guardian Teams, and other programs that you, personally, can take part in.

Even though the holiday season is almost past, giving the gift of water can be done throughout the year in ways as simple as sharing this blog with your friends and family or going to our website to learn more about groundwater.  If your area doesn't have a Groundwater Guardian team, you can start your own and share the magic with your community.

If you would like to see Frannie talk about specific topic or answer your questions in an upcoming blog, please send her an email at info@groundwater.org.  Have a safe and happy new year!

Friday, December 15, 2017

BLOG: The Blame Game or The Illusive Culprit

by Jane Griffin, Groundwater Foundation President

Is it human nature to always look around us for someone else to blame? There's a lot of research that fully explores the blame game, but each of us has our own experiences. It happens in every situation, including issues surrounding groundwater. In the case of groundwater contamination, it is easy to point to one source and put all of the blame on it. But, that is too simple and, honestly, just not fair.  Let’s explore this a little further through one of the hottest topics: the pipeline. (First, a side note: I find it ironic that it is referred to as “the pipeline” when there are around 22,000 miles of pipelines under our feet.)



Back to the topic at hand: the blame game. If you listen to soundbites and only read headlines you could easily believe that the fate of our aquifer depends on one pipeline. As I mentioned, that is simply not right, nor fair. This is one potential source of contamination that is easy to point to. 

Now let’s look at two words from the sentence above: source and point. If you dive a little deeper into groundwater contamination, both of these words are super important, and there is a third one that is important too: non. Putting them together we have point source contamination and non-point source contamination. Point source contamination comes from a precise point, like a pipeline or factory. Non-point source contamination is trickier - you cannot simply point at. It generally results from runoff. As the runoff moves across the land's surface it picks up and carries with it natural and human-made pollutants, which ultimately end up in surface or groundwater.  

Non-point source contamination could be considered the illusive culprit; the reality is, it plays a huge role in the fate of our aquifer. Instead of pointing our fingers at one potential threat, let's follow the backward trail of that illusive threat and trace where contaminants were picked up. The scary part of following that trail is that we might just end up pointing at ourselves if we realize the runoff picked up contaminants as it passed our home or business.

We all contribute to groundwater contamination. Let’s focus on what we can each do better personally, and then let’s bring that to our neighborhood, work place, children’s school, or relative’s farm, and let’s get ahead of that illusive culprit!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish {#ThrowbackThursday with Holiday Upcycling: Toilet Paper Roll Wreaths }

It's that time of year again. ❆⛄🎄⛄🎄❆

Frannie's favorite things to do during this season are to drink hot chocolate and spend time with her family and friends decorating their trees, rooms, and homes.  

If you are having a hard time figuring out how to decorate your door this year, why don't you check out one of Frannie's all-time favorite upcycling activities from a couple years ago?  That's right, we're celebrating #tbt early with a wreath made out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls!

Don't forget to share with us at guardian@groundwater.org or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  Happy decorating!

--

This Week's Project:
Toilet Paper Roll Wreaths
Frannie loves holiday wreaths! She thinks they are a neat way to add a festive touch to a room. Frannie loves that she can use her old toilet paper rolls to create beautiful wreaths for her home!

Materials:
  • 9 toilet paper rolls
  • scissors
  • green paint
  • small red circles (think buttons, construction paper, etc. Frannie used scraps of red foam)
  • glue
  • string or ribbon

Instructions:

  1. Collect 9 toilet paper rolls. You can also use 4 paper towel rolls or 1 wrapping paper roll. 
  2. Cut the toilet paper rolls into smaller pieces - about 3/4" wide. You'll need 5 smaller pieces to make one flower, and you'll need a total of 45 pieces to make 9 flowers. 
  3. Paint each piece green. 
  4. Arrange the pieces the way you would like them to look. You can use the photo as an example. Then, glue your pieces together. 
  5. Adorn your green wreath with red "berry" accents. You can use red buttons, red circles cut out from construction paper, or anything else you can think of! Place them around the wreath according to taste and glue them in place.
  6. Congratulations! You have just made an Upcycled Toilet Paper Roll Wreath! Hang it somewhere special to add a lovely holiday touch to a room.
For More Fun:

Add layers to your wreath! If you have extra toilet paper rolls, you can create more flowers to add more layers and dimension to your wreath. Get creative and have fun!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

BLOG: Girl Scouts and Groundwater

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Several years ago, The Groundwater Foundation partnered with Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska to pilot a patch program to help Girl Scouts learn about water and find ways they can help protect it. The Let's Keep It Clean and Ask Me About Groundwater patches were born out of this partnership. Patch booklets are available for all levels of Girl Scouts - Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador - with fun, hands-on activities for girls to earn the patches.

The past several months have seen a great increase in orders through our online catalog for patches and accompanying patch booklets. It's been fun to see all the places where Girl Scouts are learning about groundwater - the water we drink and the water that grows our food! Materials have been ordered by troops in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Indiana, New York, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio, Iowa, and Michigan the last quarter.

Get your Girl Scout involved in the Let's Keep It Clean program! Find resources, activity ideas, and more on our website at www.groundwater.org/kids/getinvolved/girlscouts/. If you need more ideas, give us a shout at girlscouts@groundwater.org or 402-434-2740.

My daughter's Daisy troop earned patches!
Brownie Girl Scouts build a well in a cup.

Daisy Girl Scouts learn about water through the story of Frannie the Fish.

Cadette Girl Scouts learned about water and then led activities with a Brownie troop.
  
Junior Girl Scouts see how groundwater moves through a simple groundwater model.

Friday, December 1, 2017

BLOG: A Focus on Water Quality

by Kylen Hunt, CropMetrics

My granddaughter's favorite book, (God Made You Special Little One) shows an image of a momma duck watching her baby in a bubble bath. The momma duck laughs and says, “No one has your silly laugh when you splash in bubble baths!”

A few weeks ago, our 2.5 year-old granddaughter received bubbles from Nana and Papa. As soon as she saw the bubbles forming around her, she splashed, laughed, and yelled as only a 2-year-old can, “Look Papa! I splash in bubble baths!!” I too laughed, and we had a great time as she splashed in her bubble bath. 

As a grandfather, those memories are priceless. As a leader in the irrigated Ag industry, I’m reminded to take the importance of clean water resources seriously. If our family didn’t have unlimited access to clean water, I wouldn’t have this memory. So I’ve asked myself, “Is there more I can be or should be doing to ensure my granddaughters, granddaughters, will have unlimited clean water?” I believe the answer is yes. There is more we can all do. But it won’t be easy, and it’ll take great leadership.

In irrigated agriculture water quantity occupies most conversations. The more we learn about water issues globally, I believe water quality should be our primary focus. Why? Because if we, as a society of citizens, focus on quality over quantity, many of the quantity issues take care of themselves. How is that possible? Well, follow along with me as I lead you through the why, how, and what process of achieving this goal.

Bottled water from OCWD's wastewater recycling system..
Why - Quality is important to everyone: Now sure, this is obvious, right? But do we look at our water quality responsibilities first or do we point to others faults being more of an issue than our own? In October, I had the opportunity to attend the Groundwater Foundation's National Conference in Boise ID. At the conference, I listened to Adam Hutchinson with the Orange County Water District in Fountain Valley CA explain what California is doing to capture, clean, and reuse natural rain and waste-water. I was humbled and reminded there are things that others, like myself, could be doing to ensure everyone has clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. I saw images of how they are slowing down the water in water channels (an amazing concept) to allow more water to recharge the groundwater. I learned how it’s only taking them 45 minutes to clean waste-water to drinking quality again. Unbelievable! The biggest takeaway for me? There is more I can be doing to ensure clean water sources in my own area of the world. I need to stop believing that others aren’t doing enough and do more myself.

How - “Water Quality Assessment (WQA)” is a concept everyone can engage in: It simply says that when a process requiring water is complete, (final) the quality of the water at the end should be the priority consideration in the process. Why? Because by default the ending water quality will become the beginning water quality for another operation. Will the current process improve, or hinder human, plant, or animal life? If it can have an adverse effect, can we change the first method to improve the second? Here’s an example from agriculture where I invest most of my time.

Farmers grow plants. Plants use water in the soil to pull nutrients and chemicals through the roots into the plant. The plants transpire (sweat) clean water back into the atmosphere through the leaves. The nutrients and chemicals are left in the plant to create and maintain plant health and reproductive potential. This is a natural process and is an example of highly efficient water use resulting in a high WQA. It’s simply natural and super effective.

However, any water (rain or mechanically applied) when over applied moves water, nutrients, and chemicals past the root zone where it is wasted forever. Not only is the water wasted, but the nutrients and chemicals are also wasted. This is an extremely low WQA. Also, in this case, applying or preparing plants to take in only the water they need, WQA becomes a very profitable process!

Well, this leaves a question. What must we as citizens improve to have higher WQA’s every time we use water? For starters, becoming more aware of the water we use and how we use it. Second, it's a matter of interdependency. Living and working together. Not seeing ourselves as more important than someone else. But seeing ourselves as equal citizens in a world where EVERYONE wants clean, fresh water.

I look forward to hearing from others who have ideas on assuring that all future generations enjoy the occasional BUBBLE BATH!
__________

Kylen Hunt is Chief Sales Officer for CropMetrics, a Precision Irrigation Solutions Company focused on Precision Irrigation Adoption. His background in Agriculture began as a teenager working with his family in Central Nebraska. He was taught to love the land and respect its natural resources. In seeing the profitable result through intense and precise irrigation management, Kylen became passionate about building sustainable precision water programs through the CropMetrics network. It's easy to be passionate about a conservation when it's profitable! Today, Kylen lives in Omaha Nebraska with his wife Rebecca, his biggest fan for twenty-four years. Through the study of truth based leadership, Kylen took this learned knowledge into the industry for the purpose of designing and growing profitable businesses built on purposed leadership. Today, in correlation with his role at CropMetrics, Kylen engages in events that equip leaders  to recognize and utilize their unique, untapped potential. Reach him at kylen@cropmetrics.com. www.cropmetrics.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {FIRST Lego League}

Frannie has received a lot of calls lately from all over country from boys and girls participating in this year’s FIRST Lego League Challenge.  Why?  We’ll get to that, but first: What is FIRST Lego League, or FLL?  

Photo Credit: Denise Krebs
From their website, FLL “is a program that supports children and youngsters in order to introduce them to science and technology in a sporty atmosphere.”  The competition is divided into two parts that tackle different disciplines of a unique theme: the robot game and the research project.  In the robot game, teams practice the scientific method and hone their engineering skills to solve a mission with the help of an autonomous robot. The research projects, on the other hand, is the students’ prerogative to address an issue within their community and develop a product or solution with the help of agencies and experts in the field.

So why are they calling Frannie? Because this year’s FLL theme is Hydro Dynamics!  Teams will learn all about how to “find, transport, use, or dispose” of water as well as what we can do to help ourselves and the earth once we know what is happening to it.

Hydrogeology Challenge
The Groundwater Foundation has a lot of basic information about what groundwater is, why it is important, and what threatens it that can be read online.  The 30by30 (Google Play Store and iTunes) and Water1der (iTunes) apps are useful tools to track your water usage and practice your water trivia, respectively. Ambitious teams who can comfortably perform algebra can use the Hydrogeology Challenge to understand flow mechanics under normal (static) and pumping conditions. 

While The Groundwater Foundation can’t work with every single team, Frannie hopes that this information will help most students begin to understand the basic concepts of groundwater and hydrodynamics. For information specific to your region, call your local Health and Human Services or Water Utilities departments.  If you are part of an FLL team and you come up with an idea to improve one of our existing activities, please let us know by emailing guardian@groundwater.org.
Good luck in this competition season!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BLOG: We're Thankful

 by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation


Ah, Thanksgiving. Perhaps my favorite holiday, because it centers around family, food, and togetherness, and involves much less stress than already-in-stores Christmas. While I try to be grateful every day for my life's blessings, I like that Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect on the good that is in the world. 

As is many family's customs, I like to ask my family what they're thankful for. My darling six year old rattled off a long list: Mom and Dad, her sister, our house, her best friend, her teacher, and her toys. My three year old's answer was much more concise: Everything!

As a nonprofit, The Groundwater Foundation is in a constant state of thankfulness - we're fortunate to have amazing partners, supporters, members, and constituents that share our passion and drive to protect and conserve groundwater. If you've been following us on Twitter and Facebook this month, every Thursday we've shared a few things we're thankful for. And with that in mind, I challenged my fellow Groundwater Foundation staff members to reflect on what they're thankful for:

Jane Griffin, President
The list of things to be thankful for goes on and on - and the common denominator in that list is the people. Caring, passionate, driven and determined people working to protect and conserve groundwater!  This year we were able to gather many of those people together in Boise to share and further inspire the work to continue.  I was truly inspired by and thankful for the people that make all of this happen. For those of you who were not able to join us know that we appreciate and are thankful for all you are doing in your community!

Sara Brock, Program Manager
I am thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of The Groundwater Foundation for the past year as a program manager. I have met many excellent people in the state government, in local utility departments, in schools, and even in summer camp who are pursuing a better understanding of groundwater and the issues facing it. Traveling across Nebraska, I've spoken to water operators, who are using innovative methods to treat groundwater, and STEM educators, who are integrating groundwater science with engineering, business, and other disciplines. In my experience with the Groundwater Guardian program, I've also been fortunate to talk to operators, educators, and decision makers across the US and learn about groundwater issues facing different regions as well as community response. I look forward to continuing working with The Groundwater Foundation to grow my understanding of what a community needs to keep its groundwater and residents healthy and safe.

As for me, I echo my colleagues' words. The absolute best part of my job is the people I've had the privilege of working with for nearly 18 years. I'm thankful that a shared passion for  groundwater brought me to them, many of whom I consider friends. I'm thankful that so many people are working to protect this resource, and that we can all be part of the solution for clean, sustainable groundwater.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at The Groundwater Foundation!

  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Fish-water for Fertilizer}

Whenever Frannie travels, like a few weeks ago for the 2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference, she makes sure follows her packing list very carefully.

Toothbrush: check.
Camera: check.
Fish tank and cleaner: check.

Frannie loves having clean water and a clean fish tank in her home, but she used to feel bad about wasting so much water. She then learned that she could use her dirty water to fertilize plants and gardens. Here’s how.

The water in the aquarium are rich in elements like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus and a compounds like ammonia from the fish food and excretions. If you look at the ingredients in plant fertilizers, you’ll see that they have those exact same elements.  If you regularly clean your fish tank, then that water dilutes those chemicals to appropriate dosages for your garden or house plants to handle.  In some cases, gardens that have been fertilized with aquarium water grown twice as large as those without!

Be careful, though, because you can’t always just pour dirty fish water on your plants.  For example, if you aren’t like Frannie and haven’t cleaned your tank in a very long time, you will need to add fresh water to the dirty water in order to dilute the chemicals a little more.  If you have treated your tank to adjust for pH or kill algae, you should not water any plants that you intend to eat.  Also, using water from a salt-water aquarium is more likely to hurt or kill your plants than it is to help them grow, especially if they are potted plants.

What other cool ways can you save water at home?  Share them with us at guardian@groundwater.org or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Friday, November 10, 2017

BLOG: 5 Ways to Save Water in Your Home

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The average American uses about 100 gallons of water a day. For comparison's sake, the average person in the Netherlands uses only 27 gallons per day, and the average person in the African nation of Gambia uses only 1.17 gallons per day.

So how can we use less?

1. Take Shorter Showers
A quick shower uses 20-30 fewer gallons of water than a bath. Challenge yourself to take just showers of just 5 minutes or less, then challenge your family members to do the same. Use a shower timer to help keep the time down. 


2. Check the Plumbing
Proper maintenance is one of the most effective water savers. Faucet washers are inexpensive and take only a few minutes to replace. At home, check all water taps, hoses, and hose connections (even those that connect to dishwashers and washing machines) for leaks.


3. Don’t Let It Run
It’s simple really, before you turn on the tap, think of ways you can use less water to accomplish the same purpose. Always shut off the water when you brush your teeth, fill the sink when shaving instead of letting the water run, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running it til it gets cold.


4. Drip No More!
There is no such thing as a little drip. A leaky faucet can waste 10 gallons of water every day. On a toilet, an average leak can add up to 60 gallons per day! Replace worn sink washers or valve seals to get rid of the drip, and check for leaks in a toilet's tank or replace old toilets with low-flush units.


5. Fill It Up
Only run full loads in the dish and clothes washers. Get the most clean for the least amount of water!


For more ways to conserve water, download the free 30by30 water tracking app. Challenge yourself to reduce your water use, and tell us how you did.

Friday, November 3, 2017

BLOG: National Conference Highlights

Boise was amazing! We enjoyed the beautiful weather, vibrant downtown, informative and inspiring presentations, a ton of networking, and a chance to spend time with our groundwater family. Here are some of the highlights:
The Idaho state capitol, just a few blocks from the conference hotel.


River artwork on the outside of The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise.


Tuesday morning was bright and beautiful.


A group enjoyed an informative tour about the redevelopment and groundwater contamination concerns at one of Boise's Greenbelt parks.


The conference kicked off with a reception at the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center.


Members of The Groundwater Foundation's Board of Directors enjoyed the interactive artwork at the WaterShed Center.


The WaterShed Center features great interactive, hands-on exhibits about Boise's water.


Pat Mulroy's plenary address about groundwater in a climate-changed world started Wednesday's sessions.



Wednesday's program included numerous informative breakouts on technology, research, education, conservation, and groundwater management.





Groundwater Guardians traveled the room at lunch and shared their community's groundwater story.


Connections were made during multiple networking breaks.


Bill and Rosemarie Alley shared lessons learned about groundwater management from their book, High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World's Growing Dependence on Groundwater.


We had the opportunity to sample water from Orange County Water District's Groundwater Replenishment System. And guess what - it tasted like water!