Friday, November 15, 2019

30 Years and 30,000 Students

by Marcia Lee, Central Platte Natural Resources District

In 2004, Groundwater Foundation staff approached the Central Platte Natural Resources District (CPNRD) about handing over their flagship youth event—the state’s first Children’s Groundwater Festival, which had been held in Grand Island, Nebraska since it began in 1989.

The CPNRD staff was excited to take on the challenge. In 2005, the Foundation and the NRD co-coordinated the event for a smooth transition. CPNRD staff Kelly Cole, programs coordinator, and Marcia Lee, information/education specialist, have been coordinating it ever since.

“That first year on our own we were both eager and nervous about taking on a statewide event,” said Lee. “The guidance we received from the Foundation assured that everything went smoothly.”

This May marked the 30th year that the festival has brought professionals together to teach youth about all aspects of groundwater. Lee said over the 30 years, the message students take in has remained the same—groundwater is a precious resource and we all have a part in protecting and preserving it.

Over 30,000 students from across the state of Nebraska have attended the Festival over the years. The festival model has been replicated in 42 states in the United States, and in Mexico, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom. At the Nebraska festival, students participate in 25-minute in-depth classroom activities and a stage show that relate to groundwater. Professionals from state and local agencies, environmental organizations, and other volunteers teach about groundwater interactions with surface water and effects of pumping, the Ogallala aquifer, pollinators, stream flows, wetlands, pollution, drinking water, recycling, wastewater, industry use, the water cycle, water filtration, municipal systems, and more.

Festival coordinators set each school’s schedule, placing the students in six different activity topics, where various they learn about their topic through fun hands-on activities, games, and relay races.

Teachers are provided a pretest to give to their students prior to attending the festival and then a post-test following the event. “We’ve found that students retain information better when they are  personally involved in the activities, so we encourage every presenter to make their activity
interactive,” Lee said.

Cole said a few changes have been made over the years. The first was to rename the event the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival and partner with the Grand Island Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Festival Committee reaches out to businesses and individuals each year for donations to cover equipment, materials, and sack lunches provided to students, teachers, presenters, and volunteers beyond the $10,000 that the CPNRD budgets annually for the festival.

A change that will take effect in 2020 is the shift from inviting both fourth and fifth grade students to only fifth grade. The Festival Committee worked with the Nebraska Department of Education to determine which grade-level best fit the Festival with the new science standards, and determined that the festival correlates with fifth grade curriculum. The change will also allow schools to be on an every-other-year rotating invitation.

The festival’s location is also a vital aspect to the number of schools that can attend. Since its inception, the festival has been held in Grand Island, which is a central location for most schools in the state.

“We’re so fortunate to have Central Community College and College Park as partners,” said Cole. “They’ve allowed us to take over their campuses to hold the festival at no cost for 30 years.”

A good indicator that the festival is successful are the evaluations that are returned each year. Teachers, presenters, and volunteers are encouraged to complete evaluation forms to help the coordinators make improvements each year.

Even better indicators are letters from college students. The CPNRD has received several letters from former students who say they appreciate the opportunity to attend the festival as elementary students and that it opened their eyes to their career path.

“It’s incredibly rewarding when we receive those letters,” Lee said. “It’s gratifying to know that the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival has made a personal impact on someone’s life and that they share the same devotion to groundwater that we do.”

Cole and Lee say the event seems to get easier each year and they don’t lose as much sleep as that first year. The hard work is worth it, and they hope the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival continues to impact students— at least another 30,000 Nebraska youth over the next 30 years.

For more information about the Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival, visit

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Hydro Van Gogh}

Express your artistic side and follow a water drop's journey through the ground in a fun activity called Hydro Van Gogh! An aquifer is an underground geological formation of sand, soil, gravel, and rock able to store and yield water. The water from an aquifer is called groundwater and it is the water we drink and the water that grows our food. Find out more!

Here's what you need:
  • Aquifer map and/or an aquifer model
  • Canvas panels (recommended 5" x 7") or large sheets of paper
  • Oil pastels or acrylic paint 
  • Paint brushes

Here's what you do:
1. Identify the different parts of an aquifer using the graphic below:

2. Set out the canvas panel or a large sheet of paper, paint, and paintbrushes.

3. Now, pretend like you are a water drop that lands on the ground and seeps into an aquifer. Paint what you see as the water drop. Get as creative as you like!

Optional extra: continue to paint your journey through the water cycle.
What would you see?
How many different pathways through the water cycle will you take?
What kinds of materials will you interact with?

Be sure to share youmasterpiece at home with your family. Share what you know about groundwater and how to protect it!

Send pictures of your paintings to   

Friday, November 1, 2019

BLOG: Easy Tips for Protecting Your Well, Your Water, and Your Wallet This Winter.

The cooler weather and pumpkin pies can be a welcome change from the summer heat, but it also means one looming fact: winter is coming.

While many of the water well systems in the northern U.S. are required to be built under the frost line, there is a large section of the South and Midwest where pumping systems are constructed above ground or above the frost line. For these systems, it’s important to take steps to keep your well safe and operating through the winter.

1. Get Your Well Inspected
NGWA and recommend an annual inspection of your water well system. If you haven't had your inspection done, scheduling before the winter weather arrives could save you a lot of time and money! Find a qualified contractor.

2. Protect Your Pump
Many well systems are buried deep underground, which provides protection from the cold. But for well owners with above ground pumps, action should be taken to keep the system insulated and warm. Constructing a small insulated enclosure covering the pump will help keep the system above 32 degrees and reduce the risk of freezing and other damage. This small “well house” can save thousands of dollars in repairs and ensure a well operates throughout a cold winter. Find a qualified contractor.

3. Protect Your Pipes
As water freezes, it expands and can burst your pipes, leading to significant damage to your home and well. Frozen pipes are a common winter issue for homeowners, but can be avoided with a few easy steps. 
  • Turn off your exterior water and blow out your pipes. Ideally your house will have a shut-off valve for its exterior water supply. If so, turn off any water that flows to outside irrigation systems and faucets. Once you have turned the water off, then drain the remaining water or use an air compressor to blow out the pipes. If you don't have a shut-off valve, find a local contractor for other options to shutting off exterior water.
  • Insulate your pipes. For houses with piping that runs through non-heated spaces like basements, we suggest insulating pipes. Wrapping pipes with rubber casings or fiberglass insulation can keep their temperature above freezing and the water flowing.
  • Inspect your pipes. This is a great time to do a general inspection of your water system and piping. Spotting a problem in your system now could save you from a costly problem this winter. Find a certified contractor to schedule an inspection.

4. Prepare for a Power Outage 
While there is little that can be done by the homeowner to prevent power outages due to winter weather, there are steps to take so you have water to drink while waiting for the lights to come back on.
  • Always have a portable gas generator and plenty of gas to connect to your pumping system.
  • Stock up on bottled water before the winter; this way if there is a prolonged outage, you can still have clean drinking water in the house.
  • Contact a local contractor to learn more about backup generators and other options to keep your water flowing during a power outage.
Adapted from

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Water Inside Us}

Did you know that humans are made up of 60-70% water? Water helps blood flow easily, food digest in your body, and allows toxins to be filtered through your liver and kidneys before flushing them out as waste. People like you need to drink water and eat things with lots of water in them (like watermelon and strawberries and cucumbers and celery!) to keep our bodies happy and healthy.

Humans aren't the only living things made up of water - so are fish like Frannie! Fish, on average, have are made up of 78-85% water, just a little higher than humans.  Frannie has a fun activity you can do to illustrate just how much of your body contains water particles.

All you need is a few simple things:
  • A large piece of paper, big enough for you to lay down on
  • Markers/crayons/colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • A friend or family member to help
  1. Set the large piece of paper on the ground and lay on top of it.
  2. Have your friend trace your outline onto the paper with a marker.
  3. Measure the total height of the outline and multiply by 0.70 in order to find the height of 70% of your body. If you don't have a ruler, you can estimate 70% of your body by dividing your outline into quarter and drawing a line a bit below the 3/4 mark.
  4. Using a blue marker or coloring utensil, color in 70% of your body.
  5. You can color in the remaining 30% of your body with another color or leave it blank.
  6. Cut out your outline and either hang it next to you on a wall or lay down beside it.

Look at how much of you contains water! It's in your bones, your blood, your skin, your belly, and even your eyes! Seeing how much of our bodies are made up of water helps us understand why always having a clean drinking water source is so important.

Friday, October 11, 2019

BLOG: Lee Orton to Be Honored with Groundwater Industry Award

Lee Orton
Lee Orton, J.D., President of Orton Management Association in Lincoln, Nebraska, will receive the Ross L. Oliver Award from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA). The Ross L. Oliver Award is NGWA’s most prestigious award and is presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to the groundwater industry.

The award will be presented to Mr. Orton at Groundwater Week in Las Vegas on December 5, 2019.

After graduating law school, Orton began his career in the natural resources and groundwater industry by developing the State Water Plan of Nebraska in 1969. Shortly after, he became the first Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) where he successfully managed the merging of 153 local government groups into 24 natural resource districts.

After a decade with NARD, Orton began his private law practice where he played a pivotal role in Nebraska's well drilling industry. Working with the Nebraska Well Drillers Association, Orton would draft and help pass a new law through the Nebraska Legislature which created a well professional’s license and  a state level governing board to oversee the licensing process.

Orton would go on to become the first Executive Director of the Nebraska Well Drillers Association where he would be hired by the state government to draft new rules and regulations of well drilling licensure.

"Lee has dedicated himself to protecting and conserving groundwater throughout his distinguished career," said Jane Griffin of the Groundwater Foundation, who worked closely with Lee for several years when he served as a member of the Foundation's board of directors. "What has moved him above and beyond is his passion for his work on behalf of groundwater."

Orton has long proved to be an invaluable resource and advocate for the groundwater industry. He was instrumental in the formation of NGWA’s Government Affairs Committee as well as organizing the first Washington, D.C. Fly-In which allowed NGWA members to directly lobby their lawmakers.
Orton remains one of NGWA’s strongest advocates in state and federal government affairs.

Orton received the Kremer Award in 2011.
"Lee has the aptitude and demeanor to bring those from all water disciplines – surface and groundwater, contractors, scientist, engineers, consultants, etc. together with regulators and politicians to navigate the legislative processes at the state and federal level for the wise and beneficial use of the resource. He has (still is) dedicated his entire career to the beneficial management of our most precious natural resource, water!' stated nominator Thomas Downey, CWD/PI, President of Downey Drilling Inc. in Nebraska and Past President of NGWA.

Orton also received the Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award from the Groundwater Foundation in 2011.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

BLOG: Groundwater and Your Body

Groundwater is literally part of you.

It's the water many of us drink, and when it's in our bodies, it helps support processes that keep us healthy and thriving.

Our brains and hearts are 73% water. Lungs? About 83% water. Other major parts of our bodies are mostly water, including our skin (64%), muscles (79%), and kidneys (79%).

We all need to drink water every single day to survive. Adults need somewhere around 2-3 liters of water each day (some of this comes from food). Why? Because it does a number of amazing things in our bodies.

Source: USGS

  • It forms saliva and aids in digestion
  • It keeps all mucosal membranes moist and healthy
  • It's an essential piece of every single cell in our bodies
  • It helps flush waste from our bodies
  • It keeps our joints moving comfortably
  • It keeps our body temperature regulated by making us sweat
  • It's a shock absorber for our brains and spinal cords
  • It's used by our brains to make hormones and signals to keep our systems operating
  • It helps deliver oxygen throughout our bodies

Water is "sticky," which comes from its surface tension, and this plays a part in our bodies being able to move materials from our toes to our head and everywhere in between.

This is just one more way groundwater is magical - it helps keep us healthy and thriving! How will you help protect this amazing resource?

Adapted from "The Water in You" at

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Upcycle: Toilet Paper Roll Bat Decorations}

It's finally October! Do you know what that means? Halloween is right around the corner!

You can make this Halloween fun and sustainable by upcycling a paper towel roll or toilet paper roll into one of Frannie's favorite spooky decorations: flying bats! Hang them in any room in your house and even outside, as long as they don't get wet!

Before you get started, you'll need to gather some supplies: toilet paper or paper towel rolls; black paint; white paint, googly eyes, or other eye-shaped stickers, the creepier the better; brushes; black paper; scissors; and glue. If you would like to make your bats look like they are flying at you, you will also need string and a hole punch.

If you're using a paper towel roll, you will need to cut it into three smaller pieces that are about the size of a toilet paper roll.

1. If you want to hang your bats from your door handle or tree limbs, start by punching 2 holes on either side of the roll and thread your string through.

2. Fold the ends of the empty toilet paper roll in together. You may need to secure the folds with glue.

3. Paint the roll black. While it's drying, cut out bat wings from the paper. You can cut the wings individually or as one whole piece. Either way, make sure to leave some space between the wings or a tab at the end of a wing so you can glue them to the back of the roll.

4. Once the glue is dry, bend the wings back just enough so that they stick out from bat.

5. Now it's time for the eyes. You can either glue on googly eyes, place the eye stickers. If you're painting the eyes, start by painting on small white ovals. When the white paint dries, dab a small circle of black paint for the pupils.

6. Display your bat where everyone can see!

Have a very Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, September 27, 2019

BLOG: Emergency Management and Drinking Water Protection Workshop

The effects of the historic flooding Nebraska experienced this spring are still being felt all these months later, and will continue to be felt into the future. A natural disaster such as this is a good opportunity to look at contingency planning for community drinking water supplies in the event of an emergency.

Image credit: Nebraska State Patrol

The Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network is hosting a workshop on the subject October 3, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Valley Irrigation (28800 Ida Street, Valley, Nebraska) and invites you to join us. "Emergency Management and Contingency Planning to Protect Nebraska's Water Supply" will cover:

  • Why having a comprehensive emergency management plan is important
  • How to develop an emergency management plan
  • Stories of how towns and businesses survived Nebraska's flooding this spring
The agenda includes:
Lunch and a tour of Valley's facilities, which were impacted by spring flooding, are generously provided by Valley Irrigation.

Join us and help your community be prepared for emergencies! Register by October 1.

Questions? Contact the Groundwater Foundation at or 402-434-2740.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Visit a Sustainability Fair}

A local branch of Fiserv, a national financial services company, held their first ever Green Day Sustainability Fair for their employees. Frannie and her friends at the Groundwater Foundation were invited to share their knowledge about our groundwater resources. Frannie met many people from local organizations that are doing good work to grow our food, save electricity, and recycle or repurpose old materials! 
Frannie shared an activity called "How Wet is Our Planet". Did you know that 70% of the Earth is made up of water?
Well, imagine all of that water could fit inside a 5-gallon bucket. Now, take a little over 1 1/2 cups, 25 tablespoons, out of the big bucket and put it into a smaller container. That represents all of the freshwater in the world.
But we don't always have easy access to freshwater. Sometimes, the water is stored inside plants or glaciers or ice caps or clouds. Have you ever tried to drink a cloud? It's pretty hard!
If we take a 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons out of the freshwater jar, that's about how much clean, fresh groundwater is available for humans to use.
If we take a little eye dropper and place 25 drops from the groundwater cup into the rivers, streams, and lakes cup, then that's how much fresh surface water in the world that humans can use.
Isn't it wonderful and weird to know that ALL of the water we use is just a fraction of the total amount of water on Earth? If we keep it clean now, we will be able to keep using it way into the future.
Have you attended a festival recently? Share your favorite activity with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! See you next time!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Protect Your Groundwater Day 2019}

Yesterday was Protect Your Groundwater Day! Everyday, we use water for cooking, drinking, cleaning, and more. Fish like Frannie call the water home.

But did you know that the groundwater we drink can be at risk for pollution and overuse? Even though Protect Your Groundwater Day is over this year, there are still many things we can do to help keep our water clean and make sure there's plenty of it for the future. Frannie wants to share an activity that will help you celebrate every day like Protect Your Groundwater Day.

You only need 2 things: a writing utensil and something you can write on!

Here's what to do:

1. Look around your home, school, or neighborhood for ways you can help save water and ways groundwater pollution can be prevented.

2. Make a checklist of all the ways you and your family can help protect groundwater. Check out the example checklist below to get started!

  • Use fertilizer according to package directions.
  • Take back leftover, unused, and expired medications to a pharmacy participating in the Nebraska MEDS project.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle!
  • Take hazardous waste to places where it can be properly disposed.
  • Shut water off while brushing your teeth.
  • Only run full loads of dishes and laundry.
  • Check for leaky faucets and have them fixed.
  • Water the lawn during cooler hours of day and only when the grass needs water.
  • Sweep your sidewalks and driveways rather than rinsing them with water.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath.
  • Take short showers and use an aerator or low-flow shower head.
  • Take motor oil and other household hazardous waste to a recycling or collection center.
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaners.

You can download the free water-tracking app for
Android and Apple, 30by30, to track your water use and learn even more ways you can help conserve water.

3. After you decide what activities you can do to help protect groundwater, take the groundwater pledge:

"I believe clean water is important to all things. I pledge to:
Be aware of activities that can be harmful to groundwater.
Do my part to help protect groundwater and all natural resources.
Make an effort to educate myself and others about water and ways that we can make a difference.
Let's keep it clean!"

Now share the checklists you and your friends made with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Friday, August 30, 2019

BLOG: The Importance of Well Owner Maintenance Practices

Routine maintenance and inspection of water wells can help protect water quality, ensure your well is operating properly, prolong the life of the well system, and protect your investment. Greatest of all
these is the protection of groundwater and your health, as water quality issues can have adverse health impacts without any detectable indicators.

Small problems can often be identified by performing maintenance before they become costly, inconvenient situations. It’s similar to routine maintenance on your vehicle—if you have the oil changed at specified intervals, the engine will operate reliably much longer than if you don’t.

At a minimum, wells should be evaluated annually by a licensed or certified water well systems professional and include a flow test; visual inspection; a water quality test for coliform and anaerobic bacteria, nitrates, and anything else of local concern; checking valves; and electrical testing.

You should receive a written report following the annual checkup that describes recommendations and all laboratory and other test results. Keep this with all other well information.

Understanding Your System
Well owners should have a basic understanding of their well system. Start by maintaining records of any well logs. A detailed log of your well’s construction and the pump installation record are two important tools in troubleshooting and potentially fixing issues with your well and well pump in the future. Ask your well contractor for these records. A well log can provide information regarding the depth of the well, the type of casing used, grouting practices and intervals, static water levels, what type of pump test was performed and results, if the well is screened or not, and more.

You should also be aware of any filtration or treatment systems. Know if one is installed, what type of treatment method is used, and what the water is being treated for. Read the owner’s manual and  keep a copy with your well records for when an issue arises.

Visual Inspection
Well owners should also conduct a regular visual inspection of the well to monitor its performance.

  • On the wellhead, inspect the casing’s general condition and if it extends at least 12 inches above ground. The well cap on top of the casing should be securely attached. Verify that any electrical connections are secure.
  • Survey the area above ground surrounding the well. Check the location relative to potential sources of contamination, flooding, and physical dangers. Maintain at least 50 feet between the well and any kennels, pastures, feeding areas, or livestock operations, and ensure a proper distance is maintained from buildings, waste systems, or chemical storage areas (including fuel tanks). Be sure the ground surrounding the wellhead is sloping away from the well to divert surface runoff.
  • Any growth of weeds, trees, shrubs, or grasses with root systems within 10 feet of the well should be physically removed. Avoid the use of chemicals or herbicides near the wellhead. 
  • The well should not be in a roadway or driveway. If it is within close proximity to a roadway or driveway, it should be properly marked to avoid being hit by vehicles. Be conscious of any other potential threats to the wellhead—garages, ATVs, sledding hills, debris, dirt, surface water, fuels and chemicals (including fertilizers), and runoff water from kennels, pastures, or feedlots. 
  • Well owners should visually inspect any above-ground pumping equipment. Ensure motors are  properly cooled and vented, check for shaft seal leaks, and rust or other signs of weakened fittings.
  • Examine other above-ground well system wiring and parts such as pipes, connections, joint seals, gauges, pressure relief valves, and the water meter (if present). A water sample tap should be located near the pressure tank, high enough to easily collect a water sample.
  • Note the condition and accessibility of above- and below-ground storage tanks. Evaluate the condition of the control box and connections. Maintain water softeners, conditioners, and filtration equipment.

When to Call a Professional
A qualified water well professional should be consulted for any issues discovered during a visual inspection. When in doubt, call a water well systems professional, but especially:

  • Anytime the well has to be opened (cap or well seal removed). 
  • If you experience taste or odor problems.
  • If you experience turbidity or cloudiness (“dirty” looking)
  • If there is a loss of capacity or pressure—the well is not producing as much water as previously produced, the pressure drops and surges, or the pump cycles on and off frequently. 
  • If a test is positive for total coliforms, anaerobic bacteria, or any positive test results indicating a potential health concern. 
  • If you find defects with your wellhead, the wellhead area, or the overall water system during your routine inspection.

Cleaning and disinfection should only be performed by a qualified water well systems professional—for your safety and the protection of your well system.

Find out more about proper well maintenance and much more online at

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 9 - Recharge}

This is the ninth and final part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface waterevaporationcondensation, precipitation, and runoff.
Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! The final, red-colored bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet represents recharge, which is the process by which an aquifer takes in water. If you think of an aquifer like a phone battery, you know that when you use your phone, the battery gets depleted. In order to make your phone work again, you have to connect it a power source and charge it. Surface water, run off, and precipitations are kind of like power sources for an aquifer. Water seeps, or percolates, through the ground, recharging the aquifer once it reaches the water table.

The ability of an area to perform recharge depends on many factors like the type of soil and how well it can hold water, how much rain an area receives and where it fall, how steep the hills are in an area, and climate of an area during each season. For example, if rain falls on a steep city street, it won't be able to pass the impermeable pavement and will flow quickly downhill. However, if it lands in a flat area that has a type of soil that water can pass through quite easily, the water can infiltrate the unsaturated zone to reach the water table.

Frannie learned something interesting while researching recharge. Not all water that enters the soil actually becomes recharge. Much of it is stored in the unsaturated zone and returns through the atmosphere either through evaporation or by being drawn into plants’ roots and then transpired. This is in part due to water’s stickiness superpower from the deep dive into condensation.
But that’s not the only way that groundwater can be recharged. Human-induced recharge is water that is put back into the ground on purpose. Wells that do this are called injection wells, but it can also be directed into spreading basins. A spreading basin is an area that holds surface water long enough for it to seep into the ground, such as a wetland or marsh.

Groundwater recharge and the processes that allow it to happen are very important to the health of an aquifer. If too little recharge occurs over an extended period of time, such as in times of extreme drought, the aquifer can shrink. The sheer weight of the land can compress the dry soils and form impermeable barriers and the aquifer will never be able to return to its previous size. This is aquifer storage loss, a concept Frannie explored while “Seeing an Aquifer in Space”. 
Now that our water droplet has returned to groundwater, Frannie has completed this cycle. This isn’t the only loop a water droplet can take.

Sometimes, a water droplet with travel from the surface, condense and precipitate, land on a leaf and evaporate again before it ever has the chance to touch the ground.

Sometimes, water flowing in river will exchange back and forth with the groundwater flowing beneath the riverbed.

And sometimes, water will be pumped from the ground into your house, through your faucets and toilets and shower, treated in a septic system, and eventually released back into the ground.

Thank you for traveling with Frannie on her journey through the water cycle! She learned a lot along the way and hopes you did, too!

BLOG: Groundwater Foundation Names Reed Maxwell 2020 Darcy Lecturer

Dr. Reed Maxwell
The Groundwater Foundation is pleased to announce that Reed Maxwell, Ph.D. has been selected as the 2020 Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecturer.

The Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecture Series in Groundwater Science fosters interest and excellence in groundwater science and technology. It was established in 1986 and named in honor of Hendry Darcy of France for his 1856 investigations that established the physical basis upon which groundwater hydrogeology has been studied ever since. Each year a panel of scientists and engineers chooses an outstanding groundwater professional to share his or her work throughout the year with peers and students. 

Dr. Maxwell will offer three lectures during 2020:

  1. "Hydrology from the Bottom Up: How Groundwater Shapes the Water Cycle"
  2. "Hydrology in the Supercomputing Age: How Computational Advances Have Revolutionized Our Field, And What Big Data and Massively Parallel Simulations Mean for the Future of Hydrologic Discovery"
  3. "Killer Beetles, Naked Trees, and Dirty Water: Understanding Hydrology and Water Quality Impacts from the Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation in the Rocky Mountain West"

Dr. Maxwell is faculty in the Geology and Geological Engineering Department, core faculty in the Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program, and the Director of the Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center (IGWMC) at the Colorado School of Mines. His research interests are focused on understanding connections within the hydrologic cycle and how they relate to water quantity and quality under anthropogenic stresses. He is an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and was the 2018 Boussinesq Lecturer and 2017 School of Mines Research Award recipient. Dr. Maxwell has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and teaches classes on integrated hydrology, fluid mechanics, and modeling terrestrial water flow. He currently leads a research group of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff housed in the IGWMC at Mines. Before joining the faculty at Mines, Dr. Maxwell was a postdoc and then staff in the Hydrologic Sciences group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Environmental Water Resources from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

For more information about the 2020 Darcy Lecture Series, including lecture descriptions and how to request a presentation, visit

Friday, August 9, 2019

BLOG: Groundwater Foundation Awards Scholarships to Five Students

The Groundwater Foundation has awarded scholarships to five students through the Len Assante Scholarship fund.

Len Assante Scholarships are awarded to full-time students enrolled in groundwater-related fields at a post-secondary institution such as a vocational school, community college, independent college, or university. An independent panel chooses the winners from a pool of scholarship applicants. Since its inception, the Len Assante Scholarship Fund has provided scholarships to 120 students pursing groundwater-related studies.

The 2019 Len Assante Scholarship award winners are:
  • Tyler Kleinsasser, Past President’s Award, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
  • Sheila Solis-Arroyo, Ora Lyons Award, University of Arizona
  • Wynne Casteel III, Rich Haderer Award, Baylor University
  • John Krone, University of Southern California
  • William Brewer, Baylor University

“The groundwater industry will need contractors, scientists, engineers, manufacturers, and suppliers into the future,” said Terry Morse, CIC, CAE, National Ground Water Association CEO. “The Groundwater Foundation’s scholarships help ensure our industry remains strong with a robust workforce.”

For more information about the Len Assante Scholarship Fund, visit our website.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 8 - Runoff}

This is the eighth part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface waterevaporationcondensation, and precipitation.

Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! The green bead on the water cycle bracelet represents runoff. When rain falls, snow melts, or when Frannie’s friend accidentally leaves the hose running in the garden (oh no!), the water that flows over the land and into the sewers, rivers, and lakes is called runoff.
A watershed is an area of land that surrounds a basin of water, such as a river or lake, that collects the runoff. Watersheds can be as small as the little neighborhood that surrounds and drains water into Frannie’s pond or huge, like the Mississippi River Watershed that drains water from 31 U.S. states and two provinces in Canada.

Runoff often picks up pollutants as it flows over the land. Not only can this affect the ecology in the area, but it can also have serious effects on local surface water and, eventually, the reservoir or ocean where it ends up.

Sometimes, precipitation doesn’t make it all the way down to earth. For example, when it rains in a Frannie’s neighborhood, the rain can be intercepted, meaning it lands on the buildings, sidewalks, streets instead of the grass or garden. The water that flows down the side of the street eventually runs into storm drains, which transport the water to a drainage area. Some water may even seep into the ground in a process called recharge!

Join us next time as Frannie explores recharge, the final stop on her water cycle journey.

Friday, July 26, 2019

BLOG: One Person Doesn't Leave a Legacy

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Groundwater Guardian teams are often the result of the interest of a community’s sparkplug - someone who is passionate, committed, and capable. That’s certainly been the case in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which was first designated as aGroundwater Guardian in 1998 under the leadership of Lisa Corbitt.

Lisa was first introduced to the Groundwater Guardian program at a conference in Chicago in the fall of 1997. Hearing different Groundwater Guardian teams talk about what they were doing in their communities - water festivals, educational outreach, establishing regulatory requirements - inspired Lisa to get a team going in Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg County is an urban county home to over one million people. The County encompasses 546 square miles and includes the City of Charlotte as the county seat. Most people in the county get their drinking water through Charlotte’s municipal water source, Mountain Island Lake, a surface water source. Approximately 15% of the population relies on groundwater for drinking water, industrial water, or irrigation from an unconfined bedrock aquifer.

Lisa’s background as a Licensed Geologist and 31 years of working on groundwater issues in Mecklenburg County as a Hydrogeologist and Program Manager gives her a unique perspective on the County’s water resources. Though groundwater provides a small portion of the city’s water source, protecting it and raising awareness has long been a goal of the Lisa and her team. Over 1,800 groundwater contamination sites can be found in the county, ranging from a leaking home heating oil tank to a Superfund site.

The County’s programs and approaches have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. “In the beginning we were in the towns and schools educating high school students to teach elementary school students about the groundwater system through Aquifer Clubs, and annually we would have a Water Festival,” she says, which were great ways to reach students.

Then in 2005, the Mecklenburg County Groundwater Well Regulations were adopted. About the same time, the Learn and Serve Grant the team had been relying on stopped funding the type of educational programs they were offering, and the school system began implementing new restrictions on student involvement.

As a result, the team combined with other local efforts and shifted its focus to new water supply wells, identifying and sampling wells near contamination sites, and educating Water Well Contractors as well as Realtors. Team members are still able to participate in youth education efforts, such as classroom presentations, Science Olympiad, and Envirothon.

Before Lisa retired in December 2018, she laid the foundation for the efforts of the Groundwater Guardian team she’s led for over two decades to continue.

“Mecklenburg County’s GroundwaterAdvisory Board was established in 2005 as a requirement of the Groundwater Well Regulations,” she explains. “As long as the regulations are in effect there will be a citizen advisory board,” which is part of the Groundwater Guardian team. Staff members from Mecklenburg County Groundwater & Wastewater have taken leadership roles in education outreach as part of the Groundwater Guardian team’s efforts.

As for her personal legacy? Lisa is humble: “One person does not leave a legacy. Each success we’ve accomplished is because we have had a great team working together.”

Over 30 years ago, she was hired to establish a groundwater program. The program has gone from zero to:

  • Groundwater Well Regulations for permitting, repairing and abandoning water supply wells
  • Requirements for areas of regulated groundwater usage 
  • Groundwater Contamination Database 
  • A program that identifies and samples wells within 1500 feet of a known contamination site (Mecklenburg County Priority List) 
  • A public portal for well and groundwater contamination information (Well Information System) 
  • A public portal for permitting and abandoning monitoring wells (MAPS) 
  • Combined Groundwater Program with the Onsite Wastewater Program to address an entire piece of property with groundwater in mind. 
Groundwater Guardian has been a memorable part of Lisa’s career. And the best part of it? “The building of collaborative relationships and friendships with people across the United States that care about protecting the groundwater resource,” she says. “We openly share ideas and information. We learn from each other on what works well and what does not work well. We encourage each other to use our ideas. When one community is successful we are all successful.”

“It’s been rewarding to help individuals that have found out their well is contaminated and don’t know what to do next. I’ve had the opportunity to work beside them in making sure that they have a safe drinking water source,” she says.

After all, groundwater is the water we drink. And we thank Lisa for being an active partner through Groundwater Guardian and working to protect it for over 30 years.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 7 - Precipitation}

This is the seventh part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface waterevaporation, and condensation.
Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! The yellow bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet represents precipitation. Even though it’s a big word, we are all very familiar with many different kinds of precipitation like rain, hail, sleet, and snow!

Precipitation is water that falls from the sky. The tiny water droplets are big enough to form visible clouds but not yet big enough to fall. Precipitation happens when millions of cloud droplets collide together to form a single raindrop or through another process where ice crystals are rapidly formed into snow or hail.
One quick clarification, though: fog and mist are not types of precipitation. They are actually suspensions, which means that the water vapor has not condensed enough to precipitate.

Precipitation is not the only way water can move from the sky to the ground. Back when Frannie was investigating evaporation, she touched on the concept of sublimation, where solid forms of water can become vapor without ever entering the liquid phase.

Deposition, or desublimation, is the opposite of that. In sub-freezing air, water vapor can turn directly into ice. It’s very possible you’ve already seen this process in action. On very cold winter days, water vapor goes through process of deposition to become the frost, also known as hoarfrost, that you can see coating plant stems, spiderwebs, and wires.
Join Frannie next time as she finds out where all that water goes once its back on the ground!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

BLOG: Proactively Addressing Nitrate Contamination

by Jane Griffin, Groundwater Foundation Executive Director

At the Groundwater Foundation, we always say that your community’s drinking water in your hands.

This is specifically the case for residents of Springfield, Nebraska. We've been working with a group of stakeholders, along with various state and local agencies, consultants, and involved community members, to develop a Drinking Water Protection Management Plan. Springfield's water situation is one faced by many small communities - its drinking water wells are threatened by nitrate contamination.

The City of Springfield is taking a proactive approach to their nitrate issue, and developing a Management Plan to address the rising nitrate levels before they become problematic. To do this, all the Springfield community needs to be involved to help protect their drinking water source - groundwater - now and for the future.

Community members are invited to attend an Open House on July 30 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Springfield Community Building (104 Main Street). This won't be a typical boring open house with talking heads at a microphone - it will include fun, hands-on activities to learn about groundwater for kids and adults of all ages, agency representatives to answer all questions about groundwater quality and quantity in Springfield, and information about the new well that will serve the community.

Be part of this process and let your voice be heard about the future of Springfield's most precious resource - its drinking water. Join us, and remember, your community’s drinking water is in your hands!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 6 - Condensation}

This is the sixth part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface water, and evaporation.

Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! Condensation is represented by the white bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet. Before we can understand condensation, we have to look at one of water’s coolest properties.

Water droplets have 2 amazing superpowers. The first one is called “cohesion”, which means that the molecules like to stick together. You can see this water property in action with a very simple experiment.

1) Fill a glass of water to the rim.
2) Once it looks full, continue to add water drop by drop.

Even though the water is technically over the rim of the glass, it isn’t spilling because the drops are cohering to each other.

A water droplet's second superpower is known as "adhesion", which means that molecules like to stick to other things. You can see this water property in action in another very simple experiment.

1) On a warm day, fill up a glass with ice and water.
2) Leave it out on a table for a few minutes.

Observe the water that collects on the outside of the glass. The glass isn't leaking - water vapor from the air is cooling down and sticking, or adhering, to the outside of the glass.

After water vapor rises into the air, it starts to cool and seek out non-gaseous particles, known as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCNs). When water vapor makes contact with CCNs, it adheres. It then cools and transitions from vapor to liquid droplets, as clouds would have in low and intermediate elevations, or solid ice crystals, as clouds would have high up in the atmosphere. Clouds grow when more water molecules cool and cohere together in the process known as condensation.

Condensation is an exothermic process, which means it releases heat. Convection, which is movement of a fluid in response to heat, and advection, which is the movement of a material that is suspended in a fluid such as a CCN, are two other important processes at this stage in the water cycle.  They are responsible not only for carrying clouds over the ocean and land, but also for our next step in the water cycle – the precipitation of water from the clouds.

Join Frannie next time as she heads back down to the ground with precipitation!