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 Wednesday 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 Wednesday 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 Wednesday 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!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

BLOG: Frannie's Upcycling for the 4th of July

Frannie the Fish loves looking for new ways to upcycle. Upcycling is when you take old, useless things and make them into something new. Upcycling helps protect our water supplies by reducing the amount of waste that gets into our landfills and prevents you from buying new products that take lots of water to make.

Since this week is the 4th of July, Frannie wanted to make some patriotic decorations. Her first stop was the recycling bin to see if she had any unwanted items she could use for her project. She found lots of used paper. She decided this paper would be perfect for making one cut stars!

She also found a few other things laying around the house to help her make the stars. Here's what you will need to make stars of your own:

  • Used paper, preferably with one clean side. 
  • A pen that is out of ink, or a broken mechanical pencil
  • Markers (for 4th of July you might want to use red and blue) 
  • Scissors 
  • Tape
  • Optional: Any other craft supplies you might have around the house 
  • Optional: Glue to glue the other craft supplies to your star

Start by making your your star. You can trace a star if you have a star stencil, OR you can use the one cut star method. To make a one cut star, use the directions below or checkout this video that gives a great explanation of how to make them!

1. Start with an 8.5" x 11" piece of used paper

 2. Fold it in half horizontally (the short way, not the long way)

3. Create horizontal and vertical creases by folding it in half again, unfolding it, and then folding it in half the vertically. Unfold it again so it is just folded in half once with creases going up and down, and side to side.

4. Starting at the vertical crease (the up and down one) fold the left top corner to the horizontal crease (the side to side crease).

5. Fold the same corner back so the top folded edge aligns along the fold you created in the last step.

6. Fold the upper right corner towards the left corner along the last fold you made.

7. Fold the right corner back until the top folded edge aligns with the edge from your last fold.

8. Now it’s time for your one cut. Cut at an angle (as shown) on the side with the smaller triangle.

The small piece that falls off is your star! Unfold it and you’re ready to decorate.

Decorate your star however you'd like. Frannie decided to do a flag theme. She colored the star and then put a few left over craft supplies on it to make it sparkle!

Finally, Frannie taped the used pen to the back of the star so she can hold it at the 4th of July parade!

Frannie doesn't want her new decoration to go to waste after the 4th of July, so she plans on using it as a plant decoration! Can you think of any other ways to use your new decoration around the house?

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Friday, June 28, 2019

BLOG: Project GROW and Wellhead Protection

by Sara Brock, Groundwater Foundation

The Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network (WHPN) met on Thursday, June 27 at the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District offices in York, Nebraska.

Much of the meeting focused on Upper Big Blue NRD's Project GROW (Growing Rotational crops On Wellfields). Upper Big Blue Water Conservationist Dan Leininger and Site Manager/Farmer Scott Gonnerman talked about the method of planting and harvesting cover crops as well as the soil and water health benefits they have seen as a result. Notably, they have increased water infiltration rates from 0.5 inches/hour to over 6 inches/hour, significantly reducing runoff. They have also been able to decrease their need for applied nitrogen, saving themselves money and protecting water quality at the same time. Department Manager Marie Krausnick briefly touched on a Source Water Grant and collaboration with the City of York that makes Project GROW possible.

The meeting concluded with a tour of the Project GROW site, which is located on the City of York’s wellfield. Visiting the soybean field, WHPN members saw leafy rows peaking out that had been shielded from the previous night’s hail by the triticale stalks that covered the field.

The pollinator habitat, opposite the soybeans, looked grassy and healthy. At two years old, it’s still filtering out some of the chemicals that have been added to the soil over the years, but it will grow bigger and have more blooms as the soil health is restored.

The tour ended at the community garden, a space that is open to members of the public to grow their own fresh produce. Using what they’ve learned from the Upper Big Blue NRD staff and Project GROW, York residents are growing tomatoes, zucchini, and more. The NRD also put in a couple rows of fruit trees and bushes that, in a few years, will be open to harvest by the public.

Attendees represented several state and local organizations such as the Nebraska Departments of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services, several Natural Resources Districts, and community utilities. 

Click here to learn more about Project GROW. Click here to learn more about the Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 5 - Evaporation}

This is the fifth 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 groundwater, discharge, and surface water.

Welcome back to Frannie’s deep dive into the water cycle! The dark blue bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet represents evaporation. Evaporation is the process of a liquid being heated up until it turns into gas. As Frannie described before, we can actually see the process of evaporation happen when we hold a cup of hot chocolate and see the steam rising from the cup. On a larger scale, when the sun heats up surface water, some of the water molecules on the very top layer turn into gas and rise into the air.

Evaporation doesn’t just happen in surface water, though. Soil moisture is an important measurement in agriculture and environmental science. Plants draw moisture up from the ground to use in photosynthesis and water vapor and oxygen are released from plant leaves as by-products of that process. Water that is released from plants is called transpiration.

Farmers and scientists alike calculate total soil moisture loss by combining moisture evaporation from soil and transpiration to find a total rate of evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration tells farmers when they should irrigate their crops and helps scientists understand and anticipate droughts.  Many factors can affect evapotranspiration such as temperature, humidity, and the type of plant that is transpiring water.

There is still another way that water can move from the ground into the sky. When Frannie learned about glaciers and their role in the water cycle during her deep dive in surface water, she also learned about a process called sublimation. Sublimation is when a solid becomes a gas, totally skipping the liquid phase and it occurs at low air temperatures and pressures.

We can easily see the progress of sublimation if we look at dry ice. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, which wants to be in its gaseous state at our normal air temperature and pressure. If Frannie wears gloves and carefully places a small chunk of dry ice in a cup and leaves it out in a room, she will notice that it gets smaller after a few hours even though there is no liquid carbon dioxide in the cup. 

Glaciers that are located high up in the mountains can do the same thing as dry ice, but it takes a lot longer. They slowly reduce in size through a combination of sublimation and melting then evaporation. Together, scientists describe the process of glacier volume loss as ablation.

Join Frannie in the clouds next time as she explores condensation and water’s amazing property of adhesion!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

BLOG: Ohio Groundwater Guardians Recognized

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

The National Ground Water Association hosted a conference this week in Westerville, Ohio focused on the hot topic of PFAS contamination (PFAS Management, Mitigation, and Remediation Conference).

Several Groundwater Guardians located in Ohio were in attendance, and received special recognition. NGWA CEO Terry S. Morse, CIC and Board President Scott King, PG, P.Geo., LHG thanked the teams for their continued work and passion in groundwater education and protection efforts in their communities.

NGWA Board President Scott King, PG, P.Geo., LHG talks about the Groundwater Guardian program.

From left: Scott King; Mike Ekberg, Miami Conservancy District; Claudia Dawson, Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium; Jim Shoemaker, Dayton Multi-Jurisdictional Source Water Protection Program; Karen Beason, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; NGWA CEO Terry Morse; Tim McLelland, Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium

Mike Ekberg, Miami Conservancy District with Scott King

Claudia Dawson and Tim McLelland, Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium with Scott King

Jim Shoemaker, Dayton Multi-Jurisdictional Source Water Protection Program with Scott King

Karen Beason, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with Scott King

You can get involved as a Groundwater Guardian too! Find out more.

Friday, June 14, 2019

BLOG: Plastic, Plastic, and More Plastic

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Everywhere you look, there's plastic. Just glancing down at my desk I see a plastic paper clip holder, plastic mechanical pencil, plastic bases to my computer monitors. Plastic is here, there, everywhere.

I recently ready an article about a study of the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean. It's one of the remotest places on Earth, with a population of only 600.

Google Maps

Marine scientists recently conducted a comprehensive survey of debris on the islands, and found a shocking amount of trash - 414 million pieces, weighing 238 tons. About 95% of the debris was plastic. Among this mess of trash were 977,000 shoes and 373,000 toothbrushes. In addition, 25% of the identifiable items were disposable plastics, such as straws, bags, and toothbrushes.

The study was published in the journal Nature and led by Dr. Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Dr. Lavers said remote islands that don't have large human populations to produce trash are an indicator of the amount of plastic debris circulating in the world's oceans.

“Plastic pollution is now ubiquitous in our oceans, and remote islands are an ideal place to get an objective view of the volume of plastic debris now circling the globe,” Lavers said.

Co-author Dr. Annett Finger from Victoria University noted, “As a result of the growth in single-use consumer plastics, it’s estimated there are now 5.25 trillion pieces of ocean plastic debris."

That's staggering. We're addicted to plastic, and the long term ramifications of this addiction on the environment are dire.

Dr. Finger says that “The scale of the problem means cleaning up our oceans is currently not possible, and cleaning beaches once they are polluted with plastic is time consuming, costly, and needs to be regularly repeated as thousands of new pieces of plastic wash up each day. The only viable solution is to reduce plastic production and consumption while improving waste management to stop this material entering our oceans in the first place.”

The statement that cleaning up our oceans isn't possible is frightening. It's time for all of us to act now. Start by:

  • Unless necessary due to disability, skip the plastic straw. Invest in a stainless steel or other reusable straw.
  • Skip the plastic bag. Bring your own shopping tote to the grocery store, and switch to reusable produce bags or skip the bag all together. (be sure to wash your bags often!)
  • Look for ways to avoid buying products with plastic packaging - which is difficult. Buy in bulk whenever possible using a reusable bag/container.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers or bags instead of disposable plastics.
  • When stopping at your favorite coffee shop, bring your own insulated mug and skip the disposable cup.
  • Use a refillable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles.
  • Bring your own containers for take-out food and restaurant leftovers. It may feel awkward, but many restaurants use styrofoam to package these foods.
  • Ditch soda, juice, and other plastic-bottled beverages. It's better for your health and you won't use the extra plastic.
  • Use natural cleaning cloths/scrubbers instead of plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges.
Get more ideas here and here and here.

As with any change, it takes all of us to do our part. As zero-waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau said, "We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly."

Get started!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 4 - Surface Water}

This is the fourth 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 groundwater and discharge.

Welcome back to Frannie’s deep dive into the water cycle! Today’s focus is surface water. Frannie knows that groundwater refers to water under the ground, so surface water must refer to the bodies of water above the ground, on the surface of the earth. Streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans are all examples of surface water.

Frannie’s experiment with the Awesome Aquifer Kit and her deep dive into the discharge process taught her that surface water is connected to groundwater. Streams and rivers can exchange water droplets that flow with the main current with water droplets that make up the subsurface flow, or flow beneath the streambed.

While Frannie wasn’t surprised by her research into streams and lakes, she was surprised to find surface water hiding in wetlands and glaciers! Wetlands, like marshes and swamps and bogs, are very important locations for groundwater recharge, which Frannie will talk about more later.  Wetlands near the sea or ocean can be flooded and drained by tidal activity and become salt marshes. All kinds of wetlands are incredibly important to prevent flooding and protect water quality.

Frannie has never seen a glacier, but in her research, she learned that she could think of it as a large river of ice that flows downhill under its own weight. When areas have a lot of snowfall in the winter start to warm up, the snow begins to melt and compress itself. If an area receives more snow than it can melt away, the melting snow turns into ice and grows with more cycles of snowfall and partial melting, eventually forming a glacier. Glaciers have an enormous effect on the topography, or layout of the land, in a region as well as its quantity and quality of available water.

Join Frannie next time as she follows the water cycle from rivers, wetlands, and glaciers to the sky. See you then!