Wednesday, June 24, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Activities Library}

Frannie is always looking for new fun things to do in the summer. Luckily, the Groundwater Foundation has the Activities Library, a searchable database that features over 70 activities for any kind of setting. From wet-and-wild outdoor games to crosswords and coloring sheets, you can fill your long summer days with fun groundwater education!

You can search for activities by:
  • Age
  • Duration
  • Key topic (i.e. - irrigation, water quality, climate/weather, etc.)
  • Category (i.e.-outdoor, messy, arts and crafts, etc.)


You can also search for activities directly by name, such as "Growing with Groundwater." Results display an image of the activity, the activity name, a description and a link to a how-to video (if available), and a link to additional details and to download the instructions.




Check out this awesome tool and let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {#throwback: Top 5 Reasons to Use a Reusable Water Bottle}

It's getting hot, hot, HOT outside, so it's time to bring back one of Frannie's favorite blog topics.
 
Reusable water bottles are better for the environment, our health, and our wallets than purchasing bottled water! There are even high-tech water bottles that can connect to your phone, sending you reminders when to drink and rewarding your healthy habits with fun badges and games.

Without further ado, here are Frannie's top 5 reasons to use a reusable water bottle.

1. It's healthier to use bottles that are free from chemicals like bisphenol A, often referred to as BPA. BPA is an industrial chemical that can have possible negative health effects on your brain.  Plastics marked with recycle codes 3 and 7 may be made with BPA. Almost all reusable water bottles are BPA-free.

2. Getting water from the tap is cheaper than buying bottled water.  Bottled water can cost up to 500 times more than tap water!

3. It saves water! Making new plastic bottles takes a LOT of water.  In fact, it takes more water to produce one plastic bottle than the water put into the bottle for drinking!

4. It's better for the environment.  Using reusable water bottles is better for the environment because it reduces your carbon footprint.  Producing new, disposable water bottles uses many fossil fuels and releases toxins into the air during production, not to mention the diesel used to transport cases of bottles to a store near you.

5. They're EASY and FUN to use! Smart water bottles are water bottles that can connect to your phone via Bluetooth. There are many brands to choose from that do things like keep track of the exact amount of water you've had, connect to a fitness watch, and even play music through an attached speaker! 

Frannie also wants to share a couple of life hacks for turning tap water into "Oh, snap!" water. 

Prepare your water bottle the night before by filling it 1/4 to 1/3 of the way full and then leave it in the freezer overnight. The ice will help keep your water cool longer and you won't waste time or water running the tap, waiting for it to get cold.

She also likes to add fruits or veggies to her water for that extra special something. One of Frannie’s favorite summer drinks is cold water with a pinch of salt and a hefty squeeze of lemon juice.  It’s a healthy, refreshing drink that tastes great and will naturally replenish your electrolytes!

Where do you take your water bottle? Share with us by email or by tagging us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Safety First!}

Summer is almost here! Parks, pools, lakes, and beaches are starting to open up again as lockdown restrictions ease and Frannie can't wait to get out there and play in them.
It's important to remember how to be safe around open waters so that we can have good, safe fun all summer long. With these few tips, you can join Frannie and her friends in the water!

  1. Use the buddy system. Stay near your buddy and be sure to let someone know if you or your buddy is lost or needs help. 
  2. In the same track as using the buddy system, make sure you stick together and stay close to the beach or shore where family, friends, or other adults can help you if you need it.
  3. Never drink the water from a stream, lake, river, or other water body you are playing in or investigating.  Even if it looks clean, it might not be healthy to drink.
  4. When playing on the banks of rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes, make sure the ground is sturdy and won’t give way. Look for signs of erosion that might indicate loose ground.
  5. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is the ground or the bottom of the lake or river rocky?  Is the current strong?  Is the water level high or low?  What is the forecast supposed to be today?  Are there any fast moving boats nearby? These are very important questions that only take a few minutes to think about but can make all the difference.
  6. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Wear socks, long sleeves, and pants for hiking out to your favorite river or lake spot. Hats can protect you from the sun and bugs. Closed toed shoes can prevent rocks from cutting your feet. Flip flops are okay for the pool, but leave them at home for outdoor adventures.
  7. Know which plants are poisonous. Poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettles can all make you feel uncomfortable or make you really sick. Poison sumac and hemlock are not as common, but can also be a threat.
  8. Certain insects, such as ticks, mosquitoes, flies, bees, and hornets, can also ruin your nature experience.  Dress properly and wear insect repellent.
  9. Respect the environment. Remember that you are a guest. Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.
Have fun and stay safe!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Upcycled Conservation Flowers}

Hooray! It's finally May! That means we've finally reached the time of year where the flowers, bushes, and trees are coming to life in beautiful and vibrant colors. This year, try planting some Upcycled Conservation Flowers to remind you of all the ways you can conserve water.
But wait a minute, Frannie: what in the world are Upcycled Conservation Flowers?
Upcycling is a fun trend that helps protect the environment by reusing items that may have previously been thrown away. Reusing an item keeps it from ending up in a landfill where it may take millions of years to decompose. Upcycled Conservation Flowers are made out of plastic water bottles and each petal represents an easy way to help conserve and protect groundwater! 
Find out how to make them below!
Students showing off their Upcycled Conservation Flowers!

Materials:

  • Empty plastic water bottle
  • 8 different colored acrylic paints
  • Paint brush
  • Hole punch
  • String
  • Wood stick (optional)
  • Glue
  • Sequins, beads, paper, glitter, or gems


Instructions:

  1. Clean your plastic water bottle. Remove any plastic labeling from the outside.
  2. Cut your water bottle in half. Recycle the bottom half of your bottle.
  3. Cut eight petals by cutting from the middle of the bottle towards the cap. Make sure to cut all the way to the edge of the cap. Round the edges.
  4. Press the petals out and flatten them to make your bottle look like a flower.
  5. Paint each petal a different color to represent the different ways to protect and conserve groundwater. Add glitter for fun!
  6. Cover the cap with beads, gems, sequins, paper, or paint to represent the pistil/stamen.
  7. Use a paper hole punch and string to make your flower an ornament or use a wooden stick and glue to create a decorative flower for potted plants.


Ways to Protect and Conserve Groundwater:

Go Native
Use native plants in your landscape. They look great, and don't need much water or fertilizer.
Reduce Chemical Use
Use fewer chemicals around your home and yard, and make sure to dispose of them properly - don't dump them on the ground!
Don't Let It Run
Shut off the water when brushing your teeth, and don't let it run while waiting for it to get cold. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead!
Fix the Drips
Check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps for leaks and fix them right away.
Shower Smarter
Limit yourself to just a five minute shower, and challenge your family members to do the same!
Water Wisely
Water plants during the coolest parts of the day and only when they truly need it. Make sure you, your family and neighbors obey any watering restrictions.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Reduce the amount of "stuff" you use and reuse what you can. Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and other materials.
Learn More!
Get involved in water education! Learn more about groundwater by checking out The Groundwater Foundation's website www.groundwater.org/get-informed/.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Make Your Own Rain Gauge!}

April showers bring May flowers and it's certainly been sprinkling around Frannie's pond! Rain gauges are an excellent way to measure how much precipitation your outdoor plants are receiving and help save you money so you only water your lawn and garden when needed.

Here's how you can make your own. To start, you'll need:
  • A plastic bottle with a flat bottom
  • Scissors 
  • A ruler
  • A permanent marker
  • Stickers (optional)

Here's what you do:
1. Begin by removing all the labeling and cleaning the plastic bottle.



2. Take the scissors and the cut off approximately the top third of the bottle.


3. Flip the top third of the bottle upside down and insert it into the plastic bottle.


4. Using the ruler, mark 1/4", 1/2", and 1" increments starting from the bottom of the plastic bottle. For more fun, use stickers and markers to decorate your rain gauge.


5. Place your rain gauge outside. You can use twine to tie it to a post, bury it, or use another method to ensure it stays upright.



6. Check your rain gauge after a storm to see how much rain has fallen.

Take a picture of your rain gauge and share it with Frannie at hydro@groundwater.org!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {At Home Learning: You Be The Judge}

Water is an essential part of our everyday life. Water resource managers, city utility personnel, water well professionals, and more go to work every day to make sure we all maintain access to our clean water, even in uncertain circumstances.

Sometimes they are faced with hard decisions: Should water use be restricted? Should a certain amount of water be allocated to certain people or to everyone? In the following activity, you will be provided scenarios and you get to decide who should get the water. You be the judge!

Here's what you need:
  • Pitcher filled with water
  • Cups for each participant
  • Water use cards - you can copy or print the cards found in the activity instructions or make posters representing different water uses
  • Scissors 
  • Poster board (optional)
  • Markers (optional)  

Here's what you do:  
1. Fill a pitcher with water. Make sure there is a limited amount of water so that not all cups can be filled.

2. Give each participant a cup.

3. Pass around the pitcher so each participant can fill their cup. A full cup represents enough water for the participants to meet their water needs.


4. Sometimes there is not enough water available for everyone's needs - in times of drought for example. Ask the participants to express how they feel.

5. Ask what they could do to make sure they all get water.

6. Repeat steps 1-5, this time with water allocations. Choose one or combine both of the following options:
  • First in time, first in right. Have the participants arrange themselves in order by their birth date.   
  • Use the water use cards found in the activity instructions to determine how the water is distributed. Randomly pass out the cards. Participants can use the information on the cards to discuss and campaign for more water or why others should get more and some should get less.



7. Discuss the resultsother ways the water could be allocated, and what the participants learned about water use
  • Those with more important uses get more. Who decides what's more important?
  • Equal shares: everyone gets some, but some will get less than what they need.
  • Apply water restrictions and use water conservation practices to reduce the amount needed/used.
Share what you learned with the Groundwater Foundation!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Frannie's Top 5 - Educational Activities at Home!}

Hello friends!

Frannie knows that the world is changing really fast right now and some of you may be out of school for one, two, maybe even eight weeks. But just because you're not at school doesn't mean that your groundwater education has to stop!

These are Frannie's top 5 educational tools and activities to help you continue to explore the wonderful world of groundwater.

5) Hydro-Van-Gogh

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a little droplet of water making your way through the water cycle? What would you see? How would it feel? Explore these questions and more by painting your way through the ground, surface, and sky in a fun activity that combines art with science.

4) Growing with Groundwater

Groundwater is the water that helps grow our food and flowers. See how plants are a part of the water cycle by building a mini-terrarium. Simply plant a few flower seeds in a clear container, water it, seal it tightly, leave it in sunshine, and there you go! A water cycle in a jar!

3) 30by30 Mobile App

Did you know that the average American uses over 100 gallons of water each day? Find out how much you're using by marking how many times you fill your water glass, how long you take a shower, how many vegetables you wash, and much more. Challenge yourself to reduce your use by 30 gallons over the next month (just don't skimp on washing your hands!)

2) Hydrogeology Challenge

This one is a bit challenging (hence the name!) and you should know how to calculate slope using the y=mx+b formula. This online modeling tool walks you through how to use well information to calculate the direction and speed that groundwater is flowing. Real groundwater scientists use this information every day in order to figure out if a contaminant poses a threat to wells and communities downstream. Are you up for a bigger challenge? Email hydro@groundwater.org and receive a scenario in which you must use the information you calculated with the model to help a community protect its water source.

1) Awesome Aquifer Kit

This is Frannie's favorite activity. You might remember the blog series she did using the Awesome Aquifer Kit a while ago. The Awesome Aquifer Kit can be used to show so many important concepts about groundwater, including how it moves between the surface and subsurface, how people can get access to groundwater, and how contamination spreads. You can get 20% off your very own Awesome Aquifer Kit using code GWAW20 if you order by March 31.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Awesome Aquifer Kit Training Videos}

This is the fifth blog in a series of video learning opportunities from the Groundwater Foundation. Click to see the previous blogs on the Groundwater Foundation, how the Awesome Aquifer Kits are made, educator toolkits, and the Groundwater Guardian program.
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Last week, Frannie shared the videos demonstrating some of the many educational resources that are offered as a part of the Groundwater Foundation's educator toolkits.


This week, Frannie is excited to share three brand new videos all about the activities included in the Awesome Aquifer Kit! The Awesome Aquifer Kit is one of the featured modeling tools included in the educator toolkits. The Awesome Aquifer Kit Guide includes a glossary of key groundwater terms and six activities, aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, to demonstrate basic concepts of groundwater, how wells work, and the movement and treatment of contaminants within groundwater.



The new Awesome Aquifer Kit videos on the Groundwater Foundation's YouTube channel break down each activity step by step and provide tips on how to expand the lesson for more advanced students. Learn how the Awesome Aquifer Kits can help you "see" groundwater and consider getting your very own at AwesomeAquifer.com!


Friday, February 28, 2020

BLOG: Groundwater Education that Works

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Groundwater can be a tricky subject to teach. After all, you can't go outside and look at groundwater the way you can a lake or river. It's hard to visualize something so abstract, let alone understand and appreciate it.

That challenge has driven the Groundwater Foundation for 35 years to find innovative, hands-on, brains-on ways to teach kids - and adults - about groundwater.

Over the past couple years, the Groundwater Foundation has implemented a wide-ranging project, Recharging Groundwater Education: Tools for Engagement and Action. Through the project's pilot in Nebraska, over 300 educators learned how to use various teaching tools in their classroom, including:

Both the Awesome Aquifer Kit and Hydrogeology Challenge enable students to investigate groundwater, a vital natural resource that plays a critical role in sustaining life but cannot be experienced directly. The tools also allow educators to point out issues specific to their local community (i.e. lithology from local well logs, existing contamination threats, etc.), which is an important feature to making the lessons pertinent to students' lives.

These tools have been used with great success in elementary, middle, and high schools across the state, and thanks to online training and resources, throughout the country and world. Educators told us: "I now feel prepared and motivated to teach about groundwater and its role in life and our role in protecting it to my students."

Some educators first utilized the groundwater education activities in the classroom, but then moved beyond into local action. "In-classroom learning went great, and it became a three-week unit including an onsite field trip based on the reported hydrogeology of the area. The students were engaged the majority of the time and were challenged to determine outcomes from the classroom learning."

The Awesome Aquifer Kit is a hands-on model-building kit that promotes cooperative learning through inquiry. Because groundwater is hidden in aquifers below the earth’s surface, the unique format of the Kit allows students to “see” groundwater and how it moves. As students build their aquifer model, they increase their environmental literacy and understanding of groundwater’s role in their lives. The versatility of the Awesome Aquifer Kit enables educators to challenge students of different grade levels with varying levels of complexity. 

A high school teacher who used the Kit in the classroom told us: "The activities are fun and easy to follow. They explained groundwater and how to translate it to the classroom."

The Hydrogeology Challenge is a data-driven computer-based groundwater simulation tool that challenges students to investigate groundwater flow, contemplate the difference between modeling and reality, and apply the calculations to identify solutions to real-life threats to groundwater. The Hydrogeology Challenge is a highly regarded teaching tool by educational and water industry professionals and can be adapted to many grade levels. An assistant professor in Geology and Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology stated: “It is a great tool for introducing groundwater modeling.” And a student who used Hydrogeology said: “Hydrogeology is my favorite part of science and using it in conjunction with computer modeling is an interesting new way to study it.”  

Groundwater education is necessary to foster the next generation of groundwater industry professionals, managers, and stewards. Get started in your classroom or community: www.groundwater.org/kids or get in touch at info@groundwater.org. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Groundwater Education Toolkit Training Videos}

This is the fourth blog in a series of video learning opportunities from the Groundwater Foundation. Click to see the previous blogs on the Groundwater Foundation, how the Awesome Aquifer Kits are made, and the Groundwater Guardian program.
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Groundwater education is so important in the process of protecting this precious resource. Integrating the Groundwater Foundation's educational tools is easier than ever with a new series of training videos.

Each video focuses on a different resource within the educator toolkit. The first video in the series outlines what groundwater is, why groundwater education in our classroom is so important, and sets up how the training videos will help educators bring groundwater models into their classroom.

The following three videos in the series focus on the Hydrogeology Challenge, an online groundwater model that presents users with a map of an area with wells and some well logs. Users walk through the same calculations that professional hydrogeologists use to calculate groundwater flow direction, slope, and speed. In the classroom, teachers can challenge their students even further with an Applied Knowledge Scenario, which asks the students to use the calculations to evaluate a potential threat to groundwater. The Hydrogeology Challenge and Applied Knowledge Scenarios is best used with upper level students to show them how algebra and geometry can be used with science to solve real-world problems.



The rest of the videos in the series shine a light on the many different activities that can be done with the Awesome Aquifer Kit. Faithful readers of Frannie's blog may remember the blog series she did a while ago, demonstrating everything from the connection between groundwater and surface water to how permeability affects groundwater's ability to flow within different soils. The videos provide top tips on how use the kits, maintain them, and make them a regular part of a teacher's water science unit.


You can watch each video on its own or watch them all in a playlist on the Groundwater Foundation's YouTube channel.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

BLOG: Nebraska Ag Producer Roric Paulman to Receive 2019 Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award

Roric Paulman
Roric Paulman, a pioneering Nebraska ag producer whose conservation and stewardship practices have been recognized throughout the state, has been selected to receive the 2019 Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award from the Groundwater Foundation. Paulman will be presented with the award by 2011 Kremer Award Winner Lee Orton at the Maurice Kremer Memorial Lecture on March 4, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. in the Hardin Hall Auditorium (room 107) on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus (33rd and Holdrege Streets, Lincoln). Light refreshments will be served at 3:00 p.m.

The Kremer Award is presented annually by the Groundwater Foundation to an outstanding Nebraskan who has made a substantive contribution to the conservation and protection of Nebraska’s groundwater. The Groundwater Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Lincoln, Nebraska that connects people, businesses, and communities through local education and action, making us all part of the solution for clean, sustainable groundwater.

“Roric’s dedication to protecting and conserving groundwater was made apparent to me within the first two minutes of meeting him speak,” said the Groundwater Foundation’s Jane Griffin. “More importantly, he doesn’t just talk about water conservation he does it, and he motivates others to do better, too. On behalf of all of us at the Groundwater Foundation, it’s an honor to recognize Roric with the Kremer Award.”

Roric Paulman is a native of Sutherland, Nebraska. He graduated from Hershey High School and went on to attend Kearney State College. In 1985, he became the owner and manager of Paulman Farms outside Sutherland, overseeing an 8,500 acre rainfed and irrigation agricultural operation growing a variety of field crops, including corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, hard red winter wheat, grain sorghum, confection/oil sunflowers, chia, sugar beets, and more.

Paulman speaks at the 2015 Groundwater Foundation
National Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska
“Roric has a rich family history of concern about groundwater,” said Jim Goeke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Emeritus and 2001 Kremer honoree. Goeke explains that Paulman followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, serving on the Twin Platte Natural Resources District (NRD) Board from 1997-2000 and helping guide the district’s groundwater policies. “Roric irrigates 8,000 acres across three NRDs using cutting-edge technology and equipment. Raising a number of crops, Roric strives to use groundwater as most efficiently as possible to guarantee profits and a sustainable supply of groundwater,” Goeke said.

Paulman was one of the founders of Nebraska Water Balance Alliance, which works to promote the most efficient use of groundwater in Nebraska, and currently serves as its President. He also serves on the West Central Water Coalition, the University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Advisory Board, Ag Builders of Nebraska Board, UNL Presidents Advisory Council, Daugherty Water for Food International Advisory Board, is a member of a numerous agriculture associations, and a past member on local, state, and national boards and councils.

He and his wife, Deb, have four children and six grandchildren.

The Kremer Award is chosen each year by a selection committee appointed by the Groundwater Foundation’s Board of Directors. It is named for Senator Maurice Kremer, who spent 20 years in the Nebraska Legislature where he was best known for his contributions toward protecting the state’s water resources, earning him the nickname “Mr. Water.”

“Roric Paulman is a leader in use of the latest technology to optimize the crop yield/water use balance,” selection committee member Don Kraus said. “He also remains a strong advocate for producers across Nebraska.”

For more information about the Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award, visit www.groundwater.org/kremer. To find out more about the Groundwater Foundation and to get involved, visit www.groundwater.org.

Past Kremer Award Winners

2018: Duane Eversoll
2017: Jack Daniel
2016: Senator Tom Carlson
2015: Susan Seacrest
2014: Robert Kuzelka
2013: Ron Bishop
2012: Dayle Williamson
2011: Lee Orton
2010: J. Michael Jess
2009: Vance Anderson
2008: Ann Bleed
2007: Jim Cook
2006: Senator Ed Schrock
2005: Roger Patterson
2004: Darrell Watts
2003: Chris Beutler
2002: Eugene Haarberg
2001: Jim Goeke
2000: Wayne Madsen
1999: Richard Harnsberger
1998: Les Sheffield
1997: Robert B. Daugherty
1996: Frank A. Smith
1995: Fred Salmon and Family
1994: Virginia Smith
1993: Robert B. Crosby
1992: Ted Filipi
1991: Ralph Marlette
1990: Warren Fairchild
1989: Val Kuska
1988: Eugene Reed
1987: Maurice Kremer
1986: Vincent Dreeszen

Monday, February 10, 2020

BLOG: Groundwater Foundation Participates in Nitrate Strategy Meeting

Leaders from across Nebraska looked at new ways to approach an old challenge at a Jan. 21 nitrate strategy meeting facilitated by Crystal Powers of Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, the Nebraska Water Center (NWC) and Nebraska Extension, and Katie Pekarek of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) School of Natural Resources and Nebraska Extension.




Participants, including the Groundwater Foundation's Jane Griffin, worked to develop short-term priorities to improve nitrate-water quality issues. These include:

  • Build trust and promote pride in Nebraska’s water resources
  • Education (K-12, producer, policy makers, urban)
  • Policy (incentives, education, regulation)
  • Develop alternative markets for low-N cropping systems



Participants identified nine working groups to achieve the above objectives and committed to the 5-year goal of improving nitrate water quality issues in Nebraska. Participants broadly committed staff time, money, and other resources to working groups which will be convened in the coming months.



More than 40 participants included representatives from DWFI, NWC, 12 Natural Resources Districts, the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, Nebraska Game & Parks, U.S. Geological Society, National Resources Conservation Service, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Administration, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, University of Nebraska Foundation, Shell Creek Watershed Group, GC Resolve, Nature Conservancy of Nebraska, Nebraska Sierra Club, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Groundwater Foundation, and growers.

For more information, visit https://waterforfood.nebraska.edu/.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Doing Good by Doing Good}

This is the third blog in a series of video learning opportunities from the Groundwater Foundation. Click to see the previous blogs on the Groundwater Foundation and the Groundwater Guardian program.
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The Awesome Aquifer Kit is a great tool to teach groundwater concepts to future scientists, farmers, and decision-makers. It's used in and out of classrooms, with young students and adults, demonstrating how water moves through the ground as a part of the water cycle. But just as important as how the kits are used, is how the kits are made.

The kits are assembled at Community Alternatives in Lincoln, NE. Community Alternatives is a vocational site that provides work experience and support for individuals with developmental disabilities. The people who work on the Awesome Aquifer Kits learn work and life skills, earn  money, and see themselves as part of the larger picture of groundwater education.

The Groundwater Foundation is proud to partner with a local organization that does such great work  in the community.  From the people who make the kits to the students who use them, the Awesome Aquifer Kits offer opportunities to include everyone in the protection of our drinking water source.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

BLOG: Community Connect Program Benefits the Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation has always been proud to be born and raised in our hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. The community has always been a great place for the Groundwater Foundation to call home.

Now, thanks to the generosity and partnership between ALLO Communications and the City of Lincoln through the Community Connect Program, the Groundwater Foundation joins 76 other Lincoln-based nonprofit organizations that will receive free one gigabit broadband internet service for 10 years. The Community Connect Program was a key component of the City's broadband franchise agreement with ALLO, a Nebraska-based telecommunications company.


"ALLO and Nelnet are local companies that are focused on serving our communities through our work and giving back," said Brad Moline, President of ALLO. "The purpose of the Community Connect Program is to help our communities' nonprofits do what they do best - fulfill their mission of serving and supporting our neighbors in need. This will be accomplished in part by taking care of a significant ongoing expense for these nonprofits and connecting them and the families they touch through world-class broadband. Connecting more organizations and people to our network helps us transform our community and close the digital divide that affects too many."

ALLO President Brad Moline speaks to nonprofit representatives at a reception announcing the partnership on January 28, 2020.
We are thrilled to be a recipient of this generosity, and to live in a community that's willing to invest in nonprofits that help make Lincoln and the world better.

Find out more

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Groundwater Foundation}

This is the second blog in a series of video learning opportunities from the Groundwater Foundation. Click to see the previous blog on the Groundwater Guardian program.
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Frannie has been on the move a lot recently and has been relying on her friends at the Groundwater Foundation to help her keep up on her blogs so this week, she wants to turn the spotlight around on them!

The Groundwater Foundation was founded in 1985 and operated in its early years out of the home of President Emeritus Susan Seacrest. In her interview, she states, "Groundwater, as it exists when it's in storage, is hidden. We wanted to be the voice that would speak to people about the importance of what it does."

Over thirty years later, Groundwater Foundation staff do most of their work out of an office in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. As Director of Grants Jane Griffin says, "[we] try to reach people with information about the [groundwater] they are utilizing and the ways they can be in the protection and conservation of it."

As you learned last week, one of the ways communities can learn about groundwater and become engaged in protecting it is through the Groundwater Guardian program. "[Groundwater Guardians] are leaders in conservation and role models in our community", offering ways for our friends, family, and the general public to be active stewards of the environment.

Readers of Frannie's blog are already familiar with the youth education and outreach part of the Foundation's efforts. "Education is the basis for better decision-making". The activities, games, lessons, and tools that Frannie and her friends share on this blog can equip you with knowledge you will need to keep your drinking water clean for the future.

The Groundwater Foundation is grateful to people like you who want to "make a difference, care more about where they live, do more for where they live, and be more of who they are." Cheers to groundwater!


Friday, January 17, 2020

BLOG: How Much Do You Know About On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems?

On-site wastewater treatment systems are an effective method of disposing of sewage in the United States, especially in rural areas that do not have readily available sewer lines. About 25% of the US population owns an on-site wastewater treatment system. If you are the owner of an on-site wastewater treatment system, you must take steps to ensure you are not causing damage to your property, your family, the environment, and the property and families of those around you.

A septic system has two main components: the septic tank and the drainfield.

Septic Tank
The size of the septic tank varies based on the number of bedrooms in the home, the number of wastewater contributing fixtures and appliances (i.e. whirlpool bath, garbage disposal, dish/clothes washer, etc.), and/or state and local regulations. Waste enters the tank from household plumbing through a pipe and enters the septic tank, which is a buried watertight container made of materials such as concrete, fiberglass, or plastic. The tank holds the waste long enough to allow solids and liquids to separate and form three layers:

  • Scum layer – solids lighter than water, such as greases or oils, float to the top
  • Liquid layer – partially clarified wastewater
  • Sludge – solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank

The tank also contains baffles and tees, which slow the wastewater entering the tank to allow solids to easily settle out.

Treatment of the wastewater begins in the septic tank as naturally-occurring bacteria in the sewage work to break down the organic matter in the tank. Sludge and scum that cannot be broken down remain in the tank until it is pumped. The partially clarified liquid layer then flows through an effluent filter out of the tank and into the drainfield for final treatment.

Drainfield
The wastewater (effluent) entering the drainfield may contain many potentially harmful microorganisms and pollutants, many of which can be effectively removed through soil treatment. The drainfield, also referred to as a leachfield, disposal field, or soil absorption system, consists of perforated pipes or chambers within a series of trenches or mounds lined with gravel and buried one to three feet below the surface. Water flows through the perforated pipes or chambers and slowly trickles through the gravel and into the surrounding soil, where the natural processes in the soil complete the sewage treatment process.

Maintenance is a Must!
Installing an on-site wastewater treatment system on your property can be much more beneficial to the environment than running miles of sewer lines to your property. Unfortunately, in many cases, once an on-site wastewater treatment system is installed, it is often forgotten until it malfunctions. When the system is installed on your property, you are the one responsible for it. About 10-20% of on-site wastewater treatment systems malfunction each year. More often than not, system malfunction or failure is the result of improper maintenance by the owner. How should it be maintained?

System Failure
An on-site wastewater treatment system can fail for a number of reasons, but usually point to improper maintenance by the owner. Not having your system inspected often enough can cause the owner to miss key factors contributing to a wastewater treatment system failure.

Photo courtesy of Seattle-King County Public Health

What Can I Do?
Properly maintaining your on-site wastewater system will not only save you money in the long run, it's also important for protecting groundwater supplies and ensuring safe drinking water for you, your family, and your neighbors. Systems should be inspected every one to two years by a professional and pumped when necessary. What else can I do?

If maintained correctly, your wastewater treatment system can be beneficial and environmentally-friendly, but without regular maintenance, it has the potential to affect groundwater supplies and cause harm you and those around you. Having your wastewater treatment system regularly inspected and pumped can avoid unnecessary expenses, damage to your property, damage to neighbor’s properties, damage to the environment, and damage to the health of you, your family, and families around your property.

More information and resources
Groundwater Foundation Get Pumped! Septic Education Toolkit
U.S. EPA Septic System Information
National Environmental Services Center

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Video Learning Series: Groundwater Guardian Program}

Happy New Year, friends!

2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year full of new adventures and learning opportunities. Many of you already know are a lot of great resources and educational activities on the Groundwater Foundation's website, but did you know that there are several informational YouTube videos, too? In this series, Frannie will take a look at video learning opportunities offered and how you can use them!

Groundwater Guardian is growing in 2020, so Frannie's excited to kick off this series with a look at the new and improved program.

The Groundwater Guardian program offers support and recognition to motivated groups throughout the U.S. who conduct education, conservation, and protection efforts to protect local groundwater. Founded in 1994, Groundwater Guardian Teams applied each year by submitting a list of proposed activities to bring awareness to local groundwater concerns and reported on progress at the end of each program year.
Logo from 2017
In 2008, a grant from the Kellogg Foundation provided an opportunity to expand to include areas of managed land through a related, but separate, program called Groundwater Guardian Green Site. Land managers or caretakers applied for this program by answering questions about, and earning points for, groundwater friendly management practices. If their application received a 70% or above, they were awarded a Green Site designation.
Logo from 2017
In 2018, the Groundwater Foundation merged with the National Ground Water Association's Foundation for Education. The Foundation for Education's audience primarily included businesses and industry professionals and the Groundwater Foundation saw an opportunity to recognize them for innovative solutions and practices that protect and conserve groundwater. With a lot of brainstorming and collaboration, the Groundwater Foundation decided to bring together teams, managed lands, and businesses, making them all Groundwater Guardians.

On October 9, 2019, Frannie's friend and Groundwater Foundation Program Manager Sara Brock presented the first look of these programs at the Nebraska Water Conference in Norfolk, NE.



2020 is the inaugural year of the Groundwater Guardian for Teams, Groundwater Guardian for Turf, and Groundwater Guardian for Business programs. New logos are on the way. New activities are being developed. New communities are getting involved. It's even easier for you to become involved!

Find out more information on the Groundwater Guardian website or email guardian@groundwater.org.

BLOG: Choosing a Water Well Professional

A qualified water well contractor is vital for proper construction, maintenance, and necessary repairs of your well system. There are many things to consider, questions to ask, and job components to compare before choosing the right contractor for your system:

1. Contractor Qualifications

  • Is the contractor licensed by the state? (Not all states require licensing.)
  • Is the contractor certified through the National Ground Water Association or a member of NGWA? 
  • Does the contractor submit well logs?
  • Does the contractor have adequate equipment in good condition to do the job?
  • Does the contractor have adequate liability and workers’ compensation insurance to protect you? 
  • Is the contractor familiar with applicable health and safety codes?
  • What is the contractor’s reputation with previous customers?
  • Will the contractor furnish a written contract specifying the terms and conditions of the job?

2. A Written Contract
It's important to have a written contract with the water well professional when preparing to have a well constructed. Unless you know what each contractor will do for his specified price, you cannot compare offers and decide which one to hire. For a drilled well, the contract might include:

  • Liability insurance coverage held by both the owner and the contractor
  • A statement that all work is to comply with local and state regulations and codes
  • The diameter and well thickness of the casing to be used
  • The type of well development and yield evaluation procedures to be used
  • The type of screen to be installed, where needed
  • The type of well cap or seal to be provided
  • The disinfection procedure
  • The cleanup after drilling, which includes all material abandoned without authorization at a drill site except drill cuttings and wastewater
  • An anticipated date for start of drilling
  • A guarantee of materials and workmanship (the contract should specify that the contractor will return to do or to correct the initial work if necessary)

3. Estimated Costs
An itemized list of charges is better than a lump sum for easy comparison. The list could include:

  • Cost of drilling per foot
  • Cost of casing per foot
  • Cost of other materials such as drive shoe, grout, and well cap
  • Cost of other operations such as grouting, developing (if longer than one hour, as in screened wells), test pumping, and disinfection
  • Cost of drilling deeper and/or second well, if required to ensure an adequate water supply
  • Cost of abandonment should it prove necessary (for instance, if saltwater is encountered and another site is selected)
  • What costs are not included in the specifications.

4. Post-Construction Checklist
After the well has been constructed and before the contractor removes his equipment from the site, you should check the well for:

  • Well Depth—This is easily done by tying a weight on a tape. Verify the measurement against the well construction report made out by the contractor.
  • Well Yield—Ask the contractor at how many gallons per minute (gpm) the well was tested, what distance the water level dropped during the test, and how quickly the water level recovered after the test.
  • Well Cap—Ensure that the well is capped and secure and that the cap is at least 6 inches above ground level.
  • Disinfection—Ask the contractor if the well was disinfected.
  • Well Construction Record—Make certain that you receive your copy of the well record. The contractor is required to deliver copies of the record to the owner. It would be advisable to keep your well record with your house deed so that the information is passed on to future owners.

Other Things to Keep in Mind . . .

  • The contractor is the expert, not you. Trust the contractor’s judgment in solving unforeseen difficulties that may come up, and discuss unforeseen costs.
  • If original construction plans must be changed, discuss the options with the contractor.
  • Don’t expect the contractor to work for free if the well does not fulfill expectations.
Use the National Ground Water Association's Contractor Lookup tool to find a contractor in your area!

Adapted from Wellowner.org.