Monday, August 27, 2012

Let's Be Honest Here

By Brian Reetz, Program Coordinator

Water is sometimes a topic around the dinner table at my home and with the drought that we've been experiencing it has become a topic almost nightly. My daughter, Colbi, who is a senior at Lincoln Southeast High School, wrote this essay for her AP Literature Class.

            Let’s be honest here, usually national news or even local news doesn’t phase me beyond sports or the occasional major crime, but one thing that has gotten under my skin in the local news department is water. The water we drink, the water we use to water our lawns, the water we use to bathe: is being used up. Used up meaning close to 60 million gallons of water a day is being used. But, that’s about as much as we always have used in a day. So what’s the problem? The problem is we’re in a drought. One of the worst droughts in history and we’re still using the same amount of water we have been using in a day for a while.

            When mostly everyone’s lawns in the entire city have turned many shades of brown, a green lawn sticks out like a sore thumb. Since August 9th, the Lincoln Police Department has been issuing warnings and now ticketing at every single offense they are brought light of, of a resident of Lincoln watering their lawn on a day that is not assigned to them. The city of Lincoln, Nebraska has major water restrictions that I can only applaud them for approving. Now, what gets under my skin are the offenders.

            The Platte River is drying up. I can see it with my own eyes every time I take a trip to Omaha. There are brown strips of dried up sand in the middle of the river that look like you could walk right across, the blue you see is in the minority. Yet, people in this city, a city that basically retrieves its water from the Platte, still do not believe that our water is on the verge of drying up completely if we don’t do something about it! These non-believers have been known to: water their lawns on days that aren’t assigned to them, or water 3x as much on days that are assigned to them. I am getting tired of hearing that so many people are getting ticketed and fined for pure stupidity and uniformity. If everyone knew just how much danger we are in at this time then I’m sure this mandatory water restriction would be receiving so many more benefits than just a few less gallons being used up.

            The offenders won’t be laughing anymore when they turn on their faucet to take a shower, or even press their cup against the water dispenser on the refrigerator and barely get a drip out of it. I hope I never have to see that day.

Also read this link from Lincoln's Public Safety Director that ties into what Colbi wrote about:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Green Team Lunch and Learn

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Program Manager
Yesterday I presented two "Lunch and Learn" sessions at Assurity Life Insurance in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Assurity's Green Team offers these sessions on a quarterly basis on various environmental topics.  As part of the Foundation's "Bridging the Gap" project, funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, I spoke to an engaged group of associates about groundwater and its importance, the need to conserve water in this time of drought, how Assurity is doing its part to be environmentally friendly, and how Assurity's efforts could be duplicated in their own homes.
I was blown away by the steps taken by Assurity in constructing their new facility.  They are in the process of applying for Gold Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and they took extra steps to ensure the building is a pleasant place for their employees to work, such as ensuring over 90% of the interior spaces having a view of the exterior landscape.
Some of the unique sustainability features include:
  • Water savings: The use of dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets and showers add up to a 33 percent water use savings over the typical office building. 
  • Stormwater collection: An abandoned public storm water pipe running along the east and northern edges of the property has been capped and used as a cistern to reclaim and reuse storm water for site irrigation purposes. Bioswales and a rain garden capture excess rain water to irrigate the site’s indigenous, sustainable landscaping. Reuse of large quantities of storm water runoff reduces heat island effects as well as impacts to downstream receiving waters.
  • Landscape water use reduction: Alongside a reclaimed cistern, water for the facility’s landscape will be pulled from wells in the area instead of using public water for irrigation. Additionally, plants have been selected that are native or specifically adaptive to Lincoln’s climatic conditions, reducing reliance on additional water use while creating habitat within the city.
  • Green roofs: Several of the building’s roof areas are green (living) roofs. Green roofs protect and increase the lifespan of the roof envelope by two to three times. They also reduce heating and cooling loads, mitigate the urban heat island effect, benefit storm water quality and reduce the quantity of runoff,
  • Automated artificial lighting controls: The use of occupancy sensors and timed lighting reduces the impact on building energy consumption.
  • Recycled content in materials: Over 20 percent of the materials of this building incorporate recycled content. This reduces the impacts resulting from extraction and processing of virgin materials.
  • High-efficiency and low-emitting vehicles: Priority parking is given to users of highefficiency and low- emitting vehicles, providing a perk to building users who drive vehicles that are environmentally friendly. 
To learn more about the sustainability features of the Assurity Center and its lead certification, please visit

What environmental efforts are you taking at your worksite and/or home?

Friday, August 17, 2012

That's Your Excuse. Really?

Due to the extensive drought that has plagued a great portion of North America, the hometown of the Groundwater Foundation, Lincoln, Nebraska is under mandatory water restrictions.  But what is really needed is to change the mindset of people.  In general, people don’t really believe there will be a consequence if we do not limit our water use (“we won’t really run out of water”)  Or, they don’t see how not watering their little lawn will make a difference, or they expect someone else to limit their water use, or…the excuses go on and on.  Well, guess what, not recognizing the situation for what it is, and not being a part of the solution is unacceptable.

We all can use our water more wisely.  We can let our lawns go dormant a bit earlier than usual, we can and we must.  Let’s not sit around and hope for rain, or assume that sooner or later it will rain.  Let’s each make it our personal goal to do better.  

So, whether your community is suffering from the drought conditions or not, be part of the solution to ensure the resource is available today, tomorrow and for our future generations.  Make sure you are setting the example at home, at your workplace – it only takes one sparkplug to get the rest of the family or colleagues to rally. 

Water sustains life, water is a finite resource and to ensure its availability for future generations we must use it wisely. It is through individual actions that collectively we can make a difference.

For more water conservation tips, visit

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Water Conservation Challenge

by Jamie Kelley, Program Manager

You don’t have to look too hard these days to find an article about water. It seems every day there is a new article circulating that is related to water.

Most recently I have been hearing about the lack of water and the urge to conserve.

So am I doing my part? After reading and hearing and even talking about the need to conserve, have I used less water?

Our yard is covered with dry brown grass with a few spots of green. The grass doesn’t get watered much, if at all. Our planters once filled with luscious ferns and other flora, are empty, the dried out plants have since been removed. Only a few sturdy tall grasses, hostas, and succulents remain. It’s not pretty but I feel it is a sign we haven’t been wasting water. We have earned our “brown badge” as a co-worker referred to the brown state of once green lawns.

So should I get a gold star for my conservation?

Looking at our last water bill I find that we have used 24 units of water, that is 17,952 gallons (1 unit equals 748 gallons.) I am a person who pays attention to my water use, talks about conservation and I was shocked to learn, my household (which includes only my husband and myself) used on average 299 gallons of water per day in the last 60 days. That’s 149 gallons per person!

Can I do better?

Here is how I will improve my water conservation habits:
  • I have a shower timer in my shower. When I first got it I used it quite frequently but not all the time. It was “fun” to see how much water I used in the shower. Now I will begin to use the timer for every shower. Did you know for each minute the shower runs I use 2 gallons of water? Reducing the length of my shower can save gallons.
  • Loads of laundry, with just the two of us you would think laundry was a once a week chore but sadly I could do a load every day. I tend to get a little anxious as the laundry pile grows. But I will try to withhold the desire to have every article of clothing clean at any given moment and wait to fill up the washer with a full load. I can save 25-40 gallons of water per load.
  • Watering our garden, my beloved plants…well really I was excited about growing sweet corn which has since been eaten and pulled. The broccoli didn’t do well. The peas are just some shriveled vines. (I apparently didn’t get my father’s green thumb.) But the thought of letting what is left, a few cherry tomato plants and some very overbearing squash plants, go without watering. Eeek, that will be the most difficult challenge for me. I pledge to only water the garden very early in the morning and only once a week. Our produce might not be so bountiful but our aquifer will be!
  • Something else, which I haven’t yet done, is check for leaks. What if there was a little drip somewhere in my home. So what? Right? Actually, a leaky faucet or toilet can cause an extra 10,000 gallons of water to be wasted a year. I learned more about how to check for leaks here: Now I will be on the hunt for those little drips!
Do you think my water savings will make a difference? If everyone does their part, small changes can add up and make a big impact. What other suggestions do you have for ways I can reduce my water use?

Thursday, August 2, 2012


What an exciting time of year—the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are in full swing!  If you are like me, you are drawn into the excitement of watching 10,960 athletes from 205 countries compete for the ultimate prize--a gold medal for their country.   Their preparation has been intense and has consumed not only the last four years but a major part of their lives.  It is an ongoing battle for them to stay diligent and focused on their prize.
Like the Olympic gold medal, groundwater is our precious prize that we need to protect and conserve everyday of our lives.  It’s the water we drink, it grows the food on our table and it nourishes our communities.   Individuals can do several things to protect and conserve groundwater: 

1)  Take short showers.
2)  Check for leaky faucets.
3)  Shut off water while brushing teeth.

4)  Dispose of chemicals properly.

5)  Limit the amount of fertilizer used on plants.

Get involved!  Join the team of individuals who are actively involved in their communities taking part in groundwater education and protection activities.  Visit  to check out opportunities to get involved and go for the gold—sustainable, clean groundwater for future generations!