Thursday, December 12, 2013

Keeping Groundwater Supplies Clean During the Winter Season

By Heather Voorman, The Groundwater Foundation

We all breathe a sigh of relief when we see the road maintenance crew salt, sand and shovel out the roads after a winter storm.  The truth is however, too much road salt can contaminate groundwater supplies.   So what can be done to make roads safe without harming the environment?

How do road salts contaminate groundwater?

First, it’s important to understand how road salts contaminate groundwater. When the snow melts and spring rains come, all the salt that accumulated over the winter ends up in storm water catch basins and streams.  The salt that is carried to surface water can harm fish and plants.  The salt can also damage vegetation and soil along the shoulders of roads, causing erosion issues. 

The salt can get into underground drinking water supplies by infiltrating the groundwater and contaminating wells.  Salt can remain in groundwater for decades.  If the salt does get into groundwater supplies used for drinking water it can affect the taste of the water, affect individuals with hypertension, and corrode plumbing infrastructure.  

Lowering salt applications make roadways safer.

Although salt is used because many municipalities believe it is one of the only ways to ensure roadways are safe, there are techniques, equipment and chemicals that require less salt to be used and actually make roads safer.  In Kamloops, BC, Canada following the change to a low-salt application technique, the city saw an 8% decrease in accidents.  Similarly, in Idaho transportation officials switched from heavy salt and sand applications to liquid magnesium chloride on one stretch of road and saw an 83% reduction in accidents in that area.  This sort of success story probably won’t happen in every case, but by utilizing lower salt application techniques, roadways become safer and the environment becomes healthier.

What can you do?

Here are some ideas you can recommend to your local municipality to protect groundwater supplies from salt contamination:

1.     Use the right amount: The most important factor to remember when applying salt is the surface temperature.  When roads are warmer, less salt is needed.  Municipalities might consider purchasing inexpensive infrared thermometers for spreading trucks.

2.     Only use it where it’s needed: Make sure salt is being used in areas where it is most needed.  Hills, curves, bridges, etc. need more salt than other areas of the road.  There are also times when salt won’t help melt ice on roads.  If the surface temperature is below ~10ยบ F, a road won’t benefit from salt.  Instead, use another chemical suited for lower temperatures. 

3.     Apply early!: Don’t wait until the snow starts falling to apply salt.  It takes more salt to melt snow that has accumulated than it does to prevent the accumulation.  Brine can be applied days before a weather event in the right conditions. 

You can also use these techniques when you apply salt on your own driveway and sidewalks so you can stay safe while keeping groundwater supplies clean!



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Water Wars: Are Groundwater and Surface Water One Resource?

By Ann Bleed, Groundwater Foundation Board Member

This is a story about Nebraska, but I have reason to believe, the lessons Nebraskans are learning are pertinent to all United States. In Nebraska, as in the rest of the United States, the use of surface water started early. It wasn’t long, particularly in the arid west, that the adage, “Whiskey’s for drinkin, water’s for fightin” became true. Yet, in time we developed rules and surface water storage reservoirs to tame, if not eliminate, the water wars.
Although the use of ground water for domestic wells and some irrigation along streams started early, it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century, with the invention of methods to drill and pump from deep wells and the innovative development of the center pivot, that ground water use began to develop. Again, in Nebraska as elsewhere, ground water helped slake our ever increasing demand for water and quell the water wars.
For a time, with large surface and ground water reservoirs at our disposal, we in Nebraska truly lived the good life. Even in the dry years of the 1970s, squabbles among water users were few. Many believed with our endless ground water supplies, we had solved our water problems. This myth was bolstered by the strong belief in people’s minds that surface water and ground water are connected. Even state law did not recognize a connection. Gradually, however, our streamflows, and worse yet the alluvial aquifers fed by stream flows, started to decline. Surface water users, with permitted water rights, environmentalists, started complaining that ground water pumping was drying up Nebraska’s surface water supplies.
With the threat of law suits, from both within and outside the state, slowly Nebraskans and Nebraska law began to take small steps toward recognizing that surface water and ground water are indeed connected. But the politics were, and still are, such that neither the courts nor the legislature seem inclined to tackle the problem. Hence the water wars have started again and seem to grow, in proportion to our growing water demands.
Yet, I see signs of hope. We are slowly starting to recognize that our surface water and ground water supplies are not only connected, but in many instances are simply different manifestations of a single resource. In addition, although in the early 1900s, Robert Willis, one of Nebraska’s early water engineers, recognized the importance of surface water irrigation for maintaining alluvial aquifers and streamflow during the irrigation season, we are just now starting to actively manage some of our surface water canals for ground water recharge. And, better yet, where these management schemes are being realized, the “fightin” words between surface water users and ground water users is beginning to disappear.
The importance of the realization that managing interconnected surface water and ground water as one resource was recently demonstrated at a water users task force, The Water Funding Task Force was established by the legislature to develop much needed funding for water research, management, and infrastructure. A battle between surface water users and ground water users over who should allocate the funds was widely expected to block any consensus on a recommendation for the legislature. That did not happen. Why? After much education and discussion among task force members, the task force recognized that ground water and surface water are not only connected, but where there are these connections are simply different manifestations of one resource. Also, and importantly, they came to understand that if we are to sustain the water uses that provide Nebraska with the good life, we must work together to manage this precious resource as one supply. With this understanding a consensus, which few expected, was achieved. Perhaps, the rest of the state can learn from the task force and instead of funding lawsuits, we can stop “fightin”, and use our resources to solve our mutual water resource problems.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Day of Giving

by Amy Kessner, The Groundwater Foundation

#GivingTuesday is less than one week away. While many are preparing Thanksgiving dinners and shopping lists, we are busy reaching out and spreading the word about #GivingTuesday and our new program - Groundwater Restoration through Education.

I don't know about you, but I could already use a break from the crazy of the season. Christmas music is already playing in stores. Black Friday is slowly becoming Black Thursday. My house is a disaster with only 24 hours to go until family arrives. My mind is going a million miles a minute. So, I propose we take a moment to pause and reflect on this season. A season of thanks. A season of joy. A season of giving.

A season of thanks.

Today, I am thankful for the water I drink. I am thankful for the water that makes my coffee and gets me going in the morning. I am thankful that as I am moving boxes and organizing our storage room in preparation for the Foundation's move, I have cool, refreshing, clean water to clench my thirst. I am thankful for the people I work with who have devoted their careers to educating others about the importance of protecting and conserving our groundwater. So many things to be thankful for on this ordinary day. What a blessing.

A season of joy.

For those of you who may not know, I began working at the Foundation in August. Thus, today I can rejoice in the fact that I have a job I love. Working with Girl Scouts, Science Olympiad, and other youth programs educating students of all ages and backgrounds about groundwater has brought such joy to my life.

A season of giving.

In a season full of consuming - Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays - it is refreshing to have a day to focus on giving. This season is not just about the hustle and bustle and checking items off of our to-do lists. It's about giving our time to those who need it most. Finding that perfect gift that will make your mother cry. Spending countless hours over a hot stove cooking dinners for our family. Traveling hundreds of miles to see faces not seen since last year. It's about doing something special for a person you love just because you can. It's about giving.

"It's about doing something larger than yourself. It's about serving this world, helping others." Let's make #GivingTuesday a true day of giving. Giving of our time. Giving of our kind words. Giving of our money. Giving of our hearts. Giving of our skills. Anything you may have to offer. #GivingTuesday doesn't have to be just for the nonprofits and charities of the world, it can be a state of mind for all of us.

Join us, The Groundwater Foundation, on December 3rd in celebrating a day dedicated to giving. A day to serve this world. A day to help others.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's Happening at the GF

There's a lot happening at The Groundwater Foundation in the next few months. Here's a rundown on what's going on and how you can be involved!
  • #GivingTuesday - After the retail craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Tuesday, December 3 is your chance to give back. The Groundwater Foundation's goal is to raise $10,000 for our Groundwater Restoration through Education project. The project will serve underprivileged youth at Title I schools, and provide education about groundwater, sources of pollution, and the importance of pollution prevention. Youth will also be empowered by this knowledge to make a difference in their community through protecting and restoring groundwater. YOU can help make this happen! 
  • Groundwater Foundation membership - Have a hard to buy for water enthusiast on your shopping list this holiday season? A Groundwater Foundation membership makes a great gift. Membership dollars help take a step toward the protection, conservation, and management of our precious groundwater resources. It's also a perfect time to renew your Foundation membership - it only takes a few minutes and makes a big difference. Renew (or join!) today!
  • Join the "move"ment! - The Groundwater Foundation is moving! In order to better serve our constituents and community and increase visibility, the Foundation is bidding adieu to its current office and moving into new digs in 2014, and we could use your help in getting this "move"ment up and going. Visit our website at to find out more about our big move, and how you can help!
  • Wild and Scenic Film Festival a success! - On Wednesday, November 20 the Foundation teamed up with Threads Footloose and Fancy for a night of water awareness. It started out with nearly 150 people viewing a series ofwater-related documentaries at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The night concluded with networking, food and drinks at Marz Bar, along with the drawing for fabulous raffle prizes. Thanks to all who made this such a fun and successful event, and a special thanks to Threads Footloose and Fancy and Patagonia, and sponsors Clif, Patagonia, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Mother Jones, Lied Lodge and Conference Center, and Black Hills Energy.
These are just a few of the happenings at The Groundwater Foundation, along with our other groundwater education and protection programs and projects. Find out how you can get involved in what we do at

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

3 Weeks Until #GivingTuesday: Help Us Reach Our Goal!

#GivingTuesday is only three weeks away! We would like to begin the countdown to #GivingTuesday by announcing our goal for December 3rd:

The Goal: Raise $10,000 for the Groundwater Restoration through Education project!

$10,000 = Groundwater Education to 40 Title I Schools in Nebraska! Help us reach this goal by spreading the word and donating on December 3rd.

What is Groundwater Restoration through Education? Groundwater Restoration through Education is a new project at The Groundwater Foundation that seeks to educate underprivileged youth at Title I schools on the importance of groundwater, sources of pollution, and the importance of prevention versus remediation. It also seeks to empower youth by giving them the knowledge to make a difference in their community through protecting and restoring groundwater.

Check out our infographic below for more information about Groundwater Restoration through Education and how you can get involved with the project!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Join Us for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival

Do you enjoy learning about environmental issues? Do you appreciate thought provoking documentaries? Then we have just the event for you!  On Wednesday, November 20, Threads-Footloose & Fancy will be hosting a night of educational and inspirational environmental films at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln, NE to benefit The Groundwater Foundation. The Wild and Scenic Film Festival will start at 6:30 followed by appetizers and a raffle at Marz Bar. Tickets are $10 and are available at Threads-Footloose & Fancy located at 1219 P St in Lincoln and at The Groundwater Foundation located at 5561 S 48th St. Suite 215.  Your ticket gets you into the film festival and the after party at Marz, and puts your name in for a chance to win some great prizes from our sponsors Clif, Patagonia, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and Mother Jones.  Feel free to share this invitation with family and friends - we'd love to see you there. All ages are welcome to this event!

If you are unable to attend, don't worry! You can still contribute by going to and making a donation. 

We hope you can all join us for what promises to be an incredible evening!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Black Friday... Cyber Monday... #GivingTuesday

By Amy Kessner, The Groundwater Foundation
"#GivingTuesday is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations."  
- Mission Statement of #GivingTuesday
The Groundwater Foundation is partnering with #GivingTuesday to raise funds to support motivational and inspirational education and community-based action programs that creatively involve individuals, communities, public and private entities in groundwater conservation and protection. Check out The Groundwater Foundation's partner page here.

How can you be involved?

1) Give on December 3rd!

Your donation will provide groundwater education and activities throughout the nation!

A Donation of $25... brings an Awesome Aquifer groundwater modeling kit to a classroom, allowing students to learn about how groundwater moves and becomes contaminated in a hands-on way.

A Donation of $50... helps a green space manager adopt groundwater-friendly turf management practices on their site, thereby improving water quality and benefiting the environment.

A Donation of $250... provides support, motivation, resources, and recognition to communities of all types working to educate people about groundwater and protect local drinking water supplies.

All Gifts... benefit The Groundwater Foundation's programs and projects that provide tools, knowledge, and inspiration to help protect and conserve our precious groundwater supplies.

2) Spread the word!

Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about #GivingTuesday and The Groundwater Foundation through social media outlets. Remember to add the #hashtag #GivingTuesday to your posts!

3) Get informed and take action!

Groundwater is a vital resource, and everyone benefits from a sustainable supply of clean groundwater. Learn the facts about how you can conserve water in your own life and share them with others!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Groundwater Foundation Conference Huge Success!

By Cindy Kreifels, The Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation held its national conference October 15-17 at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.  The site was beautiful (we highly recommend it to anyone considering a conference site), the weather welcoming, and the speakers quite informative. 

I want to thank all those who attended and participated.  This conference could not have been as successful if it hadn’t been for each of you.  I met a number of new people who I now will call friends and colleagues and was also able to renew friendships with those I may have known for years.  But the important thing is that each of you came in order to learn from each other, share experiences, and discuss potential solutions to ensure groundwater sustainability for years to come.
I know I learned a lot.  What did you learn?

The proceedings from the conference will be posted on our website sometime next week – check back at to check out all that happened at the conference.

Until the next conference, keep up the great work that is happening all across the country!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Saving Water and Your Sprinkler System!

By Heather Voorman, Groundwater Foundation Community Outreach Specialist

As we saw from the drastic weather change this weekend, we are in the heart of the fall season. Fall’s cooler temperatures mean it’s time to adjust your automatic sprinklers to accommodate the changing weather.  Readjustment can protect your automatic sprinkler system and save water!
When the temperature cools, there is less evaporation.  This means that our lawns are going to need less water in the fall than they do in the summer months.  You can adjust your sprinkler clock to water one day less each week to prevent overwatering.
You will also need to change the time of day your automatic sprinkler waters.  We usually water early in the morning during the summer to prevent evaporation, but fall mornings can mean very cool temperatures.  These cooler temperatures can freeze the water on the plants, causing damage to your plants and your sprinkler system. 
This is also the time to start thinking about when you are going to blow out your sprinklers.  You cannot just drain out the above ground parts for the winter.  If you do not get all the water out of the pipes, it could ruin your entire system. 
If you want to save water all year long through your automatic sprinkler system, below are some tips you can use to be as efficient as possible.

  • Think about landscaping with native or drought tolerant trees, plants, and grass. Check with your local nursery to get more information about what would work best with your climate.
  •  Adjust the sprinklers so that you are only watering your lawn and not your house, sidewalk, or street.
  •  If your sprinkler clock has a rain pause button, use it to postpone your watering for a day or more.  Other clocks will allow you to shut the entire system off when it’s raining.
  • Some sprinkler clocks have an option to increase or decrease watering by a percentage.  Use this feature to reduce or increase watering based on changes in the weather. 
  • Consider installing a rain shut-off device on your sprinkler system to eliminate overwatering. 
  • Finally, water smart.  Be sure you pay attention to what time of day, how much, and how often you are watering.  Check on these settings several times a year to make sure you are watering based on the weather conditions. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown Challenging

By Cindy Kreifels, Groundwater Foundation Executive Vice President
This week has been more than a little crazy with the Foundation’s National Conference just a little more than a week away.  The many details are mounting and all of the materials needed to be shipped to the hotel this week.   And, then to top it all off, the government shuts down. 

I have read numerous articles about how this shutdown is impacting different groups of people.  I guess we are just one more casualty.  Okay casualty may be too strong of word.  But the shutdown is definitely impacting the conference as well.  So far I have one speaker who cannot make it (unless the government reopens prior to the conference) and another speaker whose Visa may or may not have been processed prior to the shutdown.  Therefore, we must plan for ways to fill those openings just in case.  So among all the normal challenges of pulling together a conference, the government shutdown has added new challenges.  No, they are not insurmountable, and surely not as problematic as many others that have come up, but just one more thing to tackle.

Enough said - my final thought is this; let’s make it a great conference with or without an active government.  There is still time for you to come to the conference.  Register online at  We’d love to see you there!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

They're Never Too Young!

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Program Manager
Earlier this week I participated in a Naturepalooza event at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It included a number of booths, activities, shows, and other fun stuff for families and children to learn more about nature.
The Groundwater Foundation's Naturepalooza booth involved participants in making Groundwater Protection Bracelets. Different color beads represent various activities that can be done at home to help protect and conserve groundwater. Kids learn that they can make easy choices - like turning the water off when they brush their teeth, taking shorter showers, recycling, and learning more about water - can make a difference, and their bracelet is a fun, visual reminder of that.
My husband and 2.5 year old daughter came out to Naturepalooza, and she had an absolute ball making bracelets. She sat with me while I helped other kids make their bracelets, and heard me talk over and over about what groundwater is, and how and why we should protect it.
On the way home, she was joyfully telling her daddy about her bracelet. "Look at my bracelet, Daddy!" she said. "Yes, it's a pretty bracelet," he replied. "No, Daddy," she told him seriously. "It's a groundwater bracelet."
When my husband told me this story, my heart swelled. She was actually listening to me while playing with the beads. She heard me talk about groundwater, and at least a little bit sunk in. One of her favorite books is "Wally and Wanda's Groundwater Adventure." Granted, she likes the pictures more than hearing about groundwater's movement and the water cycle, but I overheard her one night "reading" it to herself and attempting to say the word "evaporation." 
Kids are never too young to learn about water!  Children are such sponges, and soak up what they hear. It's important that we take the opportunity to help them learn about how precious groundwater is, and that they can make a difference!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alternatives to Fightin' Over Water

By Steve Mossman, Groundwater Foundation Board Member

When I was a year out of law school, I authored a law review article for the Creighton Law Review about Nebraska’s first integrated water management law with the subtitle  “Whiskey is for Drinkin’ and Water is for Fightin’ About”.  Nearly two decade later that subtitle is still accurate.  I am currently involved in a water dispute that has been ongoing for 6½ years with a third appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court pending. 

The different approach to groundwater taken by the Groundwater Foundation is one of the many reasons why I am proud to have completed a year of service on its Board. Instead of fighting about groundwater, the Groundwater Foundation believes in a collaborative approach to educating and protecting our very lifeblood.

Through programs like the Groundwater Guardian recognizing communities that promote groundwater awareness and its companion Green Sites recognizing  green space stewardship efforts, the Groundwater Foundation focuses on what can bring communities together. And, the Groundwater Foundation has always been focused on youth, educating our next generation on the importance of protecting and preserving groundwater through such innovative teaching tools as our new Water1der Mobile App.

While it may be instinctive to fight about a precious resource it is often more productive to seek solutions through a collaborative, community based approach. Currently the Groundwater Foundation and its excellent staff is concentrating on its 2013 National Conference titled “Tools for Groundwater Sustainability: Working Together to Meet the Challenge”.  I would invite you to Howey-in-the-Hills outside of Orlando, Florida to attend the Conference.  Registration information is available here:

Let’s work together on the important mission of the Groundwater Foundation. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Protect Your Groundwater Day - Act Now!

By Jane Griffin, President, The Groundwater Foundation
Today is National Protect Your Groundwater Day – so what are you doing to protect groundwater?
If you need some ideas you can visit this website.

And, if you really want to take your protection steps to a new level come to our conference to learn about efforts that individuals and communities are putting into action each day. More information is on The Groundwater Foundation website.
Remember, groundwater provides drinking water for over half of the population in the USA and is a major source of irrigation to grow our food. It is important to protect this resource!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Your Girl Scout will Love Let's Keep It Clean!

by Amy Kessner, The Groundwater Foundation

Let's Keep It Clean! is a new Girl Scout patch program for all levels of Girl Scouts developed by The Groundwater Foundation and Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. For more information visit And now, without further ado, here are the top ten reasons your Girl Scout will love Let's Keep It Clean!

10) She can share all that she has learned and created online!

Any activity that your Girl Scout participates in can be shared online. We love to hear what Girl Scouts are learning and how they are effecting change in their communities! Share your stories, photos, and other documents online here.

9) She will love Frannie the Fish.

Frannie is a beloved character at The Groundwater Foundation with an adventurous spirit. Your Girl Scout can learn from and teach others about Frannie's story.

8) She will have an excuse to eat a sweet treat (while learning about groundwater, of course).

Edible Aquifers are amped up soda floats that will allow your Girl Scout to learn about the geologic formation of aquifers, how pollution can get into groundwater, and how pumping can cause a decline in the water table.

7) She will get to develop her critical thinking and teamwork skills!

In You Be the Judge your Girl Scout will read through various scenarios with a team of Girl Scouts and decide how to solve a problem.

6) She can practice her engineering skills by creating an aquifer, designing a water wheel, and building a model center pivot!

Is your Girl Scout creative? Does she love new projects that allow her to build and design? Then your Girl Scout will love the opportunity to create an aquifer, design a water wheel, and build a model center pivot!

5) She can learn about the water cycle and become a gardener all at the same time.

In Growing with Groundwater your Girl Scout will create a miniature terrarium that demonstrates the different phases of the water cycle. 

4) She will gain ideas for her bronze, silver, or gold award.

If your Girl Scout is looking to earn her bronze, silver, or gold award, the Let's Keep It Clean! patch books are full of ideas for her award project. You can purchase the patch books online at The Groundwater Foundation's Shop.

3) She will have fun with other Girl Scouts, learn about groundwater, and earn a patch all at the same time!

Check out the new Nebraska Girl Scouts Program Book for the dates of upcoming programs, Camp Adventure Weekends, and Programs on Demand.

2) She can earn not one, but two patches!

Your Girl Scout will have the opportunity to earn two patches through the Let's Keep It Clean! program by learning about and taking action to protect groundwater.

1) She'll make a difference in her community.

At every level - from Daisy to Ambassador - your Girl Scout will be able to have a positive influence on her community through the knowledge she gains in the Let's Keep It Clean! program. Let's Keep It Clean! will provide her with hands-on activities to learn about groundwater and practical ways she can implement change in her home and community by conserving and protecting groundwater!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Once again children across the country are going back to school!  If you are a teacher, parent, scout leader, or other educator, The Groundwater Foundation has some great educational items for you!  Here are just a couple of items from our catalog—go to to check out more fun items!

Also, be sure and check out our new Water1der app!  Water1der is a free groundwater awareness trivia game app from The Groundwater Foundation.  Players are challenged in different areas of groundwater/water basics knowledge through various fun and educational playing formats. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Register today for the 2013 National Conference!

The demand for groundwater is increasing - a growing population, societal needs, climate variations - making groundwater sustainability a vital concern.

The 2013 Groundwater Foundation National Conference will provide presentations, case studies, networking opportunities, and discussions to help you get the tools and resources you, your community, and your business need to move towards groundwater sustainability.

The conference will also celebrate the efforts of groundwater stewards in the Groundwater Guardian and Green Site programs.

Join us, and register today!

Register by August 27 and get 20% off spa and golf servces (upon hotel check in) at Mission Inn Resort!

WHAT: 2013 Groundwater Foundation National Conference
WHEN: October 15-17, 2013
WHERE: Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills (Orlando area), Florida
MORE: The conference will discuss "Tools for Groundwater Sustainability: Working Together to Meet the Challenges." The agenda includes a variety of thought-provoking and useful information about moving towards groundwater sustainability, and includes optional workshops and tours.
QUESTIONS: Let us know! Contact Conference Chair Cindy Kreifels at 402-434-2740 ext. 103 or email
We hope to see you in Florida!