Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Protection, groundwater needs. On Earth, it is.

By: Anthony Lowndes, The Groundwater Foundation

There has been a lot of talk about the water on celestial bodies over the last year. Saturn’s moon Titan is dotted with mysterious lakes and Enceladus vents water vapor and ice from a subsurface ocean. Oh, don’t forget that salt water running down the slopes of our neighbor, Mars. While it is undoubtedly exciting to find water elsewhere in our galaxy, we are humans, on Earth. I don’t mean to squelch these discoveries and the journeys we will take because of them, I only wish to point out that our “Blue Marble” is about 71% covered in water.

Image credit: Apollo 11 Astronauts
There are 2,551,000 mi3 of fresh water on or below the surface of the Earth.[1] Space is vast and seemingly unlimited unlike our supply of fresh water. People across the country and around the world are beginning to find this out the hard way. Much like balancing the light and dark sides of The Force (can you tell I saw the new Star Wars movie?), it is difficult to balance the supply and demand for water. The good news is there are people and communities working toward a balance in this force, the force of water. Many of those communities are Groundwater Guardians. Working globally and acting locally for the betterment of water supplies is what the Groundwater Guardian program is all about. 

The community-based approach to groundwater protection works, and it is something that you, here on Earth, can get involved with. Check the Groundwater Guardian directory to find a Groundwater Guardian community near you. If there aren’t any near you, be your own force and get one started.

May the force be with you.

[1] United States Geologic Survey. “How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?” http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html

Thursday, December 17, 2015


by Lori Davison, The Groundwater Foundation
As we prepare for the New Year, remember the many important days we can celebrate to help protect the Earth and its water resources.  Here is a list of a few “green” holidays to celebrate in 2016!  Mark your calendars!  
·         World Wetlands Day – February 2 (also Groundhog Day!)
·         National Groundwater Week – March 6-12
·         World Sparrow Day – March 20
·         World Water Day – March 22
·         Earth Day – April 22
·         Arbor Day –April 29
·         National Drinking Water Week – May 1-7
·         Bike to Work Day – May 20
·         World Environment Day – June 5
·         World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought – June 17
·         Water Quality Month (August)
·         Protect Your Groundwater Day – September 8
·         National Wildlife Day – September 4
·         International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer – September 16
·         Zero Emissions Day – September 21
·         World Rivers Day – September 25
·         International Day of Climate Action – October 24

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Groundwater Education Can Happen Anywhere

By Cindy Kreifels, The Groundwater Foundation

Last night I went to a holiday party where I knew very few of the guests.  And, like many events where I am introduced to new people, the question of where I work or what I do came up repeatedly. “Groundwater Foundation?” they say with a bewildered look on their face.  As I explain that we educate people about groundwater and invite people to get involved in its protection, I get yet another bewildered look, until I explain that groundwater is the water we drink and the water that grows our food, then the light bulb begins to come on.

It still amazes me that there are many people who still know very little about groundwater.  Obviously, the work of educating people about this resource that is so vital to our survival on this planet is not done.  So for all of you who have dedicated time to educating an individual, a group of school children, or a civic club – thank you!  The more people who understand groundwater and its role in our lives, the more people who will be able to take action on its behalf.

So while sometimes I may feel out of place at certain events when I don't know anyone, I have to remember that it is really just another great opportunity to educate someone, even if only a little bit, about groundwater. I hope that each of you will take moments like these to educate just one more person about our precious groundwater.

Have you had a moment like this?  What approach did you use to get people excited about groundwater?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish

By Jessica Wheeler, The Groundwater Foundation

Do you work with youth?  Is education your thing?  Although created with Girl Scouts in mind, the Water-Wise Wednesday blog features Frannie, The Groundwater Foundation's Girl Scout patch program's mascot, sharing fun, hands-on activities that can be utilized by anyone involved with youth education!  Check out this week's blog post below and tune in every Wednesday for more activities at groundh2o.blogspot.com!


It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish {Ways to Protect and Conserve Groundwater - Reduce Chemical Use}

For the next ten weeks Frannie will be sharing The Groundwater Foundation's Top 10 List of Ways to Protect and Conserve Groundwater at home!  Each week will feature a step you can teach your troop to share with their families to become groundwater stewards!  The first week in this series is about reducing your chemical use.

In most homes you can find many chemicals, used for cleaning or taking care of the lawn.  Most of these chemicals are removed from water by waste treatment facilities before the water is returned to rivers, streams, and lakes, but certain chemicals found in cleaners and other household chemicals - like ammonia, phosphorus, and nitrogen - are not removed by the treatment process.  That means when cleaning products are rinsed down the drain or flushed down the toilet, they are getting into our surface water and affecting fish like Frannie!

Many of these products can be replaced with simple, environmentally-friendly options that you can buy in the store or make yourself!  Follow this easy recipe with Frannie to make your own cleaners!

Here's what you'll need:
  • A spray bottle for each Girl Scout
  • Funnel
  • Large stickers
  • Decorative stickers
  • Small measuring cups
  • Water 
  • Vinegar
  • Dish Soap
  • Baking Soda
  • Optional - essential oil (orange and lemon are great for cleaners!)

Here's what you do:

1.   Have the Girl Scouts write the following recipe and directions on their sticker for future use:
     - 1 teaspoon baking soda
     - 1/2 teaspoon dish soap
     - 2 tablespoons vinegar
     Shake well!

2.  Allow the girls to decorate their bottles with stickers.

3.  Use the funnel to add the baking soda, dish soap, and vinegar to your spray bottle.  Shake the ingredients in the bottle. 

4.  Let it sit for a minute and fill the bottle with warm water and shake it up.

5Optional - add one to two drops of essential oil to the spray bottle mixture to give it a more pleasant scent.

6.  Replace the cap, shake, and enjoy!

Share pictures of your Girl Scouts creating their own environmentally-friendly cleaners!


Tune in weekly for fun activities with Frannie at groundh2o.blogspot.com!  Click here to learn more about The Groundwater Foundation's Girl Scout patch program.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Gobbling" Water This Thanksgiving

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Ah, Thanksgiving, One of my favorite holidays. Why? It centers around a delicious meal, family, and appreciating the blessings in our lives.

We don't often think about the water footprint of a large meal like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner spread - turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce. And wine, of course. But think big picture about the amount of water required to produce that meal - from the water used to grow the vegetables to the amount needed to feed/house/process the turkey. Some estimates:

  • Turkey requires roughly 468 gallons of water per pound; so a 20 pound bird takes 9,360 gallons of water.
  • Canned cranberry sauce takes 1,559 gallons to produce and hold the shape of the can when it's removed.
  • My personal favorite - mashed potatoes. A whopping 2,528 gallons for the spuds.
  • And a close second - wine, which takes between 50 and 75 gallons for one 8 ounce glass (depending on where the wine is produced/shipped).
This doesn't even factor in other Thanksgiving staples, like stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, or pumpkin pie!

It really is astonishing when you think about the "hidden" water in the foods we eat. Of course, we don't suggest skipping Thanksgiving dinner, but explore about ways you can shrink the water footprint of your meal:
  • Buy local! Reduce the distance your food travels before it hits your plate.
  • Go light on the turkey and heavy on locally-grown vegetables.
And there are lots of ways to conserve water directly when preparing your feast and during clean up:
  • Thaw food in the refrigerator instead of running hot water over frozen food.
  • Fill a bowl with water to rinse your vegetables instead of letting the tap run to wash them.
  • Don't let the water run when washing dishes by hand. Plug the drain and fill the sink with soapy water.
  • Skip the "prewash" and just scrape plates clean before putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Fill the dishwasher to the brim and run it while you take a turkey-induced nap.
Above all, be thankful for the clean and safe groundwater that we use everyday. It's the water we drink and the water that grows our food!

From all of us at The Groundwater Foundation, Happy Thanksgiving!
Groundwater Foundation Staff, from left: Jennifer Wemhoff,
Cindy Kreifels, Doug Sams, Lori Davison, Jane Griffin,
Jessica Wheeler, Anthony Lowndes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Measuring Our Water: From Dowsers to Satellites

By Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.  I participated in one of the guided tours and learned so much about the architect, his work, and the architectural school, which is still active. To think that Wright arrived in the desolate desert in the mid-1930s and was able to envision what this place has become. Access to water was one of the many challenges living in this area posed.  For years Wright and his students traveled miles to get fresh water - until Wright armed himself with a dowser, determined there was water to be found underground.  He identified the spot for the well.  At 100 feet no water, 200 feet no water, 300 feet no water, 400 feet no water (the well drillers had been advising Wright to try another spot since about 200 feet down), but Wright was determined, and instructed them not to give up even when no water was found at 500 feet.  Good thing they didn’t give up; at 507 feet they hit the aquifer; and it has been supplying Taliesin West since!  In fact, the water is said to be so good that people who drink it will live longer, healthier lives (Wright himself lived a very active and productive life; he died at 91)!

Hearing about using a dowser to determine water availability got me to thinking about the presentation at our national conference by Jay Famiglietti.  Jay provided an overview of NASA's GRACE project, where satellites are used to detect changes in Earth's gravity field to determine how fresh water availability is changing. To learn more about his fascinating technique you can see his presentation on our YouTube channel. 

Satellite technology was not an option in the 1930s - nonetheless Taliesin West is a remarkable place - if you are ever in the Scottsdale area make sure you visit and participate in a tour of the place.   Here is a little information about it (from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's website) and a link to more information.

Taliesin West is a national historic landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale, Arizona.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Wright's beloved winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, Taliesin West was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a utopian world unto itself.  Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur.  It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect's creations. Click here for more information.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Learning From the Leaders

by Anthony Lowndes, The Groundwater Foundation

It has been two weeks since the conclusion of the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference. As a first-time conference goer, the sheer amount of information to absorb was slightly overwhelming to say the least. After some reflection, I believe there are several very positive messages I received loud and clear.
I have known for a long time that it takes many people to provide safe, clean drinking water to the millions of people in our country, but seeing and meeting so many of them was something entirely different. Some, like me, were new to the world of water while others have been conserving and protecting groundwater for many years. The virtue I most noticed was the passion demonstrated by each person I had the pleasure of talking to. Each of them had a story, long or short, that illustrated how we are all passionately working together to protect the most valuable resource on Earth.

At the Foundation’s 30th anniversary celebration dinner, it was clear that we have many challenges ahead of us, including increased demand for water as our global population grows. It will take current technologies and continued advancement in water conservation and understanding groundwater resources to provide for the expected nine billion people by 2050. Several speakers focused on project successes they have had in exactly these areas.

These are not single issues to be dealt with individually, but rather a comprehensive approach should be used to bring all stakeholders to the table. This approach was successfully used in Israel, illustrated by Naty Barak of Netafim. Combining a clear legal framework with integrated water management, technology and innovation created a sustainable water economy. Technological innovation isn’t just in how we use water, but also how we understand groundwater resources.

In many areas of the world, including eastern Nebraska, the geology of local  aquifers can be difficult to pinpoint, thus making it difficult to manage. Lower Platte South Natural Resources District and the UNL Conservation and Survey Division have been utilizing Airborne ElectroMagnetic (AEM) survey technology to increase and build upon data collected from test holes. The advanced survey technique provides a virtual borehole every 150 feet along the flight path. The same technique was also utilized in western Nebraska and can be applied to many different types of aquifers, putting a valuable tool in the hands of geologists and groundwater managers.

Other tools, such as NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, provide information about water availability and demonstrate gains and losses on a much larger scale. Combining all of the tools in our toolbox will provide water managers a way to effectively make policy decisions and continue to provide their communities with safe water. There are still places needing further research. Technology has yet to reach many others, but the huge gains in our understanding and use of groundwater are, in my view, very promising.

The 2015 Conference has inspired me to instill the same passion for groundwater into those I work with as was demonstrated by those who were at the conference. As I help educate those around the state of Nebraska and beyond about groundwater, there will be a certain spring in my step given to me by those I met at the conference. Let’s get started!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

10 Reasons We're Glad You Were at the 2015 National Conference

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

#10: You celebrated 30 years of fulfilling our mission. We peeked back to 1985, celebrated the legacy of Nebraska well driller WayneMadsen, and looked to the future.

#9: You heard why Groundwater Guardians and Green Sites are awesome at the Celebration Luncheon, and found reasons to be inspired to protect groundwater from Catherine Chertudi, City of Boise, Idaho.

#8: You learned about the importance of water to food production, and how irrigation technology can help feed the world’s burgeoning population into the future from Mogens Bay, Chairman and CEO of Valmont.

#7: You were catapulted 30 years into the future by University of Nebraska Students Kate Boone and William Avery who shared how their interest in water wasn’t piqued until college because water wasn’t talked about in high school other than its properties and molecules. Groundwater Foundation President Jane Griffin shared tools and resources that can help fill these gaps in groundwater education.

#6: You participated in workshops, tours, and discussions that went beyond the conference sessions, and met people from across the U.S. that share your passion for protecting groundwater.

#5: You heard expert, engaging speakers from across the country share what worked, and didn’t, and how groundwater protection can move forward in the next 30 years.

#4: You shared in the challenges of communicating groundwater science to the public with Bill Alley of the National Ground Water Association, debunking popular groundwater myths.

#3: You saw how NASA is using the power of satellites to track the changes in groundwater storage and how California’s groundwater reserves are in a perilous situation from hydrologist Jay Famiglietti of NASA and UC-Irvine.

#2: You heard why sparkplugs are vital to groundwater protection and education from Susan Seacrest, Groundwater Foundation founder and President Emeritus.

#1: You became part of our groundwater family! It is because of people that groundwater must be protected, but it is only through the efforts of people that it can be accomplished. Until we meet again!
Groundwater Foundation Staff, from left: Jennifer Wemhoff, Cindy Kreifels, Doug Sams,
Lori Davison, Jane Griffin, Jessica Wheeler, and Anthony Lowndes.