Monday, September 26, 2016

BLOG: Protecting Groundwater Through Personal Contact and Best Management Practices

by Chris Barnett, Executive Director, Lawrence Community Development Corporation, Lawrence, Indiana

Indianapolis-Marion County, Indiana has been a Groundwater Guardian Community since 1998.  We recognized the value of The Groundwater Foundation’s programs even before that:  in the early 1990s, when the original team was helping to write our first Wellfield Protection Zoning Ordinance, the Foundation was able to provide us with examples of ordinances and regulations from other communities.

Our team is an all-volunteer board, which is legally structured as a 501c3 not-for-profit “supporting organization” to city-county government.  We contract with an environmental consulting firm to take care of two main responsibilities:  keeping a registry of the “potential contaminant sources” (commercial locations that use and store potential contaminants) in our seven wellfield protection areas, and working with those businesses to employ best practices and minimize risks to the water supply.  Our third main responsibility, which the board undertakes in cooperation with our consultant, is providing speakers and task force members to advise citizens and city-county government on a wide range of topics around groundwater protection.  Our association with The Groundwater Foundation and our long-time Groundwater Guardian recognition adds credibility to our message.  We highlight our Guardian status in presentations, reports, our website, and the printed materials we distribute to businesses.

Our universe is large.  Marion County is an urbanized county of approximately 400 square miles with an estimated population of 939,000.  The vast majority of residences and commercial establishments are served by the municipal water systems of Citizens Water, Lawrence Utilities, and Speedway Water Works.  The rest utilize private wells.  The City of Lawrence and its 47,000 residents are 100% groundwater-dependent.  The Town of Speedway, home to about 13,000 residents and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, switches from part-surface to all-groundwater in winter when its surface water source becomes unreliable.  About 20-25% of Citizens Water production is groundwater, and that figure is growing with population and new connections.

Our program is voluntary and advisory, as local zoning ordinances can impose design and construction requirements but not operating requirements on businesses.  So our audience is generally limited to commercial/industrial property owners and operators, as well as city government and public health officials.   We stress personal contact and utilizing best management practices to reduce groundwater contamination risk within our wellfield protection districts.

The wellfield districts are set by ordinance as the 5-year time of travel zones around the public water supply wells in the county.  The wellfields encompass about 15% of the county’s land area.  On the map above, the 5-year TOT boundary is the white area; the dark gray area is the 1-year TOT.  Within these areas, there are 2,645 non-residential sites.  About half of the sites are judged to pose little or no risk to groundwater; 696 properties are regulated (or formerly-regulated) sites, and 681 more are unregulated but have commercial operations that could potentially pose a threat to groundwater.  Tracking the commercial uses and maintaining the registry database is a large undertaking, as is the effort to establish face-to-face communication with those businesses.

MCWEC consultant John Mundell addresses the
Riverside Area Superfund informational meeting.
Earlier in 2016, MCWEC directors and consultants mobilized to help organize and present information in a community meeting to address a proposed Superfund site in the midst of a high-production wellfield area.  Historic contamination suspected to be from commercial or industrial uses has been detected in raw water samples at production wells of Citizens Water.  The Indiana Department of Environmental Management worked with USEPA to study the issue, and the result was a proposed Superfund NPL designation.  Such designation in a drinking water protection area overlaid with a combination of residences and businesses carries both advantages and disadvantages.  We believe that the information presented by MCWEC helped community members who were present to better understand how they might respond to the proposed designation.


Chris Barnett is the Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Development Corporation, as well as the team leader for the Indianapolis-Marion County Groundwater Guardian Team, the Marion County Wellfield Education Corporation. Chris also serves on The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors. Reach Chris at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Monday, September 19, 2016

BLOG: Build the Relationship Before You Need the Relationship

by Christine Spitzley, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing, Michigan

People dedicated to the protection of groundwater resources know that pollution prevention is easier, cheaper and more effective than cleaning up contamination. As Groundwater Guardian Team since 1995 our goal is simple, protect groundwater before it is polluted. The tricky part is messaging that goal in a way that is heard, believed and evolves into action. How do you effectively share messages about an unseen resource that everyone uses and yet takes for granted? How to you make it a priority in a world full of seemingly urgent information? How are you heard amidst all the noise? Is it worth it?

Randy Roost is the immediate past chair Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association and a Lansing Board of Water and Light employee. He succinctly summarized what we have been actively working towards in the Greater Lansing Area for decades: “You have to build the relationship before you need the relationship.”

Roost’s wisdom is directly on target. Confidence is earned. Locally, we do what many do across the country to tell our drinking water story. We host plant tours, write articles, bring booths to schools and fairs, engage in social media and give interviews. It can seem endless and repetitive. But when a boil water advisory becomes necessary, or an unexpected spill takes place, educated consumers who know their providers and understand their resources are more likely to trust that those responsible will put public health and safety first. Likewise, as the need to invest in aging water infrastructure continues to grow, stakeholders need to understand where their water comes from and how it is delivered. It is difficult for people to support what they do not understand.

If you are part of the media, seek out water professionals before an emergency. A resource every single person depends on daily IS interesting. A product that is delivered to every home and business daily IS worth noting.  

If you are a teacher please include water in your curriculum as part of science, math, and government. Create a generation of wise consumers who understand the many facets safe water.  

As a consumer, seek information and ask questions.  

If you are a Groundwater Guardian Team, keep sharing the message and building relationships.  

It’s worth it.


Christine Spitzley is the Chief Environmental Programs Planner for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in Lansing, Michigan. She is also the team leader for the Greater Lansing Area Groundwater Guardian team, and has been since the team was formed in 1995. Reach Christine at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Monday, September 12, 2016

BLOG: From Festivals to Pharmaceuticals...

by Cathy Lotzer, Marshfield Utilities, Marshfield, Wisconsin

Groundwater Guardians for the Marshfield Area earned their first designation as a Groundwater Guardian Community in 1997.  Fast forward 20 years later and volunteers are still active in their community.

Why did we get involved?
Getting involved with The Groundwater Foundation (and Groundwater Guardian program) has proved to be very successful for our group.  For a very small annual fee to participate, a wealth of information and resources were made available to us.  In addition, we were able to make contact with other communities facing similar groundwater issues.  Rather than reinvent the wheel in our community, we learned what others were doing and mirrored their efforts.  Now, 20 years later, we are paying it forward, sharing our successes with others who are looking to get started in their communities.

The group first became active in our area because Marshfield’s water supply was very vulnerable, sitting on a sole source aquifer with shallow wells (50-90 feet deep).  With no viable options for new supply, protection of the current groundwater source was critical.

What have we done? 
In the early years, our team hosted many Water Festivals at area elementary schools.  Age specific activities were led to teach the concepts of groundwater protection, conservation, and overall water education aimed at teaching students about the value of our precious resource.

In 2001, one of our Water Festivals was filmed for a television production called
Into The Outdoors which aired on statewide TV.

Our group also led the constructed of two Rain Gardens in our community.
In 2006 we began our most successful project, our Rx Round-Up Pharmaceutical Take Back Program.  Marshfield was the first in the state of Wisconsin to collect pharmaceutical products (both controlled and non-controlled substances). For two years our group held multiple one-day collections, until we were able to open a permanent collection site at our local Police Department in February of 2008.  Since 2006 we have collected nearly 10,000 pounds of meds for proper destruction.  
Our group also worked with our local utility to become the first Groundwater Guardian Green Site in Wisconsin.  Marshfield Utilities has continued to earn this award each year since 2008.

Our group has also hosted several community day-long learning events for area youth and adults. Interactive workshops were held that targeted water education.

In 2014, our group hosted our first Girl Scout Let's Keep It Clean event.  Over 90 Girl Scouts attended, all earning their first patch “Ask Me About Groundwater”.
This past summer, we held a second Girl Scout event, with over 50 girls earning their first patch.
Why do we stay involved?
Our water supply hasn’t changed, neither has the need to protect it and sustain it for future generations.  The Groundwater Guardian program is the perfect fit for us!

Cathy Lotzer is the Technical Services Manager for Marshfield Utilities in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and has been the chair of the Marshfield Area Groundwater Guardian team since it was formed in 1997. She also serves as Chair of The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors. She can be reached at

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Monday, September 5, 2016

BLOG: Groundwater is a Labor of Love

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The Labor Day holiday got me thinking this year about how the work we all do to educate people and protect groundwater is truly a labor of love.

There's no glory, or fame, or riches in the work we do. We do it because it's important. Because groundwater is vital to our lives and communities. And who doesn't love a glass of cool, clean water?

This is most evident by the efforts of the Groundwater Guardians teams we work with across North America. These teams implement activities from wellhead protection to classroom presentations and festivals, pharmaceutical take backs to community events and PSAs, and much more. They care about groundwater because they care about their community. It's a labor of love.

A few Groundwater Guardians a the 2015 Groundwater Foundation National Conference.
Over the next several weeks, the Groundwater Blog will feature stories from Groundwater Guardians about the work they do in their communities. I hope they give you new ideas and inspire you to take action in your community.

Want to join their ranks? It's easy to get started as a Groundwater Guardian. Find out how.