Thursday, December 29, 2016

BLOG: 10 from 2016

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The door is about to close on 2016. Here's a look back on 10 things that happened at The Groundwater Foundation this year:

1. Our mission was revamped and refocused: We connect people, businesses, and communities through local groundwater education and action, making us all part of the solution for clean, sustainable groundwater.

2. Amazing volunteer teams across the U.S. were recognized for local, proactive efforts to educate their communities and protect groundwater through the Groundwater Guardian program.

3. The Nebraska MEDS (Medication Education on Disposal Strategies) Coalition, which The Groundwater Foundation is a founding member, worked with nearly 300 pharmacies across Nebraska to take back thousands of pounds of unwanted or expired medication for proper disposal, keeping them out of water supplies.

4. The Hydrogeology Challenge event created for Science OIympiad (SO) was featured in the 2016 National Tournament. The Challenge has been adapted for use in classrooms and extracurricular activities beyond SO.

5. Two new members joined The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors, Chris Barnett of the Marion County Wellfield Education Corporation in Indianapolis, IN and Kirk Welch of the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in Dumas, TX.

6. The Groundwater Foundation's Twitter account topped 4,300 followers, and Facebook went over 2,300. We also ventured into the world of Instagram.

7. The Awesome Aquifer Kit was adopted as part of the K-5 science curriculum in The Groundwater Foundation's hometown school system, Lincoln Public Schools. 

8. A new collaboration with University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Science Literacy includes The Groundwater Foundation as part of an effort to educate secondary educators.

9. Green spaces across the U.S. participated in the Green Site program and received designation for managing their site with groundwater in mind.

10. Sara Brock joined the groundwater team as Program Manager, heading up the Groundwater Guardian program, youth programs, and others.

We're glad to have you as a partner in our mission and in protecting groundwater. Cheers to groundwater in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish {New Year Resolution}

It's almost time to don your party hat and start the countdown to the beginning of 2017! With New Years around the corner Frannie is trying to think of a groundwater-related New Years resolution. She challenges you to do the same!

Frannie's resolution is to personally conserve more water in 2017. This past summer, Frannie used The Groundwater Foundation's 30by30 app to learn how to reduce her daily water use by 30 gallons a day for 30 days, but now she wants to reduce even more! She is going to use the app to reduce her daily water use by 40 gallons

Here are a few ways Frannie will accomplish her New Years resolution:
  • Turn the water off while she brushes her teeth 
  • Only run the dishwasher when it is full

  • Take 5 minute showers

Can you think of other ways Frannie can save water everyday?

Share your water-related New Years resolution!

Have a happy and safe New Year! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

BLOG: The Holy River

by Sara Brock, The Groundwater Foundation

My friend and guide,
Praveen, in Pashupatinath
Nepal is a very spiritual country.  As I walked the cold, crowded streets in January, I saw little shrines dotting the streets, often smeared with a dye made of semi-crushed flower petals in bright red and yellow hues. Larger Hindu temples, the ones the massive 2015 earthquake missed, stood tall and ornate. Among the grandest of these temples, and certainly the most important temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is Pashupatinath (Pa-shoo-pa-tea-not), located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River in the Kathmandu Valley.

Shiva is the Hindu Supreme Being of creation, destruction, and transformation. Believers come to Pashupatinath to pray and help their deceased relatives achieve nirvana by cremating the bodies in a special ritual beside the river. Once the ritual is complete, the ashes are brushed into the Bagmati River which is believed to have the power to purify, ensuring that the spirit is fully released from the body.  

These rituals are performed every day of the year from sun up to sun down. Families bring their dead from thousands of miles away, some even from India, to take part in this special ritual. The air is thick with ash and oil. My friends and I sat and sneezed out black mucus, watching as more and more ashes were pushed into the river. On top of this, the water continues to flow slowly through the city, used upstream and downstream for drinking, bathing, irrigation, and dumping trash and untreated sewage1.

Women basket-fishing from the river.
It seems counterintuitive to use a holy river with little regard to environmental or health concerns and indeed; Nepali citizens are starting to recognize and react to the hazards of indiscriminant disposal. However, for centuries, the river had provided clean, accessible water to the dry and mountainous region. The Kathmandu Valley was a resource hub and quickly drew a large population along the Bagmati’s banks. Hindus and Buddhists alike worshipped the river, sourced from a trinity of headwaters from the Himalaya and Green Mountain Ranges to the north and seasonal monsoons. 

In the 70s, a huge spike in urbanization driven by economic opportunity caused Kathmandu to quickly develop the infrastructure necessary to support the population surge2. Unfortunately, the city skipped over many steps that have since negatively affected public and environmental health, like sanitary disposal of human and industrial waste. With more and more people to provide resources for, the government focused on source augmentation rather than sewage transportation and treatment systems. However, thanks to increased education and cooperation from world health and environmental organizations, many point source polluters have since been shut down and the Bagmati has gotten a second chance3.

Nepali people may have prioritized their personal and spiritual water needs over the long-term conservation of the Bagmati, but they have never ignored its importance. On Saturdays, the national holy day of rest, a group of about 100 Kathmandu residents gather to pick up and properly dispose of the trash on the riverbank. As it gets progressively cleaner, locals appreciate the symbolic river and take more care to dump their trash in a designated area4. The river moves a little more swiftly and is transforming the countryside after the destructive aftermath of the earthquake. So while Pashupatinath continues to cremate the honorable dead and the valley reconstructs, Nepal now has the momentum and hope to restore purity to its holy river.

The earthquake shelters are now shrines of the country's
national pride, love for each other, and restored faith.

1. Keane, Katrina. “Suitably Modern.” KATRINA KEANE, 13 Apr. 2013,
2. Platman, Lauren, "From Holy to Holistic: Working Towards Integrated Management of the Bagmati River Corridor" (2014). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Paper 1808
3. Bhaduri, Amita. “Living Rivers, Dying Rivers: Bagmati River in Nepal.” India Water Portal, Arghyam Initiative, 1 May 2012,
4. Jenkins, Clare. “Bagmati River Story.” Kathmandu Post, Ekantipur, 24 June 2016,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Holiday Upcycling: Coffee Can Decor}

Frannie was bummed that her favorite coffee containers were not recyclable. So she decided to upcycle them instead! There are so many different ways to use an upcycled coffee container. Frannie could make a vase, a storage place for pens and pencils, some lovely holiday decor, or even a cute container to wrap gifts in! This week Frannie is going to show you how to upcycle a coffee container!

Want to learn why Frannie is doing an upcycling project this week? Check out the Upcycled Clothing Pin Snowflake Ornament blog here.

Here's what you need:
  • A coffee can
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Craft supplies: ribbon, paint, sequins, glitter, stickers, etc.
Here's what you do:
1. Find an empty coffee can. You can choose to keep the lid or recycle the lid if possible. Frannie decided to recycle her lid since she won't be using it.

2. Decorate your coffee can! Use whatever craft supplies you have to decorate your coffee can. Frannie wrapped some string around her can to create a neat effect.

3. Once you like the way your coffee can looks, you are done! Congratulations! Go ahead and re-purpose your can as a vase, holiday decoration, storage container, or whatever you like like!

For more fun!
Add labels! Decorate several coffee cans and add a label to each describing what item you wish to store inside them.

Share photos of your upcycled coffee can decor here!

Frannie wishes you a fun and safe holiday season!  

Friday, December 9, 2016

BLOG: 6 Tips for a Greener, Simpler Christmas

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. There's so much to enjoy. But it seems that the holidays often come with a lot of excess - too much food, too much stress, too many gifts to buy, too much to do, too much stuff, etc. How can we simplify?

Simplifying the holidays will not only benefit your sanity, but the environment. Here are six simple ways to simplify this holiday season and reduce the impact on the environment:

1. Scale back the holiday lights.
You don't need to outdo the neighbors extravagant display that's set to music. A simple wreath or lit garland add a nice touch to your home, and will take minutes instead of hours to put up. If a big display is your thing, use LED lights and save on energy use and put a few more dollars back in your pocket. Use a timer to set the on/off times to make sure they don't twinkle all night.

2. Gifts don't have to be "things." Give the gift of time, experiences, or a donation.
It's easy to get caught up in buying things for our loved ones during the holidays. But don't we all have enough stuff? Instead, think about meaningful alternatives. Give your spouse or kids a coupon book filled with fun things to do - a nature walk, trip to the park or library, baking cookies together, etc. Tickets to a favorite show, concert, or event; zoo or museum memberships; or a gift card for a massage are great alternatives to another tie or Christmas towel. Or consider a donation to the recipient's favorite charity (if they don't have a favorite, The Groundwater Foundation is a good one!).

3. Find alternatives to gift wrapping.
Reuse those gift bags and bows from last year. Gift bags are a snap to assemble and much easier than wrapping an oddly-shaped item. Encourage your gift recipients to reuse them for future gifts. If you like to wrap, look for wrapping paper made using recycled content. Avoid foil/metallic paper, as it's difficult to recycle. Upcycle paper you have around the house into one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Have the kids decorate old newspaper, scrap paper, paper grocery bags, or any other paper for a fun art project and quality time with you. Or channel your inner child and have fun yourself! 

4. Limit your travel plans.
This one is hard, as family is important during the holidays. But between all the shopping and visiting, parties and other activities, we drive more and burn more gas. Organize video chats to "see" family members. Consolidate your travel as much as possible, or just stay home in your pajamas and watch Christmas movies.

5. Make your holiday meal(s) low impact.
Buy local as much as possible. Skip disposable dinnerware and bring out the china and cloth napkins (this may go against the idea of simplifying - but enlist your guests' help and have a group dishwashing and drying session after the meal). Compost any food scraps. Send leftovers home with your guests, or keep them yourself and save yourself from cooking for a few days.

6. Slow down and enjoy the season!
Christmas comes but once a year. It's ok to say no to yet another holiday party or outing. It's ok to focus on the small things that make this time of year magical. Give yourself permission to just be this holiday season, and enjoy it.

It's a process to change our thinking about the holidays. Each year I try to simplify, but find myself falling into the trap of excess. I hope we can all focus on having a greener, simpler Christmas this year.