Thursday, February 23, 2017

BLOG: Change for Change: The Well Project

by Sunni Richardson, Director of Discipleship, First Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Nebraska

Did you know 663 million people in the world live without clean water? That's nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide, or twice the population of the United States. The majority live in isolated rural areas and spend hours every day walking to collect water for their family. Not only does walking for water keep kids out of school or take up time that parents could be using to earn money, but the water often carries diseases that can make everyone sick. Access to clean water means education, income and health, especially for women and kids. 

The Creation Care Team at First Lutheran Church (FLC) made water the focus of keeping care of the earth in the forefront all year long, with the goal of raising $2500 for a water well for a village somewhere in the world. The well project was kicked off  at the annual Earth Day Celebration in April 2016.

The weeklong Celebration included water education with Sunday school students, First Learning Center's preschool students, and a congregational celebration event.

The week before the event, the Creation Care team met with the Sunday School children to make rain sticks, talk about the importance of conserving water, and why we were going to help build a well somewhere in the world. The children also learned how to make the sound of rainstorm using their hands and feet, and led the congregation in the rain sounds during worship. Throughout the week, Creation Care members met each day with First Learning Center Preschool children. The 3-5 year-olds learned about water conservation, enjoyed hands-on water activities, and planted a straw bale garden in First Lutheran’s Certified Outdoor Classroom. Children were invited to take a water jug home and help with the “Change for Change” Project. 

Adults were brought up to speed on the well project through a Sunday morning adult forum. They learned a village well may serve as many as 500 people. The well not only provides clean water, it opens the door allow people to work, farm, and go to school. Clean water is one of the most powerful ways to create change in the world. When a community gains access to clean water, everything changes. Women and children don’t spend hours gathering water. Communities are healthier. Together, they build stronger economies and a future filled with hope. 

On April 24, 2016 little ones with parents, adults of all ages, and youth abandoned their regular Sunday School class time and came to the Activity Center, which was turned into a water lab for the day! The place was buzzing with conversation ranging from worries about the Ogallala Aquifer to water efficient gardening ideas, from the safe disposal of medications and chemicals to plastics contaminating our oceans. Hands-on activities, including carrying jugs of water around a track set up indoors, had everyone learning about the importance of protecting and conserving water. 

The well project was also launched, with a plastic swimming pool serving as our well. The coins tossed in the well and dollar bills in a jug kicked off raising the $2500 needed to build a well through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Good Gifts program. Water jugs were available for families to take home to collect loose change as part of a “Change for Change” campaign. 

Fund were also raised for the well project through FLC's Noisy Offering on the 1st Sunday of the month. The Noisy Offering is a way for kids to give, see, feel and hear their offering at work! (Watch and listen to the noise these kids are happy to make with their offering! The Noisy Offering isn't just for kids - note the number of adults passing coins to the children.)

So what happened? 
  • We learned we are lucky to have easy access to clean water. In other places around the world, people have to spend 6+ hours each day walking to and from their only available water source. 
  • We learned through hands on projects the importance of caring for God’s creation, treating the earth with respect and conserving our natural resources. 
  • We kept people talking about the project and about water through newsletter articles, Facebook posts and displays. 
  • We made our goal! The well is a reality! 
  • And then – donations kept coming in. We are building a second well! 
We celebrate the generosity of the congregation, the opportunity to partner with the ELCA Good Gifts program knowing the dollars raised will indeed be used to build a well, the joy and change the well will bring a village, and the wonder and majesty of God’s creation. 

Sunni Richardson is the Director of Discipleship at First Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Learning, serving and praying are the primary focus of Sunni's call, and she likes helping others discover their potential and use their talents. She is known for stretching people out of their usual comfortable places so they can experience new life. Reach her 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Pumping the Supply}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome AquiferKit is all about how we can pump water from the ground.

We can use groundwater to grow food, water farm animals, drink, and even take baths and wash dishes in.  In order to get to this groundwater, we have to pump it up through wells that are drilled deep into the saturated zone.  This syringe attached to the plastic tube serves as our pump and the nylon fabric at the end is our screen that prevents sediments from getting into the well. 
You will need: Water, a syringe, a plastic tube, some nylon, a rubber band
a clear container to pump water into, and your clear contain filled with gravel

Well siting is the process of finding a location to place the well.  We can’t drill a well into a lake, so we’ll drill our well on the top of our hill and make sure the bottom of the well is far below the water table.

When we pump the water out, the level of the water in our aquifer goes down. We are withdrawing, or taking away groundwater from the whole area.  We can see that, as the water table goes down, our lake shrinks.   Remember, our lake is under the direct influence of groundwater.
The more water we pump out, the shallower Frannie's pond is!

The amount of water pumped out that matches the amount of water that can naturally recharge the aquifer is called safe yield.  If we keep withdrawing water but we don’t allow the aquifer time to recharge, then we are depleting the groundwater source.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BLOG: Get Ready for Earth Day With These River Cleanup Tips

by Katina Hazimhalis, Budget Dumpster

Nearly every community has a nearby waterway, whether a river, lake, bay or creek. Unfortunately, these areas tend to be litter magnets. In fact, nearly 40% of U.S. rivers have been declared too polluted for swimming, fishing or other recreational activities.

Individual people are responsible for creating the trash that clogs our waterways, and it’s often up to individual people to clean that trash up. By hosting a river cleanup project in your area, you can improve the health of your local waterway while also improving community morale – and maybe even inspiring other cleanup projects.

Answer These 4 Questions to Plan a River Cleanup Event

Hosting a successful river cleanup project requires as much planning as elbow grease. Here are the questions you’ll need to answer to get your project off the ground:

1. Where will the cleanup take place?

The first step in planning a river cleanup project is choosing a location. While this may seem straightforward, there are several factors to evaluate before making a final call:
  • What’s the state of your waterway? You’ll want to scout out the trashiest location in order to make the biggest impact.
  • What’s the accessibility? You need a location with multiple access points so that all volunteers are able to participate. Your cleanup location should not be near dangerous rapids or extremely deep water.
  • What’s the water level? In most areas, late spring and fall are the best times for a river cleanup since water levels will be lower, leaving more litter within easy each.

2. How will we find volunteers?

A river cleanup makes a great volunteer activity for scout troops, civic organizations or clubs of any kind. But if you don’t have an established group of volunteers, you’ll have to decide how to get the word out. The first step is to create listings for the event on volunteer meetup sites and/or Facebook. But there are plenty of other methods you can use, like utilizing Facebook ads, alerting local media outlets or approaching local environmental groups.

3. Will we need permits?

If your river cleanup will take place entirely on public property, such as within a park, then no permit is needed. However, if your cleanup will cross over onto private or city-owned property, you’ll need to track down the owners and get their written permission before the cleanup. While this can take time and effort, it’s extremely important to do your due diligence when it comes to gaining permission.

4. What will we do with the trash?

Once the cleanup is complete, you’ll want to make sure that all the trash you collected ends up in the right place. Find out what kind of recycling services are available in your area and, if possible, make a plan to separate recyclables from the rest of the trash. For the remaining debris, you’ll need to find out whether the city will provide trash collection for your river cleanup. If not, you’ll need to either rent a dumpster or find a volunteer with a pickup truck to haul the trash to the landfill.

Here’s to healthier rivers!

Katina Hazimihalis is a content writer for Budget Dumpster. Reach her at This post was adapted from Budget Dumpster’s River Cleanup Guide. Check out the full guide for in-depth, start-to-finish advice on planning a river cleanup event, covering everything from advertising your cleanup to securing the necessary permits.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

BLOG: Have you been to a water festival?

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

This week I was digging through our photo archive (yes, we still have a print photo archive, complete with negatives!) looking at pictures of the Nebraska Children's Groundwater Festival. It's been about 12 years since The Groundwater Foundation organized this festival (the community of Grand Island has done a fantastic job since taking over the festival, and has made it their own) and while we participate as a presenter every year, we miss out on seeing the impact of the festival as a whole. 

Looking through the pictures reminded me of three things - the fun those kids had learning about groundwater, the effort it takes to put on a festival, and the amazing people we met along the way.

Enjoy this look back. And if you've never been part of a water festival, you're missing out! Consider getting one started in a local school or in your community

Wally and Wanda Water Drop were the festival's mascot in its early years.

Former Nebraska Governor Kay Orr and Groundwater Foundation founder Susan Seacrest. The festival often played host to a number of VIP attendees, including governors, senators, EPA and USGS directors, and local celebrities.

The festival included an exhibit hall, which was a student favorite.

Kids got to learn in a fun, hands-on environment.

A student poster contest was also part of the festival.

Willard Scott, weather guy for the Today show in the 80s/90s, paid a visit to the festival.

GW Gecko became the new mascot of the festival in the early 2000s.

Students participate in a festival "game show" with their peers.

Presenters were happy to wear goofy hats to help kids learn about groundwater!

The relationships with people like former Groundwater Foundation board member Marlene Rasmussen made organizing the festival more meaningful.

Kids just wanna have fun!

Former Governor and Senator Mike Johanns was a frequent festival guest.

Nebraska football legend Tom Osborne, and U.S. Senator at the time, Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy show off their festival t-shirts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Groundwater and Surface Water’s Connection}

The Groundwater Foundation has many useful tools to help show how everything we do affects groundwater and how groundwater affects everything we do.  One of Frannie’s favorite tools is the Awesome Aquifer Kit, which lets her get a closer look at what happens to water when it’s deep in the ground.  In this series, Frannie will show us how to use the Awesome Aquifer Kit and what it means in our lives.

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about groundwater and surface water interactions.

First, we have to set up our aquifer by pouring gravel into a clear container and spreading it out evenly.  The gravel represents the land and an unconfined aquifer.  An unconfined aquifer is groundwater that is below porous material like soil, sand, and gravel.

The gravel is flat and we have already added some water to our container.
We'll be using the syringe next time!
Let’s start by slowly pouring water near a wall of the container.  Watch as it infiltrates, or flows from the surface into the ground, and fills th

e spaces between the rocks of the whole container.  Stop pouring when about half of the gravel is saturated.  We can imagine that the pouring water is rain and we are recharging, or refilling, our aquifer.

Do you see that line in the gravel where the water stops? That’s the water table.  The water table is the top of the groundwater and it separates the saturated zone, which is completely full of water, from the unsaturated zone, which as little or no water.

Next, let’s scoop some of the gravel to the side of the container to create a lake.  Surface water is the water that’s above the surface of the land, including lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and runoff.

The top of the blue line is out water table.
When we add water to the top of our hill, the
water table goes up and fills our lake even more.
We can slowly add some more water, first at the wall close to our hill and second at the wall close to the lake.  Watch the water percolate through the gravel and become groundwater.  The level of the water in the ground rises, but so does the level of water in the lake.  That’s because the groundwater discharges, or flows out, into the lake.

When we add water to the lake, the water table also rises.  When groundwater is located close enough to surface water to be recharged by it, then we can say that the groundwater is under the direct influence of surface water.