Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BLOG: It's The Right Thing To Do

by Tammy Rogers, Sustainability Task Force Chair, Assurity

The Assurity Center in Lincoln, Nebraska displays its
Groundwater Guardian Green Site sign.
“It’s the right thing to do.” This is the long-time mantra of our president, Tom Henning, when it comes to business and sustainability. Following that mantra has led to a "green culture" at Assurity, not only in practicing green habits throughout our building, but also in the way we do business.

Assurity has been practicing sustainability in some form or another for almost 30 years. The building of our LEED Gold certified Assurity Center corporate office has given us many more opportunities to expand upon that culture. Additionally, becoming a certified B corporation in 2015 was another way to show our commitment to "doing good." 

We are firm in our belief that it is our responsibility to protect the environment and leave a small footprint.  One of the areas in which we have done that is groundwater conservation and protection.

Our efforts towards that end have earned us a Groundwater Guardian Green Site designation that we are proud to hold. There are many features of our corporate campus that qualified us for that honor:

Stormwater collection
During the building of the Assurity Center, an abandoned public storm water pipe was discovered running along the east and northern edges of the property.  This pipe was capped and is now an 180,000 gallon cistern that we use to reclaim and reuse storm water to irrigate our indigenous sustainable landscaping.

Our campus includes a rain garden, bioswales and pervious paving which reduce runoff and allow absorption of rainwater into the subsoil. 

The reuse of large quantities of storm water runoff reduces heat island effects as well as impacts to downstream receiving waters.
Stormwater management for the Assurity Center.

Landscape water use reduction
In addition to the reclaimed cistern, water for the campus landscape is pulled from wells in the area instead of using public water for irrigation.  Additionally, plants were selected that are native or specifically adaptive to Lincoln’s climatic conditions, reducing reliance on additional water use while creating habitat within the city.

Green (living) roofs
We have 3 green roofs totaling 8,000 square feet.  These roofs benefit stormwater quality and reduce the quantity of runoff.

Low-flow, water-conserving plumbing
We receive up to a 33% water use savings over the typical office building by using dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets and showers.

Energy recovery ventilators
In addition to reducing energy costs, these units also employ dehumidification as a part of the process, conserving water as well.

Building a sustainable culture began with Assurity’s top company leaders and has continued to grow with educational lunch ‘n learns, displays and an internal ‘Greenspace’ website that communicates related community events, activities and volunteer opportunities.  Our education efforts are led by our Sustainability Task Force.

The desire to do good for the environment will continue to be at the forefront of Assurity's business. It’s the right thing to do.


Tammy Rogers is the Chair of the Sustainability Task Force and a Senior Business Analyst at Assurity Life Insurance Company in Lincoln, Nebraska. Reach her at trogers@assurity.com.

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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

BLOG: Business Responsibility to Groundwater

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Here at The Groundwater Foundation, we've been fortunate to work with a wide variety of businesses and corporations over the years. From big to small, these companies are working to protect and preserve groundwater in their own way - from construction and community development, to managing their sites in a groundwater-friendly way, to providing support for The Groundwater Foundation's mission.

One of the Foundation's central beliefs is that everyone benefits from clean, sustainable groundwater. Because of this, we believe everyone has a place at the table in protecting it - every person, every business, every industry; good actor, bad actor. It's up to all of us!

The next few blog posts will highlight businesses that take their responsibility to groundwater seriously, and it's evident in how they conduct their business every day.

What businesses do you know of that are good stewards of groundwater? They could be a good fit for our Groundwater Guardian Green Site programWhat are they doing to protect and conserve groundwater?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Clean it up!}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome AquiferKit is all about ways we can clean up the groundwater after it’s been contaminated.

For this activity, you will need pre-rinsed activated
charcoal, a small plastic cup, plastic wrap, a coffee filter,
a rubber band,and your cup of polluted water.
Just like we talked about last time, when we aren’t careful about which chemicals we use, how much of them we use, or how we dispose of them when we’re done, we can end up polluting a large area.  Often, it’s possible to clean up or treat the water so that it becomes safe again. We call this process remediation.  Let’s look at some ways we can remediate contaminated groundwater.

Remember that colored contaminated groundwater we set aside last time?  We’ll be using that now.  To start, we’ll fill a small plastic cup halfway full with charcoal.  Before we used this charcoal, we rinsed it with cool water and then let it completely dry to remove excess dust.

Fill the syringe with some of our colored water and dispense it into the charcoal cup, filling it about 3/4 full.  We’ll make a lid for our cup by cutting a small piece of plastic cling wrap so that it fits over the top of the cup and we’ll wrap it with a rubber band so it stays in place.  Shake the cup for 30-60 seconds and then remove the plastic wrap.

First shake...
...then strain.

Now we’ll make a second lid from a coffee filter and secure it with the rubber band again.  We flip the cup upside down and let the water, now mostly clean, pour out into a new cup.  You might need to repeat this step a couple times to clear all of the water of charcoal dust.  When we take water out of the water cycle to treat it, it’s called ex-situ remediation.  If we were to put something into the ground to clean and treat the water, that would be called in-situ remediation.

Monday, March 13, 2017

BLOG: #MyWaterStory

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Two weeks ago, we were fortunate to connect with the people behind #MyWaterStory. 

We know that every person has a story, and water has a story. So we were thrilled to get involved with the #MyWaterStory movement. 

As they explained it, water stories are personal. Water stories are shared experiences across languages, religions, and geographical locations.
They want to find out: What does water mean to individuals around the world? What role does water play in daily life?
This collection of global water stories will show the world how water affects life, communities, and cultures.
#MyWaterStory is engaging global audiences in a social media conversation leading up to Watershed —  the World Water Day activities co-hosted by the Vatican and the Club of Rome on March 22, 2017 — and to inform other water-related events throughout the year.
#MyWaterStory program is designed to help capture and reset the basic understanding around the value and values of water. Where are the values and value strongest, where is the underlying story lacking? And why? It does this by creating new networks, generating inspiring, lasting stories, educating and engaging a younger international audience, and making relevant the urgency for action by policy makers, innovators, and the public.
Through #MyWaterStory, individuals — especially students — around the world share their stories, artistic work, video, or other multimedia content related to the value of water in their lives.
You can upload your own water story on worldwatervalues.org/mywaterstory or share via social media using the hashtag #MyWaterStory
Check out the website for more information, including:
  • Opportunities for people from around to participate in the conversation.
  • Six water themes, which each include prompts to respond to through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #MyWaterStory.
#MyWaterStory is led by: Circle of Blue, Ball State University, Project WET Foundation, Columbia University, Texas A&M, GWU, UNESCO, UN Water, WWAP, Wilson Center, and other international education networks.
Share your story! Be sure to tag The Groundwater Foundation. Twitter: @groundwaterfdn. Instagram: @groundwaterfdn.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is all about how contamination can affect groundwater and surface water systems.

For this activity, you will need the clear container filled with gravel,
"clean" blue water, "contaminated" red water, 2 pumps, and an empty
cup to collect the "polluted" water.
There are many chemicals that we use every day that are helpful to our lives but, if we drank them, could really hurt us.  Farmers use pesticides and fertilizers to help their crops grow healthy and strong.  Cities and people at home use de-icers or sand to keep the roads safe to drive on in the winter.  When we are careful, the environment is safe.  If we make a mistake with those chemicals, we might pollute the area and affect the whole region around us.  Let’s see how that happens.

In our clear container with evenly spread gravel, we can add water until about half of the gravel is saturated.  Let’s make a lake in the middle of the container by scooping the gravel to the sides and on top of each hill, we’ll put one well.  One well will be a monitoring well, meaning we’ll only withdraw water samples from it.  The other well represents a functional well that provides water for drinking.

We’ll fill a small measuring cup with water and add 2-4 drops of food dye.  By doing this, we can clearly see which water is contaminated and which water is clean.  In a corner of our container, not too close to a well, we’ll slowly pour in our contaminant.  Watch as it infiltrates the system.

Top: Contaminated water infiltrates into the groundwater.
Bottom: Groundwater flow spreads the pollution through the
groundwater and even can affect surface water.

Now let’s start pumping the well that’s on the hill opposite of the contaminant.  That’s our drinking water well.  Can you see what’s happening to the contaminant?  When a contaminant spreads out away from its source, we call it a plume. The plume has started to move towards the drinking water well.  Collect this water in a separate container and save it.

Finally, let’s collect and save a water sample from our monitoring well (the one closest to the contaminant).  The color in this water is very different from what it was when we started.  We can easily see this water is contaminated.
Frannie compares the color of the water at the beginning
 to the color of the contaminated water.

Monday, March 6, 2017

BLOG: Groundwater: Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

by Kevin McCray, CAE, Executive Director, National Groundwater Association

Some 44 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater, the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rock and sand, for its drinking water supply — be it from either a public source or private well. In rural areas, the number is about 96 percent. That fact alone justifies the need for National Groundwater Awareness Week, to be observed this week, March 5-11, 2017. 

But groundwater is important to us in many other ways, as well. Consider:   
  • Groundwater provides much of the flow of many streams; often lakes and streams are "windows" to the water table. Groundwater adds 492 billion gallons per day to U.S. surface water bodies. In large part, the flow in a stream represents water that has flowed from the ground into the stream channel.
  • Scientists estimate U.S. groundwater reserves to be at least 33,000 trillion gallons — equal to the amount discharged into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River in the past 200 years.
  • The United States uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for public supply, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and other purposes.
  • Groundwater is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing soils and rocks beneath the surface of the Earth. There are nearly 15.9 million of these wells serving households, cities, business, and agriculture every day. Wells are constructed by the 8,100 contracting firms employing nearly 45,000 people dedicated to providing and protecting our nation's groundwater supplies.
  • Irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States, about 67.2 percent of all the groundwater pumped each day. Some 53.5 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from more than 407,913 wells. Irrigation is a major reason for the abundance of fresh produce and grains that we all enjoy.
  • One ton of groundwater used by industry generates an estimated $14,000 worth of output.
These facts help us connect with the important role we each play as stewards, or protectors, of groundwater. Man can adversely affect the resource. Fortunately, there are simple steps that will help protect groundwater and the wells systems that distribute it.
  • Always use licensed or certified water well drillers and pump installers when a well is constructed or serviced, or when the pump is installed or serviced.
  • Keep hazardous materials away from any well. Never dump such materials, motor oil, or anything else that could impact water quality onto the land surface, into a hole or pit, or into a surface water supply.
These tips and more are available from sources such as a state groundwater or water well association, NGWA, or from your county agricultural extension agent or state government agency with responsibility for groundwater. A convenient source for a broader understanding of our groundwater protector role can be found at www.wellowner.org, a Web service of NGWA.

National Groundwater Awareness Week is not a celebration such as the Fourth of July has become. Instead, we should use the week to reflect more deeply on groundwater's value and its contributions to our lives.

Friday, March 3, 2017

BLOG: Groundwater Guardians Raising Awareness on Social Media

by Sara Brock, The Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Guardian (GG) Program has been around 23 years, making a difference in communities across North America as they conserve groundwater and protect it from pollutants. 

The world has changed a lot since the program's inception in 1994, but what hasn't changed is the creativity of GG teams to find new ways to reach out to their communities.

Now it’s 2017 and we’re pretty firmly planted in the age of the internet. As we're on the cusp of National Groundwater Awareness Week 2017 (March 5-11), check out these 5 GG teams who are going with the flow and using social media to raise awareness and spread their message.

Carmel City Utilities uploads funny informational videos to YouTube starring city employees, drama club students, and villainous sewer clogs. These videos are also occasionally aired on local channels. Check one of their videos out below or visit their YouTube Channel for more.

The GG team of Battle Creek has jumped on the trend of using social media to promote sales. This year? Rain barrels. You don’t need to be a city resident to buy one, but you do need drop by their Public Works Building to pick it up. Check out their Facebook page or get right to the sale by clicking here

The Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium hopped on the Fun Run bandwagon to great success, using Facebook’s events feature to promote its Annual Race for Global Water 5K. The next one isn’t until August, but you can still check out the great photos from the race or read up on past and future events, by clicking here

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This GG team has innovatively used social media as a professional networking tool, sharing resources in their area and reposting pages with useful tips for water conservation. Head over to their Facebook page to see resources from the Water Quality Association, the Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals, and even yours truly, The Groundwater Foundation. 

The Mission Springs Water District is a Groundwater Guardian Affiliate, meaning they provide services and support to local GG teams. Mission Springs helps their customers and community stay engaged by sending out newsletters including press releases and information on upcoming meetings and events. Sign up here to receive regular emails or, if you prefer, direct mailings about this amazing community.  

Share what you're doing to celebrate National Groundwater Awareness Week with us on The Groundwater Foundation's Twitter and Facebook page.