Thursday, October 19, 2017

BLOG: At Home - Clean Your Drains Naturally to Protect Water

by Sally Phillips, freelance writer

Clean and sustainable groundwater is the water we drink and the water we use to grow our food. Groundwater is essential for both our health and the health of our environment and is the largest source of usable, fresh water in the world. In fact, about 27 trillion gallons of groundwater are withdrawn for use in the U.S. yearly. 

What we do at home has an impact on groundwater and the environment. Did you know that drain cleaners are actually among the most toxic home cleaning products? While you think you are unclogging your drains, you are actually harming your pipes, your health and the environment.

The Dangers For Your Health 
Drain cleaners often contain bleach, sodium silicate, lye or caustic soda. Bleach and ammonia can harm your lungs, eyes and respiratory system in general, as a combination of the two can produce toxic gases. This can happen even if you unknowingly dump an ammonia based cleaning solution after cleaning your floors down the sink, which might still contain drain cleaner.

Furthermore, lye requires the production of heavy metals and can cause irritation when breathed in or when it comes into contact with the skin.

Repeated contact with these hazardous chemicals can have serious repercussions on your health and lead to serious conditions and even poisoning. If swallowed, drain cleaners can even cause death.

The Dangers For The Environment
Bleach can combine with surface water to create a number of toxins which can represent a hazard to the environment. Lye is also dangerous for the environment, as it can modify the pH of water and in turn can affect the animals and plants living in lakes, streams and rivers.

Even the packaging is dangerous and should be treated as hazardous waste and cannot be recycled, as it still contains toxic chemicals and the residue from drain cleaners can be dangerous and have detrimental effects on the environment. 

The Natural Alternatives 
Clogs often are the direct result of dumping fat, oil or grease down the sink; these substances may come from dirty dishes or certain soaps. Even natural soaps may contain drain-clogging vegetable fats. Keeping your sinks, toilets and bathtubs clean with drain traps or by discarding what you can instead of pouring it down the drain can help your pipes last longer and benefit the environment. 

If your drains do get clogged, you can use hot water as an immediate solution. In fact, hot water melts soap scum and grease and enough hot water will flush the melted grease out of your pipes. It can even help with particles such as eggshells or hair, as it will melt the grease surrounding those particles. Be sure to check the temperature of the water however, as boiling water can actually melt your pipes.

A plunger can also be an effective solution, as sometimes the change in pressure is sufficient to move the clog to an area of the pipe where it is easier to rinse it away. A strong seal around the edge of the plunger is necessary for best results. 

Other effective solutions include a combination of baking soda and vinegar, which produces carbon dioxide and dissolve residues, and natural enzyme drain cleaners, which employ enzymes to eat the organic material stuck in your drains. 

Prevention is the Key
The best way to keep your pipes clean and help the environment is to try to avoid clogs in the first place. This is easy if you follow a few simple rules: 

  • Place a hair trap in showers
  • Let grease solidify and throw it in the trash; do not pour it down the drain 
  • Do not put fruit and vegetable peels or cheese in the garbage disposal

Unclogging your drains using harsh chemicals can be dangerous to you and the environment, but by keeping your drains clean and using natural solutions, you can avoid the negative effects of chemical drain cleaners.


Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. Reach her at

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {DIY Halloween Bats}

Halloween is almost here!  Are you ready?  If not, it's easy! You can make your own bat decorations for any room in your house and even outside (as long as they don't get wet!) in just a few steps.

You'll need an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll, black paint, white paint or googly eyes or some other eye-sticker, brushes, black paper, scissors, and glue.  The string and the hole punch are optional if you are considering hanging your decorations from door handles or tree limbs.

Before beginning, if you're using a paper towel roll, you will need to cut it into three smaller pieces about the size of a toilet paper roll.

1. If you want to hang up your bats at the end, then you need to start by punching 2 holes on either side of the roll and thread your string through.  Then, fold the ends of the empty toilet paper roll in together.

2. Paint the roll black and, while it dries, cut out bat wings from the paper.  Make sure to leave a spot in the middle so you can glue the wings to the back of the roll. You're almost done!

3. Once the glue is dry, bend the wings back just enough so that they stick out from bat. At this point, you can either stick on your googly eyes or eye stickers or just dab on some white paint for the eyes.

 4. Hang your bat where everyone can see! Have a very Happy Halloween everyone!

P.S. You may have noticed that Frannie isn't here to do this craft with you today, but don't worry.  She's on her way to the Groundwater Foundation's 2017 National Conference in Boise, Idaho!  She is so excited to meet with groundwater professionals from all over the United States and share with you some stories about her adventures in a couple of weeks. See you then!

Monday, October 9, 2017

BLOG: Beautiful Boise

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

It's pronounced "Boy-see" NOT "Boy-zee." It was one of the original pilot communities involved in the Groundwater Guardian program, and has been designated every year since 1994. It's also the host of the 2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference.

It has a population of over 250,000 and its nickname is the City of Trees. In fact, According to oral history, French-Canadian fur trappers named Boise in the early 19th century. The trappers, after crossing the hot, dry desert, crested a hill and, gazing down up on the woods surrounding the Boise River, exclaimed “Les bois! Les bois!” (“Woods! Woods!”). Fort Boise was established in July of 1863 to keep peace in the mining camps and to protect the Oregon Trail pioneers from Indian raids. The City of Boise was established quickly and served as a service center for gold and silver miners in the nearby mountains and foothills. The wooded Boise River is now the scenic backdrop for a beautiful and popular greenbelt path and so many species of trees have been planted that today Boise is known as the “City of Trees.” 

Boise is home to a number of interesting and unique attractions, including:

Basque Museum and Cultural Center (208-343-2671, 611 W. Grove St.)
Boise is home to the largest concentration of Basques per capita in the U.S., and Boise also has North America’s only Basque museum, the internationally renowned Oinkarl Basque Dancers and authentic Basque eateries.

Esther Simplot Park (614 N Whitewater Park Blvd.)
An expansive 55-acre site encompasses approximately 23 acres of ponds suitable for fishing, wading and swimming. The park features include trails, docks, wetlands, boardwalks, shelters, grassy open areas, a playground, bridges and restrooms. A meandering stream will connect the park’s two ponds with Quinn’s Pond. It is the most recent addition to the “Ribbon of Jewels”—a string of riverside parks named for prominent local women. 

Boise River Greenbelt (208-384-4240, multiple starting points, including Kathryn Albertson Park) 
The 25- mile riverfront Greenbelt, ideal for walking, jogging, bicycling, skating and general relaxing, meanders through Boise. The paved pathway connects several parks throughout the city. 

World Center for Birds of Prey (208-362-8687, 5668 W. Flying Hawk Ln.) 
Visitors can see rare falcons and eagles up close and the inner workings of an endangered species program. This unique center on the outskirts of Boise is the most sophisticated facility in the world for breeding and releasing birds of prey

Snake River Valley Wine Region 
There are nearly 30 Idaho wineries within a 45 minute drive of downtown Boise. Ten wineries and vineyards are located in the Southwest Idaho Urban Wine District. The region boasts award-winning wines and innovative wineries. Lush orchards, scenic valleys and rugged mountains provide the perfect backdrop for wine tasting.

Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial (208-345-0304, 777 S. 8th St.) 
This memorial is an example of what can happen when a community and an entire state come together for a cause. The first in the U.S. to honor Anne Frank, it offers lessons on courage, strength, dignity of human spirit and the value of human rights for all men and women, and it will have a lasting impression on those who visit. 

Table Rock (Southeast of downtown Boise) 
This prominent local landmark is a popular spot for hikers and outdoor adventurers. Table Rock offers challenging hiking and mountain biking trails, and is easily accessible from the Old Idaho Penitentiary parking lot. Offering stunning views of the Boise skyline, foothills and the Treasure Valley, Table Rock is a favorite among trail enthusiasts. 

Idaho Botanical Garden (208-343-8649, 2355 Old Penitentiary Rd.) 
Located in Boise’s Old Penitentiary historical district, the Idaho Botanical Gardens enhances the community’s quality of life by promoting a love of nature, and offering an enriching garden experience through educational programs, botanical collections, a variety of entertainment, cultural and community events. 

Idaho State Capitol Building (208-334-2475, 700 W Jefferson St.) 
Idaho’s Capitol Building is the only one in the United States heated by geothermal water. The hot water is tapped and pumped from a source 3,000 feet underground. Geothermal energy has a long history in Boise starting back in the late 1800s.

Join us and be in Boise for the 2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference! Come early and stay late to enjoy all that Boise has to offer. We hope to see you soon!

Find out more about Boise at

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {How to Read a Water Bill}

Water bills can be a little confusing when you are first learning to read them and, while it is easy to identify how much you have to pay for the current billing period, other information may vary in name and format from place to place.  So whether you have moved to into a new home or you are looking at your very first water bill, here’s some useful tips on reading it so that you can save money, and water, in the future.

1. Meter Class.  The class off the water meter indicates at what flow rate the water meter meets the common accuracy features.  Classes of water meter range from low (small, Class A meters, used in most residences) to high (Class D) degrees of accuracy at detecting very low flow rates.

2. Average Daily Consumption (ADC).  The ADC is an average of your water consumption over the course of the billing period.  On average, the ADC per person is 55 gallons.  If you track your usage with ADC, you can detect leaks earlier or proactively work to reduce your water use.

3. Consumption History.  Your utility bill may be nice enough to include a handy graph or chart with your water bill, essentially tracking your usage for you.  Again, this may help you detect leaks or identify times of the year where you need to make more of an effort to reduce water consumption.

4. Meter Readings in CCF.  Your water provider wants to accurately bill you for the water you use and will usually check your meter once every one to two months.  In some places, conditions may prevent Utility personnel from reading your meter and instead, they use your consumption history to estimate your total water usage.  If your meter reading is an estimate, you can request someone to come out and obtain an actual meter reading. Meter readings are taken by subtracting the volume at the end of a billing period from the volume at the beginning of that same billing period.  Water usage is measured in CCF, or 100 cubic feet. In this sample water bill, the meter registered 8 CCF, or 800 cubic feet, of wastewater and 0 CCF of yard water during the course of the billing period.

5. Sewer Fee, Stormwater Fee, Environmental Initiative Fees. These will be listed towards the bottom of your bill, including your city’s landfill or refuse service fee. These are fees that allow the city to maintain existing water and sewer systems and potentially build new ones.  There may be additional fees such as “flush” taxes that allow cities and states to develop wastewater treatment facilities or CAP (customer assistance programs) that collect funding to assist with the cost of well-closures or water expenses for low-income households.

Check out your water bill today and try to identify these 5 pieces of information.  Now you know how you can use your water bill and start saving money and water.

BLOG: Groundwater in a Climate-Changed World

by Pat Mulroy, Non-resident Senior Fellow for Climate Adaptation and Environmental Policy for The Brookings Institution and Practitioner in Residence for the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law

When I began my career in water in the mid-1980’s, the very first issue we had to contend with was a groundwater table that had been so over-drafted in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that subsidence was causing houses to slip off their foundation. Previous generations had fooled themselves into believing the issuance of temporary water rights to avoid connecting to the Colorado River would not have an affect, but it did. After many years and millions of dollars in recharge efforts we were able to stabilize the groundwater table.  

Yes, experience has taught us the risks of unchecked pumping. However, even today there are areas where there is still an inordinate reliance on natural groundwater and the fears of the wells running dry mount every year. There are also areas that engage in “panic pumping” when drought has ravaged surface supplies or the courts have curtailed surface water diversions (or in the case of California, both).

As the effects of a warming planet really begin to take hold we are seeing surface water supplies evaporate at elevated rates and flood events that are scouring the countryside.  “Normal” weather patterns are very much in our rear view mirror. If there has ever been a time for conjunctive management of water resources it is now. There exist already great examples of created groundwater banks that are carefully recharged and managed to buffer the inevitable shortage. Those can be jurisdictionally proprietary or they can exist across state lines.

We have always held onto the notion that once we invest in water infrastructure we have to utilize it each and every year, whether it is a surface water diversion or groundwater resources. We have built a system of water right accounting, in states that have a groundwater appropriation system, which requires us to use the supplies to which we have rights each and every year. The rationale in arid states is obvious. In Nevada all groundwater belongs to the state and a water right is merely a permit to use those supplies. Since the resource is so scarce the notion of hoarding it when you have no beneficial use for it or you no longer are putting it to beneficial use was established long ago. Today, however, in the face of increased uses and decreased water availability this type of “use it or lose it” principle can work against us. When it is in the best interest of the basin that we conserve the supply and allow basins to rest, the law precludes us from doing it. States have begun to grapple with amending these restraints, at least affording the regulators more flexibility.

In a changing protecting our groundwater resources has never been more important. This will require careful examination of not only our usage, but also of the laws that have for so long created the framework within which govern all groundwater extractions. Effectively managing these groundwater resources may one day be the only thing that will allow a community and the surrounding environment to survive.


2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference | October 24-26, 2017 | Boise, ID
Don't miss out - hear Pat Mulroy's keynote presentation, "Groundwater in a Climate-Changed World: Risks and Opportunities" along with other expert speakers. Register today! 

Pat Mulroy serves as a Non-resident Senior Fellow for Climate Adaptation and Environmental Policy for The Brookings Institution and also as a Practitioner in Residence for the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.  Mulroy also serves on the Wynn Resorts Ltd Board of Directors. Between 1989 and early 2014, Pat Mulroy served as General Manager of both the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). Mulroy was a principal architect of the SNWA, helping to guide Southern Nevada through one of the worst droughts in the history of the Colorado River.  At UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and DRI, Mulroy’s focus is on helping communities in water-stressed areas throughout both the American Southwest and the world develop strategies to address increased water resource volatility and identify solutions that balance the needs of all stakeholders.