Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {FIRST Lego League}

Frannie has received a lot of calls lately from all over country from boys and girls participating in this year’s FIRST Lego League Challenge.  Why?  We’ll get to that, but first: What is FIRST Lego League, or FLL?  

Photo Credit: Denise Krebs
From their website, FLL “is a program that supports children and youngsters in order to introduce them to science and technology in a sporty atmosphere.”  The competition is divided into two parts that tackle different disciplines of a unique theme: the robot game and the research project.  In the robot game, teams practice the scientific method and hone their engineering skills to solve a mission with the help of an autonomous robot. The research projects, on the other hand, is the students’ prerogative to address an issue within their community and develop a product or solution with the help of agencies and experts in the field.

So why are they calling Frannie? Because this year’s FLL theme is Hydro Dynamics!  Teams will learn all about how to “find, transport, use, or dispose” of water as well as what we can do to help ourselves and the earth once we know what is happening to it.

Hydrogeology Challenge
The Groundwater Foundation has a lot of basic information about what groundwater is, why it is important, and what threatens it that can be read online.  The 30by30 (Google Play Store and iTunes) and Water1der (iTunes) apps are useful tools to track your water usage and practice your water trivia, respectively. Ambitious teams who can comfortably perform algebra can use the Hydrogeology Challenge to understand flow mechanics under normal (static) and pumping conditions. 

While The Groundwater Foundation can’t work with every single team, Frannie hopes that this information will help most students begin to understand the basic concepts of groundwater and hydrodynamics. For information specific to your region, call your local Health and Human Services or Water Utilities departments.  If you are part of an FLL team and you come up with an idea to improve one of our existing activities, please let us know by emailing
Good luck in this competition season!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BLOG: We're Thankful

 by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Ah, Thanksgiving. Perhaps my favorite holiday, because it centers around family, food, and togetherness, and involves much less stress than already-in-stores Christmas. While I try to be grateful every day for my life's blessings, I like that Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect on the good that is in the world. 

As is many family's customs, I like to ask my family what they're thankful for. My darling six year old rattled off a long list: Mom and Dad, her sister, our house, her best friend, her teacher, and her toys. My three year old's answer was much more concise: Everything!

As a nonprofit, The Groundwater Foundation is in a constant state of thankfulness - we're fortunate to have amazing partners, supporters, members, and constituents that share our passion and drive to protect and conserve groundwater. If you've been following us on Twitter and Facebook this month, every Thursday we've shared a few things we're thankful for. And with that in mind, I challenged my fellow Groundwater Foundation staff members to reflect on what they're thankful for:

Jane Griffin, President
The list of things to be thankful for goes on and on - and the common denominator in that list is the people. Caring, passionate, driven and determined people working to protect and conserve groundwater!  This year we were able to gather many of those people together in Boise to share and further inspire the work to continue.  I was truly inspired by and thankful for the people that make all of this happen. For those of you who were not able to join us know that we appreciate and are thankful for all you are doing in your community!

Sara Brock, Program Manager
I am thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of The Groundwater Foundation for the past year as a program manager. I have met many excellent people in the state government, in local utility departments, in schools, and even in summer camp who are pursuing a better understanding of groundwater and the issues facing it. Traveling across Nebraska, I've spoken to water operators, who are using innovative methods to treat groundwater, and STEM educators, who are integrating groundwater science with engineering, business, and other disciplines. In my experience with the Groundwater Guardian program, I've also been fortunate to talk to operators, educators, and decision makers across the US and learn about groundwater issues facing different regions as well as community response. I look forward to continuing working with The Groundwater Foundation to grow my understanding of what a community needs to keep its groundwater and residents healthy and safe.

As for me, I echo my colleagues' words. The absolute best part of my job is the people I've had the privilege of working with for nearly 18 years. I'm thankful that a shared passion for  groundwater brought me to them, many of whom I consider friends. I'm thankful that so many people are working to protect this resource, and that we can all be part of the solution for clean, sustainable groundwater.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at The Groundwater Foundation!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Fish-water for Fertilizer}

Whenever Frannie travels, like a few weeks ago for the 2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference, she makes sure follows her packing list very carefully.

Toothbrush: check.
Camera: check.
Fish tank and cleaner: check.

Frannie loves having clean water and a clean fish tank in her home, but she used to feel bad about wasting so much water. She then learned that she could use her dirty water to fertilize plants and gardens. Here’s how.

The water in the aquarium are rich in elements like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus and a compounds like ammonia from the fish food and excretions. If you look at the ingredients in plant fertilizers, you’ll see that they have those exact same elements.  If you regularly clean your fish tank, then that water dilutes those chemicals to appropriate dosages for your garden or house plants to handle.  In some cases, gardens that have been fertilized with aquarium water grown twice as large as those without!

Be careful, though, because you can’t always just pour dirty fish water on your plants.  For example, if you aren’t like Frannie and haven’t cleaned your tank in a very long time, you will need to add fresh water to the dirty water in order to dilute the chemicals a little more.  If you have treated your tank to adjust for pH or kill algae, you should not water any plants that you intend to eat.  Also, using water from a salt-water aquarium is more likely to hurt or kill your plants than it is to help them grow, especially if they are potted plants.

What other cool ways can you save water at home?  Share them with us at or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Friday, November 10, 2017

BLOG: 5 Ways to Save Water in Your Home

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The average American uses about 100 gallons of water a day. For comparison's sake, the average person in the Netherlands uses only 27 gallons per day, and the average person in the African nation of Gambia uses only 1.17 gallons per day.

So how can we use less?

1. Take Shorter Showers
A quick shower uses 20-30 fewer gallons of water than a bath. Challenge yourself to take just showers of just 5 minutes or less, then challenge your family members to do the same. Use a shower timer to help keep the time down. 

2. Check the Plumbing
Proper maintenance is one of the most effective water savers. Faucet washers are inexpensive and take only a few minutes to replace. At home, check all water taps, hoses, and hose connections (even those that connect to dishwashers and washing machines) for leaks.

3. Don’t Let It Run
It’s simple really, before you turn on the tap, think of ways you can use less water to accomplish the same purpose. Always shut off the water when you brush your teeth, fill the sink when shaving instead of letting the water run, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running it til it gets cold.

4. Drip No More!
There is no such thing as a little drip. A leaky faucet can waste 10 gallons of water every day. On a toilet, an average leak can add up to 60 gallons per day! Replace worn sink washers or valve seals to get rid of the drip, and check for leaks in a toilet's tank or replace old toilets with low-flush units.

5. Fill It Up
Only run full loads in the dish and clothes washers. Get the most clean for the least amount of water!

For more ways to conserve water, download the free 30by30 water tracking app. Challenge yourself to reduce your water use, and tell us how you did.

Friday, November 3, 2017

BLOG: National Conference Highlights

Boise was amazing! We enjoyed the beautiful weather, vibrant downtown, informative and inspiring presentations, a ton of networking, and a chance to spend time with our groundwater family. Here are some of the highlights:
The Idaho state capitol, just a few blocks from the conference hotel.

River artwork on the outside of The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise.

Tuesday morning was bright and beautiful.

A group enjoyed an informative tour about the redevelopment and groundwater contamination concerns at one of Boise's Greenbelt parks.

The conference kicked off with a reception at the Boise WaterShed Environmental Education Center.

Members of The Groundwater Foundation's Board of Directors enjoyed the interactive artwork at the WaterShed Center.

The WaterShed Center features great interactive, hands-on exhibits about Boise's water.

Pat Mulroy's plenary address about groundwater in a climate-changed world started Wednesday's sessions.

Wednesday's program included numerous informative breakouts on technology, research, education, conservation, and groundwater management.

Groundwater Guardians traveled the room at lunch and shared their community's groundwater story.

Connections were made during multiple networking breaks.

Bill and Rosemarie Alley shared lessons learned about groundwater management from their book, High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World's Growing Dependence on Groundwater.

We had the opportunity to sample water from Orange County Water District's Groundwater Replenishment System. And guess what - it tasted like water!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference}

She's back!  Frannie the Fish spent most of last week in the lovely mountain city of Boise, Idaho for the 2017 Groundwater Foundation National Conference.  In the picture above, you can see her working hard to let people know about the Girl Scout Keep it Clean! and Ask Me About Groundwater patches for girls of all ages.

Frannie got to hear from amazing speakers like Pat Mulroy, from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Bill and Rosemarie Alley, authors of High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World's Growing Dependence on Groundwater, as they discussed some of the most important issues surrounding groundwater at home and abroad.  Frannie also got to tour Boise's wastewater treatment plant and learn about Boise's struggle against the groundwater contamination they found when they were constructing a new park in the beautiful Boise River Greenbelt.

Frannie's favorite part of the conference was the Recognition Round Table Luncheon, where she got to hear from four leaders of Groundwater Guardian communities about outreach opportunities and solutions they've developed to solve groundwater issues in their area.  Each Groundwater Guardian speaker sat at the table for just a few minutes before moving on, but Frannie liked the personable experience and the chance to ask very specific questions about topics like sponsored field trips to the treatment plants in under-served communities and cost-sharing programs for well closure.

If you couldn't join Frannie at this conference, don't worry!  We are currently working to upload a conference summary and dozens of pictures on our website and we'll update the blog as soon as it's live.

Can't wait til then to learn more about groundwater?  Check out our Hydrogeology Challenge to see how water flows underground.