Wednesday, May 30, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Irrigation: Agricultural Systems}

This is the second part in Frannie's exploration of irrigation. Check out the first part here!

Over 40% of the world's food supply is farmed on irrigated cropland. Crops and livestock are how farmers make their living.  While it's important to produce as much as they can to make money, it also costs a lot of money to keep the plants and animals healthy and farmers are always looking for new ways to reduce operating costs.

Management practices can include reducing their irrigation cycle by starting later or ending sooner that is usual as well as restricting irrigation to the cooler hours of the day, either in the morning or at dusk.  But different types of irrigation systems can also offer many kinds of benefits to the farmers and crops. Let's investigate some of the most common systems.

Surface irrigation
Water is distributed over and across land by gravity. It's one of the oldest and most common types of irrigation, very easy and cheap due to the lack of mechanical pump. However, because water is simply flooding over the surface, a large percentage of the water is wasted through runoff and evaporation.

Drip irrigation
A type of localized irrigation in which drops of water are delivered at or near the root of plants. In this type of irrigation, evaporation and runoff are minimized.  It is more expensive to install than most other types of irrigation, however, and if the water is not kept clean, the tubes themselves may clog and be more difficult fix or replace.

Center pivot irrigation
Water is distributed by a system of sprinklers that move on wheeled towers in a circular pattern. This system is common in flat areas of the United States. Current technology allows farmers to control their pivot's operation with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Soil moisture sensors, GPS, and GIS can help determine how and when to irrigate efficiently and effectively.

Lateral move irrigation
Water is distributed through a series of pipes, each with a wheel and a set of sprinklers, which are rotated either by hand or with a purpose-built mechanism. The sprinklers move a certain distance across the field and then need to have the water hose reconnected for the next distance. This system tends to be less expensive but requires more labor than others.

Water is distributed across land by raising the water table, through a system of pumping stations, canals, gates, and ditches and excess water may be able to be collected for reuse. This type of irrigation is most effective in areas with high water tables.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BLOG: Water Conscious Ways To Take Care Of Your Lawn

by Sally Phillips, Freelance Writer

About 30 percent of an average American family of four's 400 gallons of daily water use is devoted to outdoor uses. With the number of homeowners increasing, households will use more water for both indoor and outdoor uses, like irrigating gardens and lawns. Your lawn can be one of the most beautiful places in your home. However, lawns need special attention that includes regular watering, mowing, and replanting, depending on the season, occasion or your pets. Nevertheless, watering your lawn and ensuring it stays pretty throughout the season should not interfere with a commitment to groundwater conservation and protection. Below are three ways to remain water conscious while taking care of your lawn.

Install a functional hybrid irrigation system
A beautiful lawn is the reflection of all the hours, water, and care invested in it. Installing an irrigation system that runs on a schedule saves you the time and money to hire someone to take care of it. A functional sprinkler system affords you the luxury of watering your lawn while on vacation and a drip irrigation system conserves even more water than a sprinkler. Using the two together, such as sprinkles for the middle of the lawn and a subsurface drip system for your lawn edges ensures water efficiency. Ensure that all leaks are fixed and the system checked and tested regularly. Leaks also translate to wastage of water, increasing your utility bill and also results in a waterlogged lawn.

Adjust your watering schedule
During midday and hot summer afternoons, the water evaporation rate is higher due to the temperature increase. Temperature affects a soil’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, which in turn requires more water to be applied to your lawn. Change your watering schedule to early in the morning when the grass is still dewy, as it is more likely to retain all the water. You can buy a programmable water timer for this specific purpose. Another amazing idea would include heavy watering your lawn often. Lawns watered in this way can survive up to seven days without a second session, cutting back on both the water and manpower.

Tailor your grass to your soil
If you are planting your grass for the first time, or are replanting it either due to damage from the winter season or a disease, then consider hiring a professional. There are different types of grass, and all of them demand various inputs to thrive. Planting the wrong type of grass can bring along lots of challenges, and even require expensive and harmful chemical treatments and a lot of water. For instance, St. Augustine, a warm season grass, requires watering every 3-6 days to grow beautifully. If your soil is not alkaline, then planting this type of grass soil will lead to wasted water, compared to a grass that naturally grows in your area.

Water conservation is a critical aspect of environmental conservation and this includes doing your best to maximize the available natural resources. Your lawn is also important as it is an area to relax, entertain and play. A creative way to avoid compromising on either is to harvest your rainwater for lawn irrigation. However, it is the small things that count, and avoiding water wastage in such small ways really makes a bigger difference.

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. 

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.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

BLOG: Varied Paths and Careers in Water

by Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

It was just over ten years ago that I entered into a career in the water world when I accepted my current position at the Groundwater Foundation. A comment that I have consistently heard during the years is the water industry needs new young people to fill the jobs that will soon be available in abundance. Early on when I thought about this comment, I immediately envisioned water operators. Clearly the picture is a lot bigger than just water operators. 

I realized how far-reaching jobs that impact the water industry are when listening to a lecture given by Mogens Bay, Executive Chairman, Valmont Industries and Robert Meaney, Sr. Vice President, Valmont Industries – Retired about global water security. Bay stated “more than a question of water scarcity we are faced with the question of developing and implementing proper management practices and sound policy on a global level.” Bay continued his comments expanding on the career opportunities that exist to address this critical situation.

Do you want to be part of the solution and ensure that future generations have a safe and sufficient water supply? There are so many paths that you can follow, anything from from marketing to science. I want to share how some of today’s water experts I know ended up in their job. For some it was a clear, straightforward path; for others it was serendipitous.
Brian Dunnigan, PE,  Water Resources Team Leader, Olsson Associates

Story: I was working as a bridge designer when I saw an intriguing job advertised in the paper – to do floodplain mapping work. Pursuing the job led to a 25-year career in floodplain management and opened the door to other opportunities for me in water resources.

Advice: Be open-minded to all opportunities that you have an interest in.  You never know which opportunity may lead to your dream job.  Sometimes things just happen!

Matt Ondrejko, Vice President Global Marketing, Valmont Industries

Story: When I was considering taking a job with Valmont Industries in the Irrigation division I was doing a lot of research on the company. I came across a video online that showed former CEO Mogens Bay talking about the need to manage and use water in the most efficient and effective way possible. He then made a statement that by 2050 the world would have 9 Billion people to feed, clothe and house. That was when it dawned on me what a great opportunity it would be to help be part of the solution for better utilizing one of our most limited resources – fresh water.

Advice: Follow your passion but be willing to deviate along the trip – take new roads. The path you start on may not be the one you end up on or even finish on. Be willing to try new things but stay true to your core values and who you are along the journey!

Jim Goeke, Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska –Retired

Story: My choice to study geology was a natural outcome sparked by my delight collecting fossils in the strip coal mines in Illinois with my mother when I was supposed to be fishing. The more I studied geology, the more I was moved by the vast amounts of time involved. I loved the people in the discipline and being able to be outside in awe inspiring locales. It was an easy transition to get into hydrogeology because simply I have always cherished a cool drink of water and I have been always fascinated by being getting that cool water out of the ground!

Advice: investigate summer employment with a local well driller or possible summer employment with the USGS or your state geologic survey.
Marian Singer, CEO, Wellntel

Story: I was a strategy consultant doing voice of customer/market research for Fortune 250s in energy and water.  I spent a year studying the groundwater market for a large equipment manufacturer and was stunned to learn that 1M of the 15M private domestic and ag wells in the US fail every year, costing $1B or more in emergency spend and that most of the time, no one really knew what was going on with groundwater.  It seemed to me that, with the right technology and data in the cloud, each of those 15M private wells was a candidate to become a monitoring well, providing the insight well owners and communities need to manage sustainably.  After a year of research and investigation Wellntel was started.

Advice: The scope and variety of potential roles and types of companies in the water industry will continue to grow and diversify as all players - utilities, well owners, equipment companies, communities, commodity markets, technologies companies and many more - wrestle with the need to price and sustainably manage one of our most important natural resources.

James Burks, President, Senninger Irrigation

Story: I grew up with a father fully dedicated to agricultural irrigation and feel blessed to have had great opportunities to pursue the same career. To be a part of conserving such a valuable resource while feeding people is extremely gratifying. 

Advice: Sounds cliché, but following your heart helps to ensure a career aligned with your God given strengths and passions. I’m not sure who originally coined the phrase; “Find something that you truly enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life”, but I’ve always thought it to be spot on.
Rachael Herpel Assistant Director, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute

Story: It all began when I met Bob Kuzelka, who offered me an assistantship based on my policy experience. Before I met Bob I had envisioned myself as a town planner, but I’ve been focused on water ever since.

Advice: Technical expertise is important, but it’s the interpersonal skills that really set you apart.  Being known for working hard and keeping your commitments means a lot.

Bob Swanson, Director – Retired, USGS Nebraska Water Science Center

Story: ’Twas serendipity that led me into the water world. I had graduated at Doane with Biology and Environmental Sciences majors and was planning to head off to Montana for grad school, but couldn’t for another year. I had internships with Crete Mills (didn’t want to be a lab rat) and USDA ARS. The ARS appealed to me, but crop science wasn’t a priority. I wanted to get into natural science. An acquaintance told me that the USGS was hiring and I should look into it. I thought, “I can do that for year.” It turned into a lifelong career!

Advice: Go for the internships - USGS, DNR, Groundwater Foundation. Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter, the experience does. I’ve had about a dozen interns decide to change degree paths and go into hydrology just on the experience. We’ve also had our share of the hydrologist hires that have realized after 4 years of school and getting hired by USGS that water isn’t for them. I rather know it was what I wanted before graduating than after and the internships are the key.

Bill Alley, Director of Science and Technology, National Groundwater Association 

Story: My interest in water began when I participated as an undergraduate in a study of acid mine drainage in Colorado during the summer. 

Advice: Keep an open mind and try to get a good grounding in the basic sciences.

So, as you can see, the paths to the careers are as varied as the jobs themselves.  As you start or transition in your career keep an open mind, you never know, you may get a degree in Art History – and end up with a motivating, challenging and rewarding job at the Groundwater Foundation

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Irrigation: What is it and Why is it Important?}

Especially in the hot, dry summer months, plants need water to keep growing and producing food.  At home, we have to remember to water our house and garden plants. Farmers have to remember to water, or irrigate, acres and acres of crops.

Irrigation is a fancy word for watering plants to help them grow.  Of course it’s important to water plants when it’s hot out, but farmers also use irrigation to help increase crop density, or the number of crops that can be grown in an area.

Farmers are in the business of water.  Healthy crops need water and a lot of healthy crops need a lot of water. Farmers practice smart irrigation techniques that help save themselves thousands of dollars each year.

Did you know that 40% of the world's food supply is farmed on irrigated cropland? And almost half of that is land lies within China, India, and the US. In the early days of irrigation, very little water conservation equipment or technology was available and large amounts of water were lost to evaporation or runoff.  

Technology has advanced significantly to maximize water efficiency. Some practices are simple and are things you probably do at home, such as watering during the coolest parts of the day to reduce evaporation. Some tools however, such as center pivot systems, use software on computers and mobile devices to control how much water crops receive, where the water goes, and when the irrigation system is turned on or off.
Visit The Groundwater Foundation's website to learn more about irrigation and check back on Wednesdays as Frannie explores how groundwater and irrigation help grow the food we eat. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

BLOG: National Drinking Water Week

It's Drinking Water Week!

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the water community across North America celebrate Drinking Water Week by recognizing the vital role drinking water plays in daily lives. This year's theme is “Protect the Source” with a focus on ways in which water consumers can take personal responsibility in caring for their tap water and protecting it at its source. 

How can you do that? First, get to know your local H2O. Finding information about local water is simple. As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, water utilities must provide customers with an annual water quality report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). A CCR identifies the quality of local drinking water and if any contaminants are detected and if so, which ones. Also available in the report is information on each community’s local source for drinking water. Everyone should learn about their local water source, whether it’s groundwater, a stream, lake or reservoir.

You can also look for ways to conserve water whenever possible. As many North American regions continue to face drought conditions, it’s essential to avoid waste through conservation practices to protect precious source water. Water consumers can practice conservation by using water wisely at home:

  • Repair leaky faucets, indoors and out.
  • Fill your sink or basin when washing and rinsing dishes.
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
  • Take short showers instead of baths. 
  • Turn off the water to brush teeth, shave and soap up in the shower. Fill the sink to shave. 
  • Repair leaky toilets. Add 12 drops of food coloring into the tank, and if color appears in the bowl one hour later, the toilet is leaking. 
  • Install a toilet dam, faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads. 
  • Apply mulch around shrubs and flower beds to reduce evaporation, promote plant growth and control weeds. 
  • Collect rainfall for irrigation in a screened container (to prevent mosquito larvae growth). 
  • Always use a broom to clean walkways, driveways, decks and porches, rather than hosing off these areas. 
Using water wisely is everyone’s responsibility. Conserving water at home means we’re saving our precious water supplies and, in the long run, protecting our source water, too.

Find more ways to take action at

Friday, May 4, 2018

BLOG: Giving Unites A City

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. Founder Susan Seacret started The Groundwater Foundation out of her home in 1985, and 30 years later, we still call Lincoln home.

Lincoln is a great city. It's big enough to offer jobs, great schools, entertainment, recreation, and more, but still feels like a big small town. Lincoln is also home to a number of amazing nonprofit organizations that do great things for our city.

Groundwater is the water Lincoln drinks, and something every Lincolnite should know about as their drinking water source. The Groundwater Foundation may be a national organization, but we work locally in our city, with educators, youth, and community members to help everyone understand groundwater and their role in protecting it.

The Groundwater Foundation is once again participating in Give to Lincoln Day. Starting May 1 and through the day itself on May 31, every donation given to The Groundwater Foundation and other local nonprofits is made bigger by matching funds. It is one special day where everyone in Lincoln is asked to support the organizations that contribute so much to our city.

Gifts given as part of Give to Lincoln Day help The Groundwater Foundation earn a proportional share of a $400,000 challenge match fund from the Lincoln Community Foundation and their sponsors. 

Even if you don't live in Lincoln, you can help support The Groundwater Foundation's work by making a donation as part of Give to Lincoln Day - you can be an honorary Lincolnite for the month of May. 

So make your gift do more and be part of uniting a city through giving and Give to Lincoln Day!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Upcycled Conservation Flowers}

Hooray! It's finally May! That means we've finally reached the time of year where the flowers, bushes, and trees are coming to life in beautiful and vibrant colors. This year, try planting some Upcycled Conservation Flowers to remind you of all the ways you can conserve water.
But wait a minute, Frannie: what in the world are Upcycled Conservation Flowers?
Upcycling is a fun trend that helps protect the environment by reusing items that may have previously been thrown away. Reusing an item keeps it from ending up in a landfill where it may take millions of years to decompose. Upcycled Conservation Flowers are made out of plastic water bottles and each petal represents an easy way to help conserve and protect groundwater! 
Find out how to make them below!
Students showing off their Upcycled Conservation Flowers!


  • Empty plastic water bottle
  • 8 different colored acrylic paints
  • Paint brush
  • Hole punch
  • String
  • Wood stick (optional)
  • Glue
  • Sequins, beads, paper, glitter, or gems


  1. Clean your plastic water bottle. Remove any plastic labeling from the outside.
  2. Cut your water bottle in half. Recycle the bottom half of your bottle.
  3. Cut eight petals by cutting from the middle of the bottle towards the cap. Make sure to cut all the way to the edge of the cap. Round the edges.
  4. Press the petals out and flatten them to make your bottle look like a flower.
  5. Paint each petal a different color to represent the different ways to protect and conserve groundwater. Add glitter for fun!
  6. Cover the cap with beads, gems, sequins, paper, or paint to represent the pistil/stamen.
  7. Use a paper hole punch and string to make your flower an ornament or use a wooden stick and glue to create a decorative flower for potted plants.

Ways to Protect and Conserve Groundwater:

Go Native
Use native plants in your landscape. They look great, and don't need much water or fertilizer.
Reduce Chemical Use
Use fewer chemicals around your home and yard, and make sure to dispose of them properly - don't dump them on the ground!
Don't Let It Run
Shut off the water when brushing your teeth, and don't let it run while waiting for it to get cold. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead!
Fix the Drips
Check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps for leaks and fix them right away.
Shower Smarter
Limit yourself to just a five minute shower, and challenge your family members to do the same!
Water Wisely
Water plants during the coolest parts of the day and only when they truly need it. Make sure you, your family and neighbors obey any watering restrictions.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Reduce the amount of "stuff" you use and reuse what you can. Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and other materials.
Learn More!
Get involved in water education! Learn more about groundwater by checking out The Groundwater Foundation's website