Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Irrigation: Aquaculture and Hydroponics}

This is the fourth part in Frannie's exploration of irrigation. Check out the previous post here!

Like Frannie mentioned in the last blog, there are two types of urban agriculture that are very unique: aquaculture and hydroponics. Both of these processes are almost solely water-based and require the farmers to be creative in the way they save water and money.

Aquaculture is usually defined as the raising fresh and salt water fish but it can include other kinds of water creatures and plants. It produces healthy, high-quality fish that can either be used to stock lakes for people who like to fish or sold directly to markets for consumption.

Fish can be raised in wide open waters or in smaller tanks depending on space availability and the species of fish. Fish-farming has a long history and has played a culturally important role for those who do it. For over 4,000 years, the Chinese have bred and raised a meaty carp and the Japanese have farmed koi that can often sell for thousands of dollars.

Hydroponics is a system that, instead of growing plants in the soil, grows them in a “nutrient solution” or water jam-packed with plant food. Plants “eat” and “drink” through a recirculating system.

At home, you can model this by planting a small plant in a 2 liter bottle with a string connecting the nutrient solution in the bottom to the plant bed.  In an urban farm, however, highly technical systems can grow many rows of crops that are layered on top of one another so that a very small area can have a high crop density.

If an environment allows, a hydroponic farm can benefit greatly from an aquaculture farm.  In an earlier blog post, Frannie demonstrated that old fish water can actually help grow beautiful gardens. Aquaponics does that on a much larger scale, repurposing the nutrient-rich water from the fishery tanks to feed the plants in the hydroponic system. The plants and micro-organisms clean the water that is then returned to the fish tank. This provides a mutually beneficial environment for both the fish and the plants, and results in two crops (the fish and the plants).

In urban environments farmers have to be creative in the way they use space and water, but ultimately they can be very productive. Share with us some of your creative ways to use water and space and check out past blogs to learn more about irrigation!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

BLOG: A Family Spring Inspires Groundwater Protection

by Chris Barnett, Executive Director, Lawrence Community Development Corporation and Team Leader, Indianapolis-Marion County Groundwater Guardian Team

I wanted to share a story that is more directly related to groundwater than the last one I shared, and it explains more about my personal dedication to groundwater protection.

In 1817 my ancestors, a boy of eight or nine and his parents, came to Germantown, Pennsylvania from Wuerttemberg, Germany. The young family made their way across Pennsylvania in the ensuing years and eventually purchased a farm in eastern Ohio from the U.S. Government. Family lore says that the original wood and sod home was built into a hill, facing generally south, by the spring - so the spring has provided water for my family since the 1830s.   

After Ohio’s canal-building era ended, there were men in the region who had come to work on the Ohio and Erie canal. My ancestor hired a company of stonecutters to build a family home; by then he had many children. The stonecutters also laid up the springhouse next to it.  

The points on the stars carved next to the date represent the members of the family when the house was built.
The house and springhouse are still in use after almost 170 years. My mother and her siblings grew up there, and I grew up visiting my great-grandfather and grandparents there.  My cousin is the 6th-generation family owner today. 

In addition to providing domestic water supply for the house (a hand pump in my mother’s day, and later an electric pump), the spring trough served as the refrigerator for raw milk my grandfather sold to the cheese factory a few miles away.

Through my entire life and scores of visits, I never felt at home until I touched the cold water in the spring trough, and taken a sip:

The water never satisfied me more than it did the summer I worked with my uncle to set a fence and make hay…the house had no air conditioning and the only cool spot was the springhouse.

A second spring is found on a hill opposite the house, across the road, creek, and bottomland pasture. My great grandfather built a bank barn below the spring in the early 1900s (the family called it “the new barn”) so that water from the spring could be directed into the barn. That spring provided water for the small herd of cattle the family raised for meat and milk production, a hog or two, and the chickens that provided my grandmother with “egg money” and the occasional Sunday roaster.

Modern farmers will recognize that I’ve described a subsistence farm by today’s standards.  It’s in a hilly location with rock outcroppings, better suited to timber production than to extensive production of row crops. It will come as no surprise that the surrounding farms are mostly Amish-owned today. But when my mother and aunts and uncles were growing up there during the Depression and World War II, they never lacked for food, water, shelter (or hard work).  

And when my ancestors settled there nearly 200 years ago to carve a farm out of woodland, they knew what Groundwater Guardians like me know today: without a source of clean drinking water, there is no life possible. I certainly wouldn’t be here now, nor would I have such a passion for protecting groundwater, if not for that spring.

Chris Barnett is the Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Development Corporation, as well as the team leader for the Indianapolis-Marion County Groundwater Guardian Team, the Marion County Wellfield Education Corporation. Chris also serves on The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors. Reach Chris at

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

BLOG: A Joint Approach to Source Water Protection

by Tim McLelland, Manager, Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium

The Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium (Consortium), which was originally formed in 1967, currently consists of seven independent public and industrial water suppliers in southwest Ohio, including Greater Cincinnati Water Works; Southwest Regional Water District; City of Fairfield; MillerCoors, LLC; City of Hamilton; Butler County Water and Sewer; and Southwestern Ohio Water Company. The Consortium is a multi-jurisdictional collaboration of water suppliers to protect their source water from pollution and overuse through a single Source Water Protection Program (SWPP). In 1991, the Consortium began working on the development of a joint multi-jurisdictional, multiple wellfield Wellhead Protection Program (WHPP) known today as the SWPP. 

The water producing members of the Consortium operate wellfields throughout southwest Ohio. Together, Consortium members operate a total of 53 production wells supplying a combined average daily output of 62 million gallons of groundwater to over 315,000 people and hundreds of businesses and industries throughout the region. The members of the Consortium draw water from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, which extends from the headwaters of the Great Miami River north of Dayton to the confluence with the Ohio River near Cincinnati.   

The Consortium has pooled resources and employs me to oversee the overall SWP-related activities of the Consortium members and SWPP management strategies. Consortium members collectively fund all SWPP activities. 

Benefits of a Joint Approach
Developing and administering a joint SWPP has proven beneficial for all members through:
1. Cost efficiencies for the overall program; 
2. Ability to account for the inter-relationships between eight independent but closely located wellfields;
3. Coordinated regional network of early-warning monitoring wells, including the pooling of financial and technical resources which allows for a more cost-effective monitoring program;
4. Development of a consistent public education message about the importance of protecting the local drinking water supply with guidance and support from the Groundwater Foundation and Groundwater Guardian Program;
5. For six out of seven members, the ability to establish and administer protection ordinances outside of their home jurisdiction; and.
6. Ability to maintain a strong coordinated communication and networking relationships among Consortium members.

Potential Contaminant Sources
In 2007, we collected hydrogeologic information to update the original source water delineation from 1991. The updated delineation included SWP areas and maps depicting the new time-of-travel (TOT, the time it takes water to travel within the aquifer towards discharge points, including pumping wells, throughout the region) zones for each of the Consortium members. These zones are also considered to be the most vulnerable and sensitive areas. We have identified a one-year, five-year and 10-year TOT zones specific to our area. We also created a potential contaminant source (PSC) inventory for facilities in each of the three TOTs. PCSs include known releases, such as leaking underground storage tanks or potential sources of contamination, such as aboveground storage tanks or active rail lines. PCSs are not limited to manmade facilities - for example, naturally-occurring processes such as the dissolution of minerals in the aquifer may also be classified as PCSs. Just because a site is identified as a PCS does not mean it actually is polluting source water, only that there is a risk. By creating an inventory of these sites, we can determine where best to use our resources to minimize risk.

Effective Management and Controls
For a source control strategy to be truly effective, the strategy must reflect the types of potential pollution sources identified in the assessment. Our PCSI identified 704 potential pollution sources in 28 categories in the one, five, and 10-year TOTs. The most predominant sources were aboveground storage tanks, underground storage tanks, bulk chemical storage sites, automotive repair shops and small quantity generators.

Proper management of potential contaminant sources within SWPAs is critical to the success of any SWPP. We decided to implement a wide variety of available source control strategies and have worked carefully to balance the importance of an effective plan that meets the protection objectives of SWP while maintaining public support.

As we all know by now, SWP offers communities a great deal of flexibility in developing appropriate strategies for protecting groundwater resources while promoting the economic viability of the community. In general, we chose a combination of regulatory and non-regulatory management options for the SWPP Source Control Strategy Plan. The regulatory approach relies on local ordinances and enforcement to initiate changes in the SWPAs but also to protect property from contamination. On the other hand, the non-regulatory approaches rely on voluntary actions from the community and partnerships with organizations that have similar priorities. 

The Value of Education
Public education and the promotion of best management practices are the cornerstone of an effective SWPP and play a significant role in the SWPP during the implementation of the regulatory source control strategies. We have been actively working on groundwater public education for over 20 years with the assistance of a Public Education Committee. We are proud to be designated as a Groundwater Guardian for 20 consecutive years. We typically implement around 12 Result-Oriented Activities (ROA) each year. 

The most consistent and successful ROA to date is our children’s water festival, Waterfest. The Soil and Water Conservation District and Storm Water Districts assist with financial support and planning the event. Over the years we have had presenters from the Cincinnati Zoo bring endangered cheetahs, fishing cats, and various other cats. We have also had the Newport Aquarium present, Cool Critters who bring reptiles, and other organizations that bring rescued birds of prey. Many different watershed, wetland, and water quality presentations are given by local, state and federal agencies. Two years ago, a well driller installed a well at Waterfest. Since then, we have used the well as part of demonstrations to show kids how a well is purged, how we collect elevation data and sample groundwater quality. 
We are very fortunate to have Miami University Hamilton campus host our Waterfest each year, and has been an awesome partner for our event! We are very fortunate and thankful to our presenters and volunteers, and to have learned from other water festivals around the country to get fantastic ideas to make ours even better.

If you would like to learn more about the Groundwater Consortium, please find us online at, follow me on Twitter or like us on Facebook!   


Tim McLelland is the Manager of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium and the Team Leader for the Consortium's Groundwater Guardian team. Reach Tim at

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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

This is the third part in Frannie's exploration of irrigation. Check out the previous post here!

If you have a garden at home, think about what kinds of things you grow. Do you grow pretty bushes and flowers? Maybe some fruits and veggies to eat?

If you don’t have enough space for your garden at home, you might take part in a community garden.  A community garden provides a space for many people to grow fresh produce or raise small livestock like chickens and ducks on shared land. While each person is responsible for their own plot, they may choose to assist their neighbors and split their products or sell surplus at local markets.

Many communities, especially cities, are looking to take community gardening to the next level.  A food desert is a region within a city where it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh produce.  Many people who live in cities either choose not to have or can’t afford a car and the only locations to buy food within walking distances are convenience stores, bodegas, or gas stations.  Most of these places carry cheap, processed foods that aren’t healthy compared to fresher fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Urban agriculture is a part of that solution. While community gardens are a part of urban agriculture, the term more broadly includes things like beekeeping, farming, raising animals, aquaculture, and growing orchards all within an urban setting.

Just like in rural agriculture, urban farms need water sources to irrigate the plants. Many of these come from hook-ups to city wells or pumps. Cities can’t usually allow big irrigation systems like center pivot sprinklers for obvious reasons. Can you imagine one of those huge sprinklers rolling through the streets?
In relatively large plots of land, some sprinkler systems can be adapted to move or be moved through the field. Many smaller lots find drip irrigation or use of rain barrels to be a better, less expensive, more efficient solutions.  The labor-intensive irrigation methods that are so impractical on huge tracts of farmland can be more easily applied in urban environments.

Two very different and interesting kinds of urban agriculture are aquaculture and hydroponics.  Join Frannie as she learns more about them in her next blog!  In the meantime, share pictures of your garden or your community’s garden with us or check out previous blogs to learn more about irrigation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

BLOG: 6 Fun Ways to Learn About Groundwater This Summer

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

Are you looking for some fun and different things to do with your kids this summer? Here are six ways to have fun learning about groundwater:

1. Dig in the dirt.
Kids love dirt and getting dirty! Find a good spot for them to go nuts and dig a hole. Have them notice how the soil gets wetter the deeper they dig, and talk about the water table, saturated and unsaturated zones. After they're good and dirty, hose them off and talk about how groundwater is recharged.

2. Make an edible aquifer.
There's not much better than a cold treat on a hot summer day! Build an edible aquifer out of ice cream or sherbet, ice cubes, sprinkles, and clear soda and learn about groundwater while eating your yummy creation.

3. Go on a water drop hike.
Explore a park, recreation area, nature center, or other outdoor space and visualize the path a water drop can take when it falls from the sky. Where does a water drop move to after falling on a tree? Or a slide? A roof? The ground?

4. Try out an Awesome Aquifer Kit.
The Kit comes with instructions and materials to do six cool experiments that teach about groundwater terminology, groundwater's role in the hydrologic cycle, the makeup of an aquifer, groundwater contamination, and clean up.

5. Visit a river or stream.
Talk about the connections between groundwater and surface water and gaining and losing streams while enjoying the river view or safely wading in and splashing around.

6. Pick an activity from our online activity library.
We have a library with a ton of fun hands-on, brains-on activities to get kids excited about water. Search the library by age group, key topic, and category to find the perfect fun and educational activity.

Friday, June 8, 2018

BLOG: Finding Ways That Work: Groundwater Management in the Western U.S.

by Kate Gibson, Program Coordinator, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute

Whether it is used as a primary water source or as a buffer for variable surface water supplies, groundwater provides water security to support economic development worldwide. However, groundwater is a difficult resource to manage and presents challenges that are distinct from those related to surface water management. The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund have partnered in an attempt to address the challenge of understanding and translating best practices for groundwater management. Their collaborative report, The Future of Groundwater in California – Lessons in Sustainable Management from Across the West, seeks to provide guidance to groundwater managers in California and beyond by drawing on the diverse experience of water management programs from across the western U.S. 

Going beyond the typical technical guidance, the report attempts to get at the “story behind the story” by drawing upon varied experiences of groundwater management to try to understand what works and what doesn’t. The report uses nine case studies from six states to present key lessons learned. Case studies are from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, and Texas, and represent a wide range of hydrology, climates, legal structures, and water uses. 

The report begins by breaking down the issues that drive groundwater policies: surface water and groundwater interactions, long-term aquifer depletion, and water quality and other concerns. Interactions between surface water and groundwater are significant drivers of groundwater policy across the western U.S. while, in general, long-term aquifer depletion and water quality concerns have been less likely to produce binding groundwater policy changes. 

Many types of water management tools are available to water managers, ranging from strict regulations to voluntary efforts. Water managers can seek to change behavior of water users by using tools that are not intended to provide financial incentives, also sometimes referred to as “command and control” approaches. Alternatively, incentive-based tools seek to change behavior through providing direct financial incentives. Managing agencies can also take action to manage water resources on behalf of water users in the district. These actions can be categorized as agency supply augmentation and protection tools. Lastly, many water managers rely heavily on voluntary tools such as education and outreach efforts. All of these tools are present in varying degrees across the nine case studies featured in the report. 

The report distills the key elements of effective groundwater management into five themes: the importance of building trust, the need for data, using a portfolio of approaches, assuring performance, and access to adequate funding. 

Building Trust
Perhaps the most important element of groundwater management is building trust. It is vital that the people who are impacted by groundwater management policies understand and trust management goals for a program to be effective. In many of the case studies, trust building began by having broad community involvement from an early stage. Data can also be a powerful tool to visualize current groundwater conditions and show potential future impacts to groundwater resources. A community member who is skeptical of new groundwater use policies may be convinced otherwise if shown that their presently unaffected groundwater well could be impacted by groundwater quality degradation or lowering groundwater levels in the future. Use of data can give credibility to water managers and give the community a sense of ownership in the management program. Other approaches to build trust with the community include involving key stakeholder groups in the planning process and providing beneficial resources to the community, such as recreation services or agricultural cost-share programs.

The Need for Data
Data are critical for groundwater management decision making, whether that’s having an accurate record of groundwater levels or having flow meter data to track water use. However, data collection is time consuming, costly, and often controversial. It is therefore important for water managers to carefully consider how much data is “enough” data to avoid unnecessary costs and jeopardizing community trust. 

Using a Portfolio of Approaches
Across the case studies, water managers relied on a multitude of management tools and strategies. While there can be a tendency to want to choose one tool as a panacea (water metering for example), groundwater management as highlighted in the case studies typically begins with a permitting framework, a tracking system, educational component, and funding source. Once this initial framework is established, it becomes easier to add additional tools that are appropriate for local conditions. 

Assuring Performance
Effective groundwater management requires a system of monitoring and enforcement to ensure that water users are complying with management policies. Without monitoring to detect noncompliance and subsequent enforcement of the policy, there will always be an incentive for water users to ignore management requirements. However, monitoring and enforcement is often unpopular, incurring significant social, financial, and political costs. 

All of the case studies illustrated the need for adequate funding to meet groundwater management goals. Regardless of what approaches are used, groundwater management requires long-term financial resources to support education and outreach, infrastructure improvements, data collection and modeling, and monitoring and enforcement programs. Water managers rely on a wide range of funding mechanisms to support their programs including taxes, bonds, state and federal grants, and user fees.

While new groundwater managers have their work cut out for them, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! Experience from groundwater management programs across the western U.S. provides valuable insight into aspects of groundwater management than can make or break a program. Building community trust, knowing what data are most important, using multiple approaches, assuring performance through monitoring and enforcement, and having adequate funding are critical - but not often obvious - components of groundwater management. For a more in-depth look at the case studies and lessons learned, read the entire report. To learn more about the work that we do, visit us at

Kate Gibson is a program coordinator at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska. She manages policy-focused programs related to groundwater management and water security. Kate holds a Master's degree in agronomy and Bachelor's degrees in water sciences and environmental restoration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 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.

Friday, June 1, 2018

BLOG: Coming Together for Groundwater - Merger with NGWA Foundation

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

In case you missed the official announcement earlier this week, the Groundwater Foundation is merging with the National Ground Water Association's Foundation for Groundwater. We're so excited about this partnership to move our mission to the next level. By uniting our organizations, we will be able to strengthen and grow our programs through joint networks, provide new tools and resources for our constituents, and haven an even bigger collective impact on behalf of groundwater.


As with any big change, we understand there may be questions from our constituents and other partners.

Why is this merger happening?
The merger of the two like-minded organizations will establish the foremost Foundation dedicated to protecting groundwater and enhancing professional practices in the industry. The organization will be focused on advancing groundwater knowledge through education, community outreach, and professional development to effectively raise the national profile of the groundwater industry.

Who is the National Ground Water Association? 
Established in 1948, NGWA is a community of groundwater professionals advocating for the responsible development, management, and use of water. The Association’s members include leading public and private sector groundwater scientists, engineers, water well system professionals, contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers of groundwater-related products and services. The group, headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, is the “go-to” source on significant and timely issues impacting groundwater and champions for the public’s access to safe, sustainable water. The NGWA Foundation was established in 1994 and is an IRS-approved public charity focused on conducting educational initiatives, research, and other charitable activities to broaden public understanding of groundwater.

What happens to the Groundwater Foundation name?
Under the merger agreement, the combined entity will carry the Groundwater Foundation name and will leverage administrative and operational support from NGWA.   

What about the Groundwater Foundation staff and offices in Lincoln, Nebraska?
The Groundwater Foundation will remain in Lincoln, Nebraska, and staff will be retained. The group will be supported by NGWA. As Foundation executive director, Mrs. Griffin will report to NGWA CEO Morse. NGWA staff and operations will remain unchanged.

Why is this merger important?The organizations believe this merger is important as it creates a hub of information and charitable outreach for groundwater professionals and the public alike. Folks in the industry will have a strengthened resource for education, networking, and professional development. The public will have access to the latest science, research, field work, scholarships, breaking news, and comment from proven leaders in the groundwater industry.

What are people saying?
Terry Morse, CEO of NGWA
“Since 1994, the NGWA Foundation has established numerous programs to assist those working with, and those that need groundwater. This merger aligns our Foundation with an organization that shares our passion, extends our combined vision, and bolsters our grassroots efforts to educate, inspire action, and to create a community of Groundwater Guardians to protect this critical resource.”
“One of our key messages to our diverse membership is that we truly are ‘better together’ in our collective efforts to advance the groundwater industry. We’re excited to merge with a fantastic organization that allows us to expand this message to its members, to individuals, and to local communities alike.”

Jane Griffin, Executive Director of the Groundwater Foundation
“NGWA and the Groundwater Foundation have been partners for several years and we have complementary strengths, experiences, and industry knowledge. While the Groundwater Foundation has a national presence, our mission is to boost groundwater awareness at the local level, and merging with NGWA’s Foundation allows us to extend this mission, address issues, and educate at every level.”

Susan Seacrest, Groundwater Foundation President Emeritus

“This is an important forward-thinking milestone of collaboration with a long-standing Groundwater Foundation partner. The perspective, knowledge, and programs of NGWA will have a tremendously positive impact on the Groundwater Foundation's educational and community outreach. I have been impressed by NGWA's people and professional expertise since my first contact with them almost 35 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that it will strengthen and heighten the scope and impact of both organizations.
More information about the merger will be available on and