Friday, April 26, 2019

BLOG: Arbor Day - Plant a Tree

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

In our home state of Nebraska, Arbor Day is a big deal. I've seen a ton about it circulating on social media and local media the past week or so. And every time I think of Arbor Day, this song from John Denver (which was created as part of a PSA for the Arbor Day Foundation) always pops into - and gets stuck in - my head:

Trees are great. They provide shade on a sunny day, help clean the air, provide us with oxygen, reduce the effects of climate change, help save energy, and more.

Turns out, trees are a big deal to our drinking water supplies. This video from the Arbor Day Foundation (which is based in Lincoln, Nebraska) explains why:

Forested watersheds contribute to drinking water for 180 million Americans and are an important part of the hydrologic cycle. 

So go hug a tree, plant a tree, marvel at a tree, sit under a tree - whatever you want to do to appreciate trees.

Friday, April 19, 2019

BLOG: Recycling Content and More for Earth Day

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Recycling is good for the planet - and for content! I looked back at the Earth Day post I wrote 10 years ago on the Groundwater Blog, and found most of it still applies today (I updated some website links for everyone's convenience). Caring for our Earth and groundwater is a never-ending job, and it's one that all of us can do.


Original post from Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earth Day is next week (April 22). Plan to celebrate by taking these simple steps to help care for our planet:

This little light of mine…
Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use 70-75% less energy than standard bulbs, and last for several years. You can also help save energy by turning off lights, computers, televisions, etc. when they are not in use. Get more information on the advantages of using CFLs.

Green it up!
Add some green to the planet by planting a tree. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen, which is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. Learn more about the benefits of trees. Or plant a rain garden and help filter out contaminants from roofs and driveways. See how a rain garden can add beauty to your home and help prevent pollution.

Park the car
Leave the car at home! Carpool, take public transportation, walk, or ride your bike to work. Find information on ways to go green in your daily commute.

Attend an Earth Day celebration
Check local newspapers, television and radio stations for event announcements, or visit to search for an event in your area.

Reduce, reuse, recycle
Try to go the entire day without throwing a single thing away (and don’t just postpone it until the next day). Use a reusable shopping bag for your grocery trip, use a tumbler instead of a disposable cup for your morning coffee, start a compost pile, and recycle plastic, aluminum, tin, steel, glass, paper, etc. Get more information about local recycling options.

Get outside and play
Enjoy all that nature has to offer! Take a walk, have a picnic, play a game, go fishing, take a hike – just get outside and interact with nature! Make sure to leave only your footprints behind.

Save a drop
Conserve water around your home. Install water-saving devices such as faucet aerators or low flow showerheads, upgrade to a low-flow toilet and water efficient appliances, and use drought-tolerant plants in your landscaping. Check out these easy water conservation tips or find out more about EPA’s WaterSense program.

Clean green
Switch to natural cleaning products. Skip the harsh chemical cleaners and opt for plant-based, natural cleansers. Find a cleaner buying guide. Or make your own cleaning products with simple ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.

Tell a friend
Tell someone how they can help protect the planet! Share the tips above and get involved in local environmental protection efforts.

Support The Groundwater Foundation
Help support The Groundwater Foundation’s mission of educating the public to care about and for groundwater by:

How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day? What steps have you taken in your daily life to help protect the planet?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Water Cycle Bangles}

Water cycle bangles have become popular accessories at recent science fairs and environmental festivals. Today, Frannie will help you make your own.

The water cycle describes all the pathways a water drop can move through the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere (air, land, and water systems). There are many steps to the water cycle, so making a water cycle bangle will help you remember them all!

Here's what you will need:

  • A Pipe cleaner (or string, twine, strip of leather, etc.)
  • 7/8" pony beads in eight different colors (2-3 beads of each color)
  • A Water cycle illustration (there is one provided below)


  1. Review the water cycle vocabulary.  Each word represents a different stage of the water cycle.  Check out Frannie's water cycle post to get familiar with vocabulary terms.
  2. Assign each vocabulary word a different color bead.
  3. Pick a place in the water cycle illustration below to begin your journey.
  4. Twist a loop on one end of the pipe cleaner or tie a knot in the end of your string. This will prevent the beads from sliding off the end.
  5. Add a bead to your pipe cleaner and decide where to go next.  Use the water cycle illustration above to help you decide.  Remember if you start in a cloud you can't directly go to the lake, you must first become rain (or another form of precipitation: Can you name one?)
  6. Each new place traveled will earn you a new bead.
  7. After you have completed the water cycle a few times, connect the ends of your pipe cleaner to create a bangle bracelet to wear!

Frannie loves her bangle!  Now if someone asks her about it, she can share what she learned about the water cycle!

This activity is featured in the Let's Keep It Clean - "Brownie" Girl Scout Patch guide book. By completing two activities from the booklet you earn your Ask Me About Groundwater patch.  Get inspired and do more to earn your Let's Keep It Clean patch!

Friday, April 12, 2019

BLOG: Every Day is Take-Back Day in Nebraska

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Earth Day is just around the corner, but what does it have to do with old medications?

Did you know that over-the-counter and prescription medications can contaminate waterways – rivers, lakes, and groundwater – when flushed, put down the drain, or thrown in the trash? 

“It’s easy to simply toss old medications in the trash or flush them down the toilet without realizing the potential environmental impact,” said Jane Griffin, Groundwater Foundation Executive Director. She points out research from the U.S. Geological Survey that detected traces of medications in streams and groundwater supplies, and that “most water treatment facilities don’t have the capacity to remove these compounds.”

Instead of flushing or trashing those old medications, take them to a Nebraska MEDS Initiative pharmacy. Find a participating pharmacy near you at

“Fortunately, it’s also easy to return leftover and expired medications to MEDS Initiative Pharmacies across the state,” Griffin said. “It’s a simple step we can all take can take to protect our water resources.”

“Every day, including Earth Day, is take-back day in Nebraska,” said Marcia Mueting of the Nebraska Pharmacists Association. “Over 320 pharmacies across the state accept medications for proper disposal, giving consumers an easy and safe method of keeping medications out of the environment.” 

Mueting points out that many consumers wait until the National Prescription Drug Take Back Days, which happen in late April and October every year, to get rid of old medications. “While it’s great that these medications aren’t being flushed or put in the trash, there’s no need to hold on to them until the DEA’s take-back days,” she said. “Pharmacies across Nebraska will take back medications every single day.”

The Nebraska MEDS Initiative is funded by the Nebraska Legislature. The Nebraska Medication Education on Disposal Strategies (MEDS) Coalition educates Nebraskans about drug disposal and provides safe ways to dispose of them to better safeguard the environment and protect public health. The Coalition includes the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, Groundwater Foundation, Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department, Lincoln Police Department, Coalition Rx, Lincoln Public School Nurses, LiveWise Coalition, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Medical Association, AARP of Nebraska, Nebraska Pharmacy Foundation, Nebraska Regional Poison Center, Safe Kids Lincoln-Lancaster County, KETV, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and Nebraska State Patrol.

Friday, April 5, 2019

BLOG: Request a Free Well Owners Guide

Do you have a water well? Do you know someone who has a water well? If so, make sure you get a copy of the Well Owners Guide.

The Guide is a comprehensive information piece for consumers with nearly everything you could ever want to know about water wells.

Packed with detailed, easy-to-understand information, the Guide addresses:

  • Well construction
  • Well maintenance
  • Water testing
  • Water treatment
  • Groundwater protection

The guide takes consumers step-by-step through getting a well drilled, hiring a qualified groundwater professional, how wells work, following a maintenance schedule, abandoning old wells, how to get the well water tested, options for water treatment for various contaminants, and how well owners can protect groundwater.

If you want more information, check out

Contact Aaron Martin at the National Ground Water Association to request your free copy of the Well
Owners Guide today. Call 1-800-551-7379 extension 1564 or email

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Seeing an Aquifer from Space}

A few weeks ago, Frannie was excited to share with you the discovery of a groundwater system on Mars. But she wondered, what would we see if we turned the telescopes around and looked at groundwater here on Earth?

A team of scientists from the Arizona State University asked themselves the same question. Using cutting edge space technology like NASA satellites and the Global Navigation Satellite System, in combination with ground measurements, they took a look at the Central Valley Aquifer System located in central California.

The most recent drought in the San Joaquin Valley area lasted from 2012 to 2015 and made national headlines with its land subsidence, abandonment of crop-land, and receding lakes.  The scientists from ASU measured groundwater loss as well as aquifer storage loss during the drought period in order to learn about what it takes to keep an aquifer healthy.

Their findings revealed a shocking loss of groundwater each year of the drought and, even more disturbing, a permanent loss of storage capacity in the San Joaquin Valley Aquifer.

Frannie already knew why groundwater loss was important and, after a bit of research, she learned more about the importance of storage capacity and why scientists are so worried about its loss.

Image courtesy of Arizona
Department of Water Resources
Storage capacity refers to the total amount of water that an aquifer could ever possibly hold in its permeable materials, like sand or gravel. When groundwater is depleted and not recharged, the weight of the soil causes it to compress and settle into itself until it fills all of the spaces where the water used to be. When there is no more empty space for the water to fill, the compacted soil, which is now impermeable, becomes the new aquifer boundary. The aquifer, once able to hold so much water, eventually loses its ability to store the same amount of water as before.

Aquifer storage capacity loss can happen slowly and not seem like a big deal over just one or two drought periods. The real danger is when aquifer loss happens over and over again during multiple drought periods. And storage loss is not just limited to the aquifers in California.

The research team has plans to continue to study the health of aquifers in the southwest United States. They want to be able to provide water managers all over the world with the scientific knowledge they’ll need to make difficult water use decisions and ensure that clean groundwater is available to us for years to come.