Friday, May 31, 2019

BLOG: McEllhiney Lecture Series in Water Well Technology

William A. McEllhiney
The William A. McEllhiney Distinguished Lecture Series in Water Well Technology was established National Ground Water Association, and a groundwater contractor and civil engineer.
in 2000 to foster professional excellence in water well technology. The lecture series honors William A. McEllhiney, the 1948 founding president of the

Each year, a panel of groundwater contractors invites an outstanding groundwater professional to share his or her insights and work experiences with the industry. The Groundwater Foundation is pleased to have Jeffrey Williams, MGWC, CVCLD, as the 2020 McEllhiney Lecturer.

Requests to host the 2020 lecture are now open! If you're interested in hosting a lecture, complete and submit the request form to be considered for a McEllhiney Lecture host.

Jeff Williams
2020 Lecturer: Jeffrey Williams
Jeffrey (Jeff) Williams, MGWC; CVCLD began his career in the groundwater industry with his first full-time job at Spafford and Sons in Jericho, Vermont, in June 1980.  He and his father purchased that company in 1984. Jeff’s experience has been varied both in water well supply and geothermal heat pump operations. Like all water well supply contractors and one involved in a family business, he understands first-hand the challenges of working with a resource that consumers can’t see until it is brought to the surface, the immediate business impacts of regional and national economic conditions, and the critical need to plan for all types of contingencies. He became active in NGWA in 2006 as a member of the Safety Subcommittee and as a director candidate. He served on the NGWA Board and was association president in 2016. Jeff and his wife Carol Ann enjoy boating and family activities.

Williams' lecture for 2020 is titled "Running a Business or Doing a Job: Combining Professional Expertise with Business Savvy."
You are a business owner, or you are responsible for running a company. Have you made the mental transition from viewing your business as a series of individual jobs or as an entity offering a pallet of groundwater services? If you have any plans and goals for diversification, they require capital as well. Kudos to those who have, but this is not an easy journey mentally, financially, or emotionally. If your primary benchmark is how much you are charging per foot or for one water system installation, then you need to start the transition now. How do you begin thinking big picture and setting financial and production goals? What are the benchmarks? How do you manage equipment, time, and human and financial resources better? Are you planning your business model to include training, certifications, licensing and equipment replacement? And how do you bring others involved in the company in this much broader and more goal- oriented transformation. Just getting by isn’t an option—just like hoping to win the lottery is an unrealistic retirement plan. Planning and managing for greater profitability will determine the state of your business in the future.

For more information about the McEllhiney Lecture, including a current schedule of presentations for the 2019 lecturer, Gary Hix, check the Groundwater Foundation's website.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 3 - Discharge}

This is the third part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blogs on the overview of the water cycle and her first deep dive into groundwater!

Welcome back to Frannie’s deep dive into the water cycle! Today’s focus is discharge, represented by the black bead on her bracelet. Discharge is simply groundwater moving out of the ground into another stage of the hydrologic cycle.

A common type of discharge is through the springs that feed creeks, streams, and rivers. These springs can sometimes provide baseflow, the water that keeps streams flowing even during the hottest and driest weather. There are several kinds of springs, such as the seepage springs Frannie just described. Other types include fracture springs that discharge water from openings in impermeable rocks, tubular springs that discharge water through underground caverns and tunnels, and “wonky holes” which is an Australian term for freshwater springs that open up into the sea.

Plants also take a small part in the discharge stage of the water cycle.  Plants draw water up through their roots using water’s gravity-defying superpower of capillary action.  This process is called plant uptakeWater is drawn up through the stems, stalks, branches, and trunks of the plants to reach the leaves where it is needed to help the plant make its own food in photosynthesis.

One of the coolest things Frannie discovered during her research on the water cycle surrounds something called subduction. Subduction is actually part of the recharge process, which Frannie will revisit later with her blog on recharge, and is a part of how mountains and volcanoes form. When the water gets heated up by the earth’s mantle, it turns into a vapor and becomes highly pressurized.  Volcanoes will sometimes vent this vapor or, in massive eruptions, push magma and ash high into the sky with from the force of the pressure.

Join Frannie on the next stop on her journey – surface water! See you then!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

BLOG: Wayne's Story

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Wayne Madsen loved groundwater. He spent his career as a well driller with the family business he inherited from his father, tapping into the groundwater resources of Southwest Nebraska. He had a vision for the next generation of groundwater professionals, that they would be educated, engaged, and community-minded.

Wayne acted to make that vision a reality.

Wally and Wanda Water Drop
He saw the value in educating youth about groundwater. He was heavily involved in educating tens of thousands of kids at the Groundwater Foundation’s Nebraska Children’s Groundwater Festival. There they learned what groundwater is, how it moves, how we all rely on it, and planted the seeds for a lifetime of groundwater stewardship. Many kids even got to see firsthand what a well drilling rig looked like, and were fascinated by the process of tapping the resource that brought water to their homes. Wayne was instrumental in created “Wally and Wanda Water” water drop costumes that made the rounds at parades, fairs, festivals and home shows throughout Nebraska. He and his wife, Jean, even donned those costumes from time to time, bringing another element of fun to learning about groundwater to both kids and their parents.

Wayne’s hometown of Trenton, Nebraska also became a Groundwater Guardian thanks to, you guessed it, Wayne’s leadership. He wanted the broader community to know about the water they drank and that its protection was up to them. He spoke at meetings and events, pulled a float in area parades promoting the Groundwater Guardian team and groundwater, championed wellhead protection efforts, and volunteered significant time and expertise to other Groundwater Foundation educational programs.

Wayne Madsen receives the
Kremer Award in 2000
Wayne was a well-respected groundwater professional – he served on the Nebraska Well Drillers Association Board of Directors as its President and chaired the Public Affairs Committees. He worked with the Nebraska Legislature to adopt water well licensing laws, state water well construction standards, and continuing education requirements for water well professionals. His fellow groundwater professionals even named an award after him – the Wayne Madsen Award for Community Service.

The vision Wayne had for the future water professionals is here. You can follow his example for community engagement and education by getting involved with the Groundwater Foundation. Supporting the Foundation’s youth education and community action programs will help create a bright future for groundwater.

Friday, May 17, 2019

BLOG: Free Educator Toolkit

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

The Groundwater Foundation has compiled a variety of educational tools and resources into a convenient downloadable Educator Toolkit, available for free on the Foundation’s website.

The Toolkit is organized by age level, making it easy for elementary, middle, and high school educators to find the tools to best suit their classrooms or extracurricular setting. There are also a series of tools appropriate for all age groups.

The featured tool for both elementary and middle school ages is the Awesome Aquifer Kit. The additional resources can be used to supplement the curriculum.

Elementary resources include fun hands-on activities like the story of Frannie the Fish, Growing with Groundwater, word searches and crossword puzzles, Upcycled Conservation Flowers, Clean Water Challenge, and many more.

For middle school educators, find lesson plans and student worksheets, plus instructions for activities like You Be the Judge, Contamination on the Move, Water Quality Survey, and other free tools.

For high school educators, the featured tool is the Hydrogeology Challenge, a learning tool that introduces students to basic groundwater modeling concepts. Find a guide to Hydrogeology and links to other advanced activities.

There are additional free tools and resources appropriate for all ages - a demonstration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit, the Water1der and 30by30 free mobile apps, and the Groundwater Guardian and Groundwater Guardian Green Site programs.

Find the free educator toolkit, along with other great resources educators can use in the classroom and beyond to help students understand groundwater and how they can take action to protect it, visit

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 2 - Groundwater}

Welcome to the first stop on Frannie’s deep dive into the water cycle! Today’s topic, and the first bead on the water cycle bracelet, is groundwater!

Groundwater is the water beneath the surface of the ground that fills the spaces in the soil and gravel.  An aquifer is a collection of groundwater that’s held within a permeable layer of rock, sand, or gravel.  Aquifers can lie a few feet below the ground and be recharged with rain and floodwaters (Frannie learned that these are called unconfined aquifers) or be hundreds or thousands of feet inside the earth, trapped for hundreds of years beneath an impermeable layer like shale (confined aquifers).

Aquifer storage capacity is the amount of water that an aquifer’s material can hold when it’s totally full. When an area experiences a lot of long, severe droughts and the sands, soils, and gravel settle, an aquifer can lose its ability to hold as much water as it once could.  Reread the “Seeing an Aquifer from Space” blog Frannie wrote a few weeks ago for a quick refresher on storage capacity and storage capacity loss.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about aquifers and the groundwater in them is the flow! Groundwater certainly moves down through the ground from the surface, but did you know it also flows horizontally? Like a river, groundwater will flow “downhill” or down the slope of layers that make up the aquifer. Unlike a river, groundwater takes much longer to travel. A drop of water in a river might be able to travel up to 7 feet in one second, but a drop traveling through the ground might take a couple of days to travel the same distance.

These time of travel calculations are very useful to hydrogeologists when they need to predict how quickly groundwater will move and where it’s going.  Flow direction and time of travel can be affected by many things, including different points of discharge, which just happens to be the next bead on the bracelet!

Next time, Frannie will talk about different kinds of discharge and share the really cool connection between groundwater and volcanoes. See you then!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

BLOG: Big Science Celebration

by Jane Griffin, Groundwater Foundation

Science is amazing. From biology to chemistry to physics to hydrogeology and every field in between, it's what makes the world go around. Last weekend I got to attend the Big Science Celebration, which is the culmination of the COSI Science Festival. COSI, or Center of Science and Industry, is a nationally-esteemed science center located in Columbus, Ohio focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) topics with interactive exhibits, galleries, live shows, a Planetarium, and digital learning lab, along with educational outreach programs.

The Big Science Celebration included booths and exhibitors doing fun, hands-on learning about all different types of science in our every day lives. I was there showcasing our Awesome Aquifers activity and teaching young scientists about groundwater.

It was a great day to teach about groundwater recharge thanks to the rain that fell most of the day, but didn't dampen the excitement or spirit of the kids and adults I got to interact with as they enthusiastically learned about groundwater terminology, movement, contamination, connection to surface water, and how we use groundwater every day.

My number one takeaway from Big Science Celebration? We have an outstanding next generation of scientists and engineers! These youngsters are going to do great things, and we need to continue to support their interest in groundwater and science as they grow to be our leaders.

Thank you kids, for bringing sunshine through your joy of discovering and understanding one of our most precious resources - groundwater! And kudos to the parents who accompanied their kids to the event, making it possible for them to enjoy the magic of science. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

BLOG: Giving in the Month of May

Can you believe it's May?

On May 30, the Groundwater Foundation is once again participating in Give to Lincoln Day, which promotes philanthropy in our hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Any gifts given to the Groundwater Foundation between now and May 30 through this link help us earn a portion of a $450,000 match fund from the Lincoln Community Foundation and its sponsors.

We're proud to be part of our city, and proud of the work we do locally. We work with teachers, students, and various parts of our community to foster groundwater education and protection efforts.

Please remember groundwater on Give to Lincoln Day, and make your gift to help more people understand groundwater - the water Lincoln drinks - and take action to protect it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 1 - An Overview}

The water cycle is probably something that you’ve already learned in school. You know that water goes into the sky, forms a cloud, and then comes down as rain or snow to re-enter the earth and do it all again.

But the water cycle isn’t as much of a circle as you might think. Sometimes a water droplet might go through a plant, into a glacier, or even enter your body when you take a drink on a hot day.

Frannie wants to take a closer look at the different parts of the water cycle over the next few weeks to get to know all the different paths a water droplet can take, but before we can do that, we should review the basics.

Do you have your water cycle bracelet you made two weeks ago? Great! You can use that to follow along as we review the parts of the water cycle.

Frannie’s bracelet starts with an orange bead, which means our first stop will be groundwater. Groundwater is the water that’s underground. It fills the empty spaces between gravel and soil and is found in many different soil layers. In the next blog, Frannie will dive down into those layers and talk about aquifers, storage, and flow.

The next bead is black, which represents discharge. When we’re talking about the water cycle, discharge simply means that groundwater leaves the ground and enters another part of the water cycle.  Many people know that groundwater discharge is connected to rivers and oceans, but did you know that it’s also connected to volcanoes?! Frannie can’t wait to show you how!

The third bead is light blue and represents surface water.  Defining this one is easy because it’s the water we see around us in puddles on the sidewalk, lakes, and in the ocean. But as you might know, surface water is intertwined with all parts of the water cycle. Frannie will swim through all kinds of surface water to show you just how strong those connections are.

Evaporation is the dark blue bead that comes next on the bracelet. Evaporation is the process of water going from a liquid state into a gaseous state. You can actually see evaporation happen when you make a cup of hot chocolate. When you mix hot water and hot chocolate mix in your cup, you still have the liquid form that makes up the hot chocolate that you drink. The steam that rises from the top is also water, but it’s been heated to the point that it turns into a gas.  Frannie will share a little bit about how the sun heats and evaporates surface water, but she is excited to also dive in to the lesser known processes of “evaporation” from plants and mountains.

Condensation is the white bead, chosen because the largest collections of condensed water float in the sky above our heads: clouds. Condensation has to do with one of water’s unique properties of adhesion, or stickiness. Water molecules really like to adhere, or stick, together. After the water vapor has risen into the sky, it cools down and is drawn together to form a cloud. But clouds don’t just stay in one place. If they did, it would be raining over the oceans all of time. Frannie wants you to help her explore how water is transported through the clouds.

The yellow bead represents precipitation, a part of the water cycle we all know and love.  Precipitation is a fancy word to describe any kind of water falling from the sky onto the ground. It’s rain! It’s snow! It’s hail and sleet and mist! Frannie will look at different types of precipitation as well as spending some time with a peculiar way water gets from the sky to the ground, a process called deposition.

The second to last bead, green this time, is our runoff bead. Runoff is water that drains or flows off of something, like when it rains on the top of hill and the water flows quickly towards the bottom. But what happens when precipitation doesn’t land on the ground or on surface water? What happens if it a rain drop falls on a leaf on the top of a tree or a snowflake stays on your eyelashes? Frannie isn’t sure, but she’s excited to find out.

The last bead on Frannie’s bracelet is red and the last blog in this series will talk about recharge. Recharge sounds like a confusing topic, but Frannie has a helpful analogy to clear it up for you. Imagine you have a phone that is at 100% battery. That phone is like an aquifer that’s completely full. When you use the phone, the battery storage is slowly used up. Using up energy from your phone battery is similar to when groundwater is discharged from an aquifer. When the phone battery gets low, you have to refill the battery. How do you do that? You charge it! Recharge is the process that refills groundwater so that it’s there for us to use again and again.  Recharge can be done naturally, like when rain seeps and percolates through the ground below. Frannie has also heard about something called artificial recharge, so she’ll do some research on that too.

So that’s the water cycle! It’s a bit longer and more complicated than you might have originally thought, but Frannie is excited to go on this learning journey with you.

If you’re excited to learn more about the water cycle, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!  See you next time when Frannie gets into groundwater!