Friday, July 26, 2019

BLOG: One Person Doesn't Leave a Legacy

by Jennifer Wemhoff, Groundwater Foundation

Groundwater Guardian teams are often the result of the interest of a community’s sparkplug - someone who is passionate, committed, and capable. That’s certainly been the case in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which was first designated as aGroundwater Guardian in 1998 under the leadership of Lisa Corbitt.

Lisa was first introduced to the Groundwater Guardian program at a conference in Chicago in the fall of 1997. Hearing different Groundwater Guardian teams talk about what they were doing in their communities - water festivals, educational outreach, establishing regulatory requirements - inspired Lisa to get a team going in Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg County is an urban county home to over one million people. The County encompasses 546 square miles and includes the City of Charlotte as the county seat. Most people in the county get their drinking water through Charlotte’s municipal water source, Mountain Island Lake, a surface water source. Approximately 15% of the population relies on groundwater for drinking water, industrial water, or irrigation from an unconfined bedrock aquifer.

Lisa’s background as a Licensed Geologist and 31 years of working on groundwater issues in Mecklenburg County as a Hydrogeologist and Program Manager gives her a unique perspective on the County’s water resources. Though groundwater provides a small portion of the city’s water source, protecting it and raising awareness has long been a goal of the Lisa and her team. Over 1,800 groundwater contamination sites can be found in the county, ranging from a leaking home heating oil tank to a Superfund site.

The County’s programs and approaches have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. “In the beginning we were in the towns and schools educating high school students to teach elementary school students about the groundwater system through Aquifer Clubs, and annually we would have a Water Festival,” she says, which were great ways to reach students.

Then in 2005, the Mecklenburg County Groundwater Well Regulations were adopted. About the same time, the Learn and Serve Grant the team had been relying on stopped funding the type of educational programs they were offering, and the school system began implementing new restrictions on student involvement.

As a result, the team combined with other local efforts and shifted its focus to new water supply wells, identifying and sampling wells near contamination sites, and educating Water Well Contractors as well as Realtors. Team members are still able to participate in youth education efforts, such as classroom presentations, Science Olympiad, and Envirothon.

Before Lisa retired in December 2018, she laid the foundation for the efforts of the Groundwater Guardian team she’s led for over two decades to continue.

“Mecklenburg County’s GroundwaterAdvisory Board was established in 2005 as a requirement of the Groundwater Well Regulations,” she explains. “As long as the regulations are in effect there will be a citizen advisory board,” which is part of the Groundwater Guardian team. Staff members from Mecklenburg County Groundwater & Wastewater have taken leadership roles in education outreach as part of the Groundwater Guardian team’s efforts.

As for her personal legacy? Lisa is humble: “One person does not leave a legacy. Each success we’ve accomplished is because we have had a great team working together.”

Over 30 years ago, she was hired to establish a groundwater program. The program has gone from zero to:

  • Groundwater Well Regulations for permitting, repairing and abandoning water supply wells
  • Requirements for areas of regulated groundwater usage 
  • Groundwater Contamination Database 
  • A program that identifies and samples wells within 1500 feet of a known contamination site (Mecklenburg County Priority List) 
  • A public portal for well and groundwater contamination information (Well Information System) 
  • A public portal for permitting and abandoning monitoring wells (MAPS) 
  • Combined Groundwater Program with the Onsite Wastewater Program to address an entire piece of property with groundwater in mind. 
Groundwater Guardian has been a memorable part of Lisa’s career. And the best part of it? “The building of collaborative relationships and friendships with people across the United States that care about protecting the groundwater resource,” she says. “We openly share ideas and information. We learn from each other on what works well and what does not work well. We encourage each other to use our ideas. When one community is successful we are all successful.”

“It’s been rewarding to help individuals that have found out their well is contaminated and don’t know what to do next. I’ve had the opportunity to work beside them in making sure that they have a safe drinking water source,” she says.

After all, groundwater is the water we drink. And we thank Lisa for being an active partner through Groundwater Guardian and working to protect it for over 30 years.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 7 - Precipitation}

This is the seventh part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface waterevaporation, and condensation.
Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! The yellow bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet represents precipitation. Even though it’s a big word, we are all very familiar with many different kinds of precipitation like rain, hail, sleet, and snow!

Precipitation is water that falls from the sky. The tiny water droplets are big enough to form visible clouds but not yet big enough to fall. Precipitation happens when millions of cloud droplets collide together to form a single raindrop or through another process where ice crystals are rapidly formed into snow or hail.
One quick clarification, though: fog and mist are not types of precipitation. They are actually suspensions, which means that the water vapor has not condensed enough to precipitate.

Precipitation is not the only way water can move from the sky to the ground. Back when Frannie was investigating evaporation, she touched on the concept of sublimation, where solid forms of water can become vapor without ever entering the liquid phase.

Deposition, or desublimation, is the opposite of that. In sub-freezing air, water vapor can turn directly into ice. It’s very possible you’ve already seen this process in action. On very cold winter days, water vapor goes through process of deposition to become the frost, also known as hoarfrost, that you can see coating plant stems, spiderwebs, and wires.
Join Frannie next time as she finds out where all that water goes once its back on the ground!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

BLOG: Proactively Addressing Nitrate Contamination

by Jane Griffin, Groundwater Foundation Executive Director

At the Groundwater Foundation, we always say that your community’s drinking water in your hands.

This is specifically the case for residents of Springfield, Nebraska. We've been working with a group of stakeholders, along with various state and local agencies, consultants, and involved community members, to develop a Drinking Water Protection Management Plan. Springfield's water situation is one faced by many small communities - its drinking water wells are threatened by nitrate contamination.

The City of Springfield is taking a proactive approach to their nitrate issue, and developing a Management Plan to address the rising nitrate levels before they become problematic. To do this, all the Springfield community needs to be involved to help protect their drinking water source - groundwater - now and for the future.

Community members are invited to attend an Open House on July 30 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Springfield Community Building (104 Main Street). This won't be a typical boring open house with talking heads at a microphone - it will include fun, hands-on activities to learn about groundwater for kids and adults of all ages, agency representatives to answer all questions about groundwater quality and quantity in Springfield, and information about the new well that will serve the community.

Be part of this process and let your voice be heard about the future of Springfield's most precious resource - its drinking water. Join us, and remember, your community’s drinking water is in your hands!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {The Water Cycle: Part 6 - Condensation}

This is the sixth part of Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle. Please check out her previous blog on the overview of the water cycle and her deep dives into groundwaterdischargesurface water, and evaporation.

Welcome back to Frannie’s exploration of the water cycle! Condensation is represented by the white bead on Frannie’s water cycle bracelet. Before we can understand condensation, we have to look at one of water’s coolest properties.

Water droplets have 2 amazing superpowers. The first one is called “cohesion”, which means that the molecules like to stick together. You can see this water property in action with a very simple experiment.

1) Fill a glass of water to the rim.
2) Once it looks full, continue to add water drop by drop.

Even though the water is technically over the rim of the glass, it isn’t spilling because the drops are cohering to each other.

A water droplet's second superpower is known as "adhesion", which means that molecules like to stick to other things. You can see this water property in action in another very simple experiment.

1) On a warm day, fill up a glass with ice and water.
2) Leave it out on a table for a few minutes.

Observe the water that collects on the outside of the glass. The glass isn't leaking - water vapor from the air is cooling down and sticking, or adhering, to the outside of the glass.

After water vapor rises into the air, it starts to cool and seek out non-gaseous particles, known as Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCNs). When water vapor makes contact with CCNs, it adheres. It then cools and transitions from vapor to liquid droplets, as clouds would have in low and intermediate elevations, or solid ice crystals, as clouds would have high up in the atmosphere. Clouds grow when more water molecules cool and cohere together in the process known as condensation.

Condensation is an exothermic process, which means it releases heat. Convection, which is movement of a fluid in response to heat, and advection, which is the movement of a material that is suspended in a fluid such as a CCN, are two other important processes at this stage in the water cycle.  They are responsible not only for carrying clouds over the ocean and land, but also for our next step in the water cycle – the precipitation of water from the clouds.

Join Frannie next time as she heads back down to the ground with precipitation!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

BLOG: Frannie's Upcycling for the 4th of July

Frannie the Fish loves looking for new ways to upcycle. Upcycling is when you take old, useless things and make them into something new. Upcycling helps protect our water supplies by reducing the amount of waste that gets into our landfills and prevents you from buying new products that take lots of water to make.

Since this week is the 4th of July, Frannie wanted to make some patriotic decorations. Her first stop was the recycling bin to see if she had any unwanted items she could use for her project. She found lots of used paper. She decided this paper would be perfect for making one cut stars!

She also found a few other things laying around the house to help her make the stars. Here's what you will need to make stars of your own:

  • Used paper, preferably with one clean side. 
  • A pen that is out of ink, or a broken mechanical pencil
  • Markers (for 4th of July you might want to use red and blue) 
  • Scissors 
  • Tape
  • Optional: Any other craft supplies you might have around the house 
  • Optional: Glue to glue the other craft supplies to your star

Start by making your your star. You can trace a star if you have a star stencil, OR you can use the one cut star method. To make a one cut star, use the directions below or checkout this video that gives a great explanation of how to make them!

1. Start with an 8.5" x 11" piece of used paper

 2. Fold it in half horizontally (the short way, not the long way)

3. Create horizontal and vertical creases by folding it in half again, unfolding it, and then folding it in half the vertically. Unfold it again so it is just folded in half once with creases going up and down, and side to side.

4. Starting at the vertical crease (the up and down one) fold the left top corner to the horizontal crease (the side to side crease).

5. Fold the same corner back so the top folded edge aligns along the fold you created in the last step.

6. Fold the upper right corner towards the left corner along the last fold you made.

7. Fold the right corner back until the top folded edge aligns with the edge from your last fold.

8. Now it’s time for your one cut. Cut at an angle (as shown) on the side with the smaller triangle.

The small piece that falls off is your star! Unfold it and you’re ready to decorate.

Decorate your star however you'd like. Frannie decided to do a flag theme. She colored the star and then put a few left over craft supplies on it to make it sparkle!

Finally, Frannie taped the used pen to the back of the star so she can hold it at the 4th of July parade!

Frannie doesn't want her new decoration to go to waste after the 4th of July, so she plans on using it as a plant decoration! Can you think of any other ways to use your new decoration around the house?

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!