Wednesday, July 8, 2020

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {TAPS Manual Part 1: Improperly Abandoned Wells}

Frannie's friends at the Groundwater Foundation recently published the second edition of the Training About Protecting the Source (TAPS) Manual. The manual guides users through hands-on activities that explore potential threats to groundwater and challenges them to think about what can be done to protect this key drinking water source.

This manual can be used inside the classroom and is aligned to the national Next Generation Science Standards, but Frannie loves just learning about groundwater, no matter where she is. For the next few weeks, you can join her as she works through the different activities. 

Frannie will be using the Groundwater Foundation's Awesome Aquifer Kit, but if you don't have one, you can follow along with materials that might be found around your home.

Today's activity is....Improperly Abandoned Wells.

It's not uncommon to find old wells which are either out or service or no longer usable. These are called abandoned wells. Abandoned or forgotten wells can pose risks to the physical safety of people, livestock, or equipment. They can also become a direct channel for pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals, to flow directly into groundwater. It is required that these wells be sealed, or decommissioned according to state guidelines, but what happens if they are not?

For this activity, you will need:
  • Awesome Aquifer Kit, OR
    • Plastic box
    • Gravel
    • Plastic tube
    • Clay
    • Nylon
    • Rubber band
    • Food coloring
  • Aluminum Foil (heavy duty recommended)
  • Pencil, Pen, or Marker
  • 16 oz cup of water

Activity Steps

1. Read through all the instructions first before you begin to build the model. Make sure you have all the needed materials and supplies.

2. Prepare your materials by filling the plastic box with gravel until it is about ¼-½ full and, if you choose, lightly dyeing the cup of water blue.

3. Add 1/5-1/4 of the water to the box. Do not fill water to the top of the gravel. (This will represent an aquifer.)

4. Create an impermeable, or confining, layer using the foil. This should be approximately the length and width as the inside of container. You can use the lid of the Awesome Aquifer kit as a pattern. Use heavy duty foil or make a double layer of foil.

5. Once you have a piece of foil that fits inside the container, make a mark on the foil about two inches towards the center from one of the short sides of the box. Place the foil on top of the gravel being careful not to puncture the foil.
6. Roll the clay into a long, skinny roll and use it to seal the edges of the foil to the box. You have now created a confined aquifer.

7. Model a well with the plastic tubing by covering one end of the  tube with the nylon, securing it with a rubber band.
8. Insert the well (well screen/nylon end first) at the spot marked earlier on the foil. You 
can use a pencil or pen to puncture the foil in order to get your well inserted.
9. Add more gravel on top of the foil and around the well until the container is about ½-¾ full.

10. Apply colored water to the gravel surface evenly. Make sure to pour the same amount all over the surface and the well.

11. Observe where the colored water travels.

Frannie noticed that, even though she had formed a water tight seal around the boundary of the aquifer, when she poured "polluted" dyed water over the gravel it would flow through the hole in the foil that was made by the well.

Frannie imagined that she was living on top of that aquifer, a short drive away from the abandoned well. She imagined that she depended on the aquifer to supply water for her daily needs and the needs of her friends and family. If the pink-purple water actually carried harsh chemicals like those often found in household cleaners, herbicides, and pesticides, she could have gotten really sick once the plume arrived at a well on her property.

Now Frannie needs your help: how can we solve this problem? How can we prevent the pink purple water from entering the aquifer? How can we get the pink-purple water out once it gets in? Do you know?

Send in your answers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and we'll share those ideas next week!

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