Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Wellhead Protection: What is it?}

This is Part 1 in Frannie's exploration of Wellhead Protection.   Look for her upcoming blogs to learn more about what it is, who protects the wellheads, and why it's important.


Frannie is learning more and more about how to protect the groundwater in her community.  Recently, she saw a sign just outside of her city that said "Wellhead Protection Area".  She didn't know what that meant, so she went to The Groundwater Foundation's website to find out.
"Wellhead protection" is a fancy term for the idea that we should protect the land around the area where a community gets their water. Many communities use wells to withdraw groundwater and then transport it to a water treatment plant where they treat it and pipe it into the public water system.  Growth and development in a community is important, but it also brings the potential to deplete or contaminate the water everyone drinks.
Each state has a different approach to wellhead protection but will generally involve 5 key points:
1) Delineating the Wellhead Protection Area.  Several maps, containing data on groundwater flow and geology and geographic boundaries, are combined into a single map that determines the land area that could influence the groundwater supply.
2) Conducting a Potential Contaminant Source Inventory. This just means that information is collected about all of the sources in the areas that could potentially contaminate the groundwater.  This may include farms, gardens, factories, or other types of industry.
3) Contaminant Source Management. All of the information that was collected in the Potential Contaminant Source Inventory is put to use to develop best practices where businesses can safely use their materials without threatening the groundwater.
4) Contingency Planning. No wellhead protection plan is complete without a plan for the worst case scenario.  In the event of a well that has to be shut-down due to contamination, natural disaster, physical breakdown, or any other cause, a community must have an idea of short-term and long-term drinking water supply replacements.
5) Education. A community is made up of it's people, so ultimately it is the people in the area who have to protect their water.  A community should make their wellhead protection plan available to the public as well as provide workshops or opportunities on social media for people to learn about the plan.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

5 Things to Learn About Groundwater with the Awesome Aquifer Kit

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

The Awesome Aquifer Kit is one of the most powerful and fun groundwater education tools in our arsenal - we just add water! The Kit's design lets users "see" groundwater in ways they can't in reality.

The Kit includes a step-by-step instruction guide, definitions and explanations, and materials to teach youth and adults alike about:

1. The connection between groundwater and surface water.
The kit's gravel is used to "build" an aquifer and a lake, and water is added to it to learn about terms like recharge, water table, saturated/unsaturated zones, surface water, and discharge.

2. Wells and how they work.
By using a hand pump and tubing, the kit teaches about well siting, pumping, drawdown, depletion, and safe yield. Kids (and adults!) love to pump their aquifers!

3. Porosity and permeability.
Experiments explain different materials' capacity to store water, and have water move through them.

4. How groundwater becomes contaminated and can be cleaned up.
This is perhaps one of the most eye-opening uses of the kit - to illustrate how a contamination reaches groundwater. Food coloring and water create a contaminant plume, and the well is "pumped" to show how the contaminant moves. Activated charcoal and coffee filters are then used to "clean" the contaminated water.

The Awesome Aquifer Kit can be used in a variety of education settings, from a classroom to a water festival and everything in between. Get your Kit today!

Video demonstration
Additional Groundwater Information

Thursday, December 28, 2017

BLOG: A Look Back at 2017

by Jennifer Wemhoff, The Groundwater Foundation

As we quickly approach 2018, here's a quick look back at the happenings during 2017 at The Groundwater Foundation.

We debuted a new look! The Groundwater Foundation adopted a new organization logo, replacing the logo that had been in use since the early 1990s. Complementary logos were also created for the Groundwater Guardian and Green Site programs.

Jim Goeke joins the Groundwater Foundation Board of Directors. Jim is a groundwater legend in Nebraska. He spent many years with the University of Nebraska's Conservation and Survey Division, becoming intimately familiar with the Ogallala Aquifer and its water riches.

The 2017 National Conference visited Boise. Boise spoiled us with beautiful fall weather and sunny skies, and the conference was a great opportunity to connect with old and new groundwater friends and peers.

Groundwater Foundation President Jane Griffin was appointed a member of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council (NEEAC). The Council is made up of representatives outside the federal government who provide EPA with advice on environmental education.

We educated over 30 Nebraska educators in an intensive week-long workshop as part of the Water Education Leaders for Secondary Science (WELS2) project with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

We continued as an active member of the Nebraska MEDS Coalition. The Coalition works to promote safe drug disposal as part of protecting water supplies and the environment, as well as preventing accidental overdose and abuse. Over 300 pharmacies in Nebraska take unused or expired medications back as part of the program.

The Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network met quarterly throughout 2017, including meetings for state Senators and staff at the Nebraska State Capitol and a tour of a community aquifer storage and restoration project. The Network brings together organizations across Nebraska working on wellhead protection.

Hydrogeology was part of the 30th anniversary of Science Olympiad during May's 2017 National Tournament. Hydrogeology involves simple computer groundwater modeling, and has been adapted for classroom use.

Jack Daniel named 2017 Kremer Award Winner. The retired administrator of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services earned the award for his leadership and contributions to the state's groundwater resources.

We're excited for 2018 and want you to be there for everything along the way. Get involved in one of our programs, become a member, and learn more about groundwater!