Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BLOG: Water Conscious Ways To Take Care Of Your Lawn

by Sally Phillips, Freelance Writer

About 30 percent of an average American family of four's 400 gallons of daily water use is devoted to outdoor uses. With the number of homeowners increasing, households will use more water for both indoor and outdoor uses, like irrigating gardens and lawns. Your lawn can be one of the most beautiful places in your home. However, lawns need special attention that includes regular watering, mowing, and replanting, depending on the season, occasion or your pets. Nevertheless, watering your lawn and ensuring it stays pretty throughout the season should not interfere with a commitment to groundwater conservation and protection. Below are three ways to remain water conscious while taking care of your lawn.

Install a functional hybrid irrigation system
A beautiful lawn is the reflection of all the hours, water, and care invested in it. Installing an irrigation system that runs on a schedule saves you the time and money to hire someone to take care of it. A functional sprinkler system affords you the luxury of watering your lawn while on vacation and a drip irrigation system conserves even more water than a sprinkler. Using the two together, such as sprinkles for the middle of the lawn and a subsurface drip system for your lawn edges ensures water efficiency. Ensure that all leaks are fixed and the system checked and tested regularly. Leaks also translate to wastage of water, increasing your utility bill and also results in a waterlogged lawn.

Adjust your watering schedule
During midday and hot summer afternoons, the water evaporation rate is higher due to the temperature increase. Temperature affects a soil’s ability to absorb and retain moisture, which in turn requires more water to be applied to your lawn. Change your watering schedule to early in the morning when the grass is still dewy, as it is more likely to retain all the water. You can buy a programmable water timer for this specific purpose. Another amazing idea would include heavy watering your lawn often. Lawns watered in this way can survive up to seven days without a second session, cutting back on both the water and manpower.

Tailor your grass to your soil
If you are planting your grass for the first time, or are replanting it either due to damage from the winter season or a disease, then consider hiring a professional. There are different types of grass, and all of them demand various inputs to thrive. Planting the wrong type of grass can bring along lots of challenges, and even require expensive and harmful chemical treatments and a lot of water. For instance, St. Augustine, a warm season grass, requires watering every 3-6 days to grow beautifully. If your soil is not alkaline, then planting this type of grass soil will lead to wasted water, compared to a grass that naturally grows in your area.

Water conservation is a critical aspect of environmental conservation and this includes doing your best to maximize the available natural resources. Your lawn is also important as it is an area to relax, entertain and play. A creative way to avoid compromising on either is to harvest your rainwater for lawn irrigation. However, it is the small things that count, and avoiding water wastage in such small ways really makes a bigger difference.

Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. 

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

BLOG: Varied Paths and Careers in Water

by Jane Griffin, The Groundwater Foundation

It was just over ten years ago that I entered into a career in the water world when I accepted my current position at the Groundwater Foundation. A comment that I have consistently heard during the years is the water industry needs new young people to fill the jobs that will soon be available in abundance. Early on when I thought about this comment, I immediately envisioned water operators. Clearly the picture is a lot bigger than just water operators. 

I realized how far-reaching jobs that impact the water industry are when listening to a lecture given by Mogens Bay, Executive Chairman, Valmont Industries and Robert Meaney, Sr. Vice President, Valmont Industries – Retired about global water security. Bay stated “more than a question of water scarcity we are faced with the question of developing and implementing proper management practices and sound policy on a global level.” Bay continued his comments expanding on the career opportunities that exist to address this critical situation.

Do you want to be part of the solution and ensure that future generations have a safe and sufficient water supply? There are so many paths that you can follow, anything from from marketing to science. I want to share how some of today’s water experts I know ended up in their job. For some it was a clear, straightforward path; for others it was serendipitous.
Brian Dunnigan, PE,  Water Resources Team Leader, Olsson Associates

Story: I was working as a bridge designer when I saw an intriguing job advertised in the paper – to do floodplain mapping work. Pursuing the job led to a 25-year career in floodplain management and opened the door to other opportunities for me in water resources.

Advice: Be open-minded to all opportunities that you have an interest in.  You never know which opportunity may lead to your dream job.  Sometimes things just happen!

Matt Ondrejko, Vice President Global Marketing, Valmont Industries

Story: When I was considering taking a job with Valmont Industries in the Irrigation division I was doing a lot of research on the company. I came across a video online that showed former CEO Mogens Bay talking about the need to manage and use water in the most efficient and effective way possible. He then made a statement that by 2050 the world would have 9 Billion people to feed, clothe and house. That was when it dawned on me what a great opportunity it would be to help be part of the solution for better utilizing one of our most limited resources – fresh water.

Advice: Follow your passion but be willing to deviate along the trip – take new roads. The path you start on may not be the one you end up on or even finish on. Be willing to try new things but stay true to your core values and who you are along the journey!

Jim Goeke, Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska –Retired

Story: My choice to study geology was a natural outcome sparked by my delight collecting fossils in the strip coal mines in Illinois with my mother when I was supposed to be fishing. The more I studied geology, the more I was moved by the vast amounts of time involved. I loved the people in the discipline and being able to be outside in awe inspiring locales. It was an easy transition to get into hydrogeology because simply I have always cherished a cool drink of water and I have been always fascinated by being getting that cool water out of the ground!

Advice: investigate summer employment with a local well driller or possible summer employment with the USGS or your state geologic survey.
Marian Singer, CEO, Wellntel

Story: I was a strategy consultant doing voice of customer/market research for Fortune 250s in energy and water.  I spent a year studying the groundwater market for a large equipment manufacturer and was stunned to learn that 1M of the 15M private domestic and ag wells in the US fail every year, costing $1B or more in emergency spend and that most of the time, no one really knew what was going on with groundwater.  It seemed to me that, with the right technology and data in the cloud, each of those 15M private wells was a candidate to become a monitoring well, providing the insight well owners and communities need to manage sustainably.  After a year of research and investigation Wellntel was started.

Advice: The scope and variety of potential roles and types of companies in the water industry will continue to grow and diversify as all players - utilities, well owners, equipment companies, communities, commodity markets, technologies companies and many more - wrestle with the need to price and sustainably manage one of our most important natural resources.

James Burks, President, Senninger Irrigation

Story: I grew up with a father fully dedicated to agricultural irrigation and feel blessed to have had great opportunities to pursue the same career. To be a part of conserving such a valuable resource while feeding people is extremely gratifying. 

Advice: Sounds cliché, but following your heart helps to ensure a career aligned with your God given strengths and passions. I’m not sure who originally coined the phrase; “Find something that you truly enjoy doing and you’ll never work a day in your life”, but I’ve always thought it to be spot on.
Rachael Herpel Assistant Director, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute

Story: It all began when I met Bob Kuzelka, who offered me an assistantship based on my policy experience. Before I met Bob I had envisioned myself as a town planner, but I’ve been focused on water ever since.

Advice: Technical expertise is important, but it’s the interpersonal skills that really set you apart.  Being known for working hard and keeping your commitments means a lot.

Bob Swanson, Director – Retired, USGS Nebraska Water Science Center

Story: ’Twas serendipity that led me into the water world. I had graduated at Doane with Biology and Environmental Sciences majors and was planning to head off to Montana for grad school, but couldn’t for another year. I had internships with Crete Mills (didn’t want to be a lab rat) and USDA ARS. The ARS appealed to me, but crop science wasn’t a priority. I wanted to get into natural science. An acquaintance told me that the USGS was hiring and I should look into it. I thought, “I can do that for year.” It turned into a lifelong career!

Advice: Go for the internships - USGS, DNR, Groundwater Foundation. Paid or unpaid, it doesn’t matter, the experience does. I’ve had about a dozen interns decide to change degree paths and go into hydrology just on the experience. We’ve also had our share of the hydrologist hires that have realized after 4 years of school and getting hired by USGS that water isn’t for them. I rather know it was what I wanted before graduating than after and the internships are the key.

Bill Alley, Director of Science and Technology, National Groundwater Association 

Story: My interest in water began when I participated as an undergraduate in a study of acid mine drainage in Colorado during the summer. 

Advice: Keep an open mind and try to get a good grounding in the basic sciences.

So, as you can see, the paths to the careers are as varied as the jobs themselves.  As you start or transition in your career keep an open mind, you never know, you may get a degree in Art History – and end up with a motivating, challenging and rewarding job at the Groundwater Foundation

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Irrigation: What is it and Why is it Important?}

Especially in the hot, dry summer months, plants need water to keep growing and producing food.  At home, we have to remember to water our house and garden plants. Farmers have to remember to water, or irrigate, acres and acres of crops.

Irrigation is a fancy word for watering plants to help them grow.  Of course it’s important to water plants when it’s hot out, but farmers also use irrigation to help increase crop density, or the number of crops that can be grown in an area.

Farmers are in the business of water.  Healthy crops need water and a lot of healthy crops need a lot of water. Farmers practice smart irrigation techniques that help save themselves thousands of dollars each year.

Did you know that 40% of the world's water is farmed on irrigated cropland? And almost half of that is land lies within China, India, and the US. In the early days of irrigation, very little water conservation equipment or technology was available and large amounts of water were lost to evaporation or runoff.  

Technology has advanced significantly to maximize water efficiency. Some practices are simple and are things you probably do at home, such as watering during the coolest parts of the day to reduce evaporation. Some tools however, such as center pivot systems, use software on computers and mobile devices to control how much water crops receive, where the water goes, and when the irrigation system is turned on or off.
Visit The Groundwater Foundation's website to learn more about irrigation and check back on Wednesdays as Frannie explores how groundwater and irrigation help grow the food we eat.