Making the invisible visible

Groundwater, because it is an invisible source of water, is difficult to understand. Yet as Minnesota’s reliance on groundwater increases, those charged with protecting it from pollution or depletion face the challenge of making this invisible resource visible as they promote best groundwater management practices.

In response, Freshwater led a team of groundwater and drinking water professionals from the Department of Health, Board of Water and Soil Resources, UMN-Water Resources Center, and the Department of Natural Resources in the design and development of a basic groundwater science and communication course for conservation professionals and decision-makers across Minnesota. The course, “Groundwater Basics for Resource Managers,” presents groundwater and surface water resources as part of a greater, interrelated system. This perspective leads to better understanding of local vulnerabilities and increased ability to address groundwater and surface water challenges. Clarity and confidence in understanding local groundwater results in more effective communication of challenges and solutions to communities and decision-makers.

The course, a series of online education modules, is hosted through the University of Minnesota and managed by UMN- Extension. It’s the first building block of a larger vision championed by the Interagency Groundwater Drinking Water Team to build capacity for groundwater and drinking water protection at the local level.  Future modules may be developed to address specific local needs. In addition, this basic course could be used in conjunction with face-to-face learning options to build relationships between individuals working together on local groundwater issues, as well as supporting community groundwater goals.

This multi-year project, completed this summer, was funded through an appropriation from the Clean Water Fund to the Minnesota Department of Health.

– Kris Meyer, program coordinator