water

Connecticut Institute of Water Resources

photo of a stream taken by UConn student Molly Cunninghma
Photo: Molly Cunningham

What do taking a trip to the beach, testing a well, and planting a new garden have in common? You guessed it—water. UConn is home to a state-wide organization focused on providing Connecticut’s citizens with information and research about all the water resources we encounter in our daily lives.

As the state’s land grant university, UConn’s College of Agriculture Health and Natural Resources became the home of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources (CTIWR) in 1964. The institute seeks to resolve state and regional water related problems and provide a strong connection between water resource managers and the academic community. CTIWR also shares water-related research and other information with the general public to bridge the gap between scientists and the community.

The institute is currently expanding and focusing more attention on community outreach with the arrival of new center director, Michael Dietz.

“Our goal is to increase visibility of the water research in language that the general public can understand and use in their daily lives,” says Dietz. “We want to become a one-stop shop for information about all kinds of water-related issues. Where can you go to get your water tested, up to date information about drought or water quality around the state, in addition to research reports and funding opportunities for scientists.”

Recent projects explored leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous from lawns, relationships between metals and organic matter in soils, and quantifying the impact of road salts on wetlands in Eastern Connecticut.

“UConn has some really talented water researchers from different disciplines who can help citizens in our state better understand issues that affect our water resources. Through CTIWR, we’ll make sure that these experts and citizens can come together, speak the same language, and learn from one another.”

Article by Jessica McBride, PhD

Reducing Winter Road Salt Use

snow plow on a street in Connecticut during winter stormExtension educator Mike Dietz focuses on protecting surface waters with green infrastructure techniques in his research and Extension work. Mike has been involved in the development of the Green Snow Pro program, and he is the Director of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources.

The scientific studies continue to pile up, and confirm the same thing: road salt is causing lots of problems in our streams and groundwater. The majority of salt applied is sodium chloride, also known as rock salt. In the absence of a new “miracle” deicer, salt will continue to be the most cost effective product for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the only way to reduce the impacts will be to reduce the amount that gets applied, while still keeping surfaces safe for travel.

New Hampshire began the “Green Snow Pro” voluntary salt applicator certification program to train municipal public works employees and private con- tractors. This training includes information about the science of salt, the downstream impacts of salt, how to properly apply given weather conditions, and how to calibrate equipment. An additional key component of the New Hampshire program is limited liability release: a property owner who hires a Green Snow Pro certified contracted has liability protection from slip and fall litigation.

Given the success of the program in New Hampshire, the Technology Transfer (T2) Center at UConn gathered professionals from UConn Extension, Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut Department of Public Health, municipal public works, and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adapt the program here in Connecticut. A pilot of the training was per- formed here at UConn in November 2017. UConn public works staff received a classroom and spreader calibration training. Mike Dietz maintains a monitoring station on Eagleville Brook downstream of campus. He was able to compare the amount of salt in runoff for the winter after the training, as compared to prior years (correcting for the number of storms). Substantial reductions were found: over 2,600 less tons of salt were used during the 2017- 2018 season, corrected for the number of storms. This resulted in a savings of over $313,000 in salt costs alone! A summary of these findings is currently under review at the Journal of Extension.

The statewide implementation of the Green Snow Pro program in Connecticut has begun: during the fall of 2018 the T2 center gave two separate trainings for municipal public works crews and more are being scheduled for this year. The group will continue to meet to work on the liability protection here in Connecticut, as well as expanding the offering to private contractors.

This effort has been a great collaboration of UConn educators, regulators, and public works professionals. The success of this program highlights the fact that education truly can have lasting environmental benefits.

Article by Mike Dietz

Got Geese?

Canada goose by pond
Image: Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Got Geese? If you’re trying to keep Canada Geese away from your pond, Pamm Cooper from our UConn Home & Garden Education Center has some strategies for you:

 
“The best way to try and dissuade Canada geese from becoming residents of your property is to make sure water edges of ponds or shorelines are not mowed directly to the water’s edge or banks. Allowing higher vegetation on banks between the water and grazing grounds does not allow geese, and especially baby geese, quick access to the water if they feel threatened. They like a clear view of the water when on land, and a clear view of land when in the water in areas where they will feed on shore. Once they are residents, they are harder to get to move elsewhere.
 
One effective deterrent is to spray grasses that they feed on with a repellent, the best of which taste like grape. They do not like grape, so this may work. Applications may need repeating after rains, or according to label instructions. It is applied by spraying. For more information: https://njaes.rutgers.edu/fs1217/

Is Your Well Water Contaminated?

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

Is your well water contaminated with road salt? Dr. Mike Dietz of the Connecticut Institute of Water Resources talked to NBC Connecticut last week about how we can reduce contamination.

“‘This is a worldwide problem. It’s a really big problem in the United States because the amount of salt that we’ve been applying has been increasing dramatically over the past few decades,’ he said.

Dietz says the only solution is to apply less salt. Over the winter, a UConn pilot program showed encouraging results, and saved the university $300,000.”

Read the full story:

Bedding Plant Program for Greenhouse Growers Offered

greenhouse flowers
Photo: Leanne Pundt

UConn Extension offers Bedding Plant Program for Greenhouse Growers

Get the latest information on insect and disease management, proper watering techniques and mixing pesticide formulations and network with fellow growersThis educational program will feature the following topics of interest to those who produce spring ornamental crops in the greenhouse:

  • Watering: Air and Water Balance in the Root-Zone

Rosa Raudales, Greenhouse Extension Specialist, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

  • Root Rots, Mildews, and Blights

Dr. Yonghao Li, CT Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, CT

  • Update on Managing Insects and Mites

Leanne Pundt, Extension Educator, UConn Extension, Torrington, CT

  • Pesticide Formulations

Candace Bartholomew, Pesticide Safety Educator, UConn Extension

 

For your convenience, this program will be offered in two separate locations.

  • January 29th, this program will be offered from 9:30 to 2:30 at the Litchfield County Extension Center at 843 University Drive in Torrington, CT.
  • February 14th, this program will be offered from 9:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Tolland County Extension Office at 24 Hyde Avenue in Vernon, CT.

 

Four Pesticide recertification credits available

Handouts, lunch and beverages will be included in your registration fee of $25.00.

Please make checks payable to the University of Connecticut and send to Litchfield County Extension Center, 843 University Drive, Torrington, CT 06790.  No credit card payments accepted.

For more information, contact Leanne Pundt, at 860.626.6855 or email: leanne.pundt@uconn.edu Click here to view program brochure and registration form.

The University of Connecticut is an equal opportunity program provider and employer.

Well Water: Protecting Your Well

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

There are a number of steps that a homeowner can take to help protect their private well.

  • Water should be diverted away from the wellhead to prevent the pooling and potential introduction of contaminated water  into the well.
  • Keep the well in good repair.  A faulty well can allow surface water to reach groundwater without filtering through the soil.
  • Use care when applying pesticides and fertilizers to lawns and gardens near the well (better yet, avoid use entirely if possible).  These products contain chemicals and/or nutrients that can contaminate well water.
  • Abandoned wells should be sealed.  They are a prime entryway for contaminants.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

Home Water Systems: Wells

water well Distric La Serra
Photo: Wikimedia

In Connecticut, approximately 15% of residents receive their drinking water from private wells. In rural areas of the state, that percentage increases to greater than 90%.

An owner of a private well is also a manager of the well.  As manager of the well, the homeowner is responsible for making sure that the water is safe to drink and the well is  not damaged or compromised.   Public water systems are required to regularly test water and meet federally set water quality standards.  Private wells are not required to test and meet standards except following installation and at time of sale of the property.

It is important to have a basic understanding of factors affecting well water, what to test for andwhere to have well water tested.  Practices to reduce the risk of contamination of well water are also important to the safety of drinking water.

Many homeowners are unaware of the recommendation to routinely test their private well.  A basic series of tests is recommended annually. Other tests should be conducted based on potential sources of contaminants that may affect the well. This would be based on the potential presence of naturally occurring contaminants or those introduced by human activities/land uses.

It is recommended that homeowners use a testing laboratory that is EPA certified to test. The EPA has certified laboratories to assure that the labs have the proper equipment to test for the contaminants that they advertise.  Not all environmental laboratories test for everything.  It is a good consumer practice to compare two or three labs to determine which best suits the consumer’s needs.

If the water tests indicate that there is a problem, information is available to help the homeowner understand what the problem is and what options are available to address the problem if needed.

There are a number of steps that homeowners can take that can help to protect the quality of water in the private well.

Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator

40 Gallon Challenge

faucet with running water
Photo: Kara Bonsack

Connecticut residents are invited to join the 40 Gallon Challenge and take on new practices to increase water conservation. The 40 Gallon Challenge is a national call for residents and businesses to reduce water use on average by 40 gallons per person, per day.

As a participant in the challenge, one commits to taking on additionalindoor and outdoor water savings activities. Impactful actions to choose from include: installing a “smart irrigation controller” that adjusts for temperature and precipitation (40 gallons daily savings), replacing an old, non-efficient showerhead with low flow showerhead (20 gallons daily savings), and fixing a leaky toilet and faucet (45 gallons daily savings).

Participation is open to residents and businesses of all states and counties. To sign up, visit http://www.40gallonchallenge.org/and fill out a pledge card.

By Angie Harris

Quantifying Water Use

Angie Harris“New York City is surrounded by water,” Angie Harris says, “I realized it was a great source of beauty, transportation, and recreation. But it was also contaminated and deeply problematic.” Angie grew up in Queens, New York. She realized water was a crucial resource of concern while an undergraduate at New York University studying environmental sciences.

The interdependent relationship of farming, water and land was also intriguing to Angie. Precipitation and ecology are critical to success in farming. She earned her masters’ degree in environmental science at the University of Rhode Island and worked as a research fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Global Change Research Program. Angie joined UConn Extension two years ago as the Program Coordinator for the Agriculture Water Security Project.

The Agriculture Water Security Project is part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)’s Regional Conservation Partnerships Program and promotes conservation assistance to agricultural producers. The program facilitates Extension’s work in ensuring farmers are thinking about and preparing for drought.

“I serve as a resource for farmers, gardeners, and homeowners to guide and advise them on water conservation and drought preparedness and management. I also serve as a network builder and connect them to other existing resources and organizations,” Angie says. She uses a combination of her education, and personal experience as a full-time farmer for three years in her role on the project. “My mission is to increase the adoption of conservation practices and activities throughout the state.”

Extension is assessing how much water farmers use, and completed a statewide water use survey on irrigation practices and water availability concerns. Next, a pilot metering project at 12 farms tracked their weekly water use for two years. The farms included vegetable, dairy, and nursery and greenhouse operations.

“The farmers kept diligent records and it was inspiring to see how they became scientists and water managers. A curiosity emerged around water use and they demonstrated that they really wanted to know how much water they were using and when,” Angie says.

A key turning point in the water project came at the end of 2016, a serious drought year for Connecticut. UConn Extension hosted a drought listening session for farmers at the Capitol and documented their concerns and ideas in a clear way that was communicated with the state Department of Agriculture and NRCS.

Connecticut developed a state water plan over the last few years. Mike O’Neill, associate dean for outreach and associate director of UConn Extension, served on the planning committee and represented agriculture in the plan’s development.

The next step for the Agriculture Water Security Project was helping farmers prepare drought plans and connecting them to financial assistance from NRCS. A total of 10 projects were provided financial assistance related to developing more robust and secure irrigation infrastructure. Projects included new wells and buried irrigation pipeline.

“We helped a couple of farms access funding to install wells, and it continues to be rewarding to see how pleased the farmers are to have the new resources,” Angie mentions. The Extension project continues to offer irrigation and drought planning resources for farmers.

“I’m excited to see farmers living out their values around land stewardship and food production in thoughtful and creative ways. There is always something that people can do, or a small action they can take to be a mindful citizen,” Angie says. “There is always more to learn, for farmers and residents. For instance, knowing how much water it took to make your jeans or plastic food packaging – it’s important for all of us to continue our learning around the impacts of our actions and consumption.”

Angie led UConn Extension’s initiative around the 40-Gallon Challenge, a national call for residents and businesses to reduce water use on average by 40 gallons per person, per day. It quantifies impacts on the linkage between small actions and water use.

Citizens nationwide are encouraged to participate in the 40-Gallon Challenge by enrolling at http://www.40gallonchallenge.org/. Materials were developed and promoted by Angie and Casey Lambert, a student intern, that quantified water saved by various actions residents can take in their home and yard.

Connecticut is no longer in a drought. But the work of stewardship continues. Angie’s goal is to prepare farmers and residents before water resources become a crisis. By encouraging everyone to simplify, we hone in on the essential needs and ensure successful growing seasons in the years to come.

This project is sponsored by USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Award identification 68-1106-15-05.

Article by Stacey Stearns

CT MS4 Guide

maps and other tools are available online for municipalities working with the MS4 guidelines
The CT MS4 Guide is all available online through UConn Extension’s NEMO program.

The CT MS4 Guide website (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) was established to provide a repository for NEMO trainings, materials, tools, and templates that towns can use and modify to meet local needs. Every year, NEMO will also be providing webinars and workshops to help towns and institutions address the more complex portions of the permit.

In the first year of this program, NEMO educated towns on the new requirements through a series of webinar presentations reaching nearly 500 viewers, travelled to 20 town halls to help staff understand and plan for the new requirements, and held a statewide workshop on detecting and eliminating pollution from the stormwater system. NEMO’s Connecticut MS4 Guide (http://nemo.uconn.edu/ms4) is an online repository for guidance, templates, data, and other tools to help communities comply with new statewide stormwater regulations. NEMO also developed templates that towns could use to create a Stormwater Management Plan, an annual report with town progress for DEEP and citizens, and model local ordinance language to respond to requirements in the permit.

Article by Amanda Ryan, Dave Dickson and Chet Arnold