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Rock Falls one of two Illinois cities in water program

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 7:48 a.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – The city of Rock Falls is one of only two Illinois municipalities to receive designation through the Groundwater Guardian program, run by the Groundwater Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to educate communities to be stewards of the resource.

To enter the program, communities form a team of representatives from several arenas, including education, business, agriculture and government. The team works on groundwater-related activities that promote public awareness, education, conservation, pollution prevention, and sustainability.

Rock Falls has been involved in the program since 1997, and water department staff members give presentations at local schools, city water superintendent Ted Padilla said.

“We go to city and rural schools and teach kids about the aquifer, how we get our drinking water, and how important water safety is,” Padilla said. “The older kids also are taught how to read their utility bills.”

Presentations were done at East Coloma last week and are scheduled at Montmorency on April 15 and Merrill on April 22.

Padilla says the presentations are a lot of fun.

“We take flow model kits and tell them how the aquifer was formed,” Padilla said. “A lot of people don’t know that the Mississippi actually flowed through here until glaciers changed the flow. The aquifer was created through an old Mississippi riverbed.”

As part of the program, a Rock Falls High School senior receives a $1,000 scholarship each year. This year’s winner will be recognized at the June 3 City Council meeting.

Rock Falls’ involvement with the program began when the state Environmental Protection Agency urged municipalities be more proactive in educating people about the water they drink. The city also benefits financially from their involvement.

“It helps us because the program meets a waiver requirement that gets us a discount on water testing,” Padilla said.

“Groundwater Guardian communities are truly stewards of the resource,” program director Jennifer Wemhoff said in a news release. “The voluntary efforts of communities like Rock Falls to educate and protect this precious resource will make a difference, both now and for the future.”

The Groundwater Guardian program began in 1994 with eight pilot communities. The Groundwater Foundation, based in Lincoln, Neb., was started in 1985.

For more information about the organization, visit www.groundwater.org.

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