ADWR water pros do water science with a host of kids on “Junior Hydrologists Day”

January 18, 2024


ADWR performs a lot of outreach on water issues. Conservation specialists conduct presentations on how to reduce water use. Our experts in groundwater management organize public forums on their findings. Our IT staff is on a mission to find new ways to make the Department’s enormous store of water data more accessible to the public.

But one of the most enjoyable “outreach” programs is our annual “Junior Hydrologist Day” program, when dozens of proto-scientists spend a day learning first-hand about the many ways in which the department performs its primary mission – protecting Arizona’s water supplies for future generations, like them.

Over 40 young people spent nearly an entire day in early January getting immersed in the work of the various ADWR divisions and learning about water management through a variety of age-appropriate activities.

Following are thumbnail reports on what the Junior Hydrologists experienced.

The Adjudications division provides technical assistance to the Superior Court in the General Stream Adjudication proceedings, which are judicial proceedings to determine the nature, extent, and relative priority of water rights in Arizona.

Three staff members ran a station called “Taking Flight,” which demonstrated how ADWR uses drones in its investigations for the proceedings. 

“We briefly described how the drones help us determine the capacity of stockponds, which we need to investigate as part of our role as technical advisors to the Superior Court,” explained Kyli Denton of ADWR Adjudications. 

The Adjudications team performed a drone-in-flight demonstration, showing how the drone moves directionally. 

“We even set each group up in a specific location to get a group photo taken by the drone,” said Kyli. “These photos will be distributed to the parents as a fun keepsake of the event!”

Colorado River Management
The Colorado River Management Section introduced participants to reservoir management at Glen Canyon Dam and the need to protect the endangered native Humpback chub in the river.  

Kids and parents alike learned about the threat invasive Smallmouth bass pose if they are entrained through the dam and procreate in large numbers in the river. 

“Lots of kids were fully aware of what it means to go extinct and were keen to make the comparison to dinosaurs!” said CRM Manager Kristen Johnson.

Principal Hydrogeologist Paul Ivanich explaining the process of measuring water levels in wells

Field Services Section/Automated Groundwater Monitoring Unit
The Field Services Section/Automated Groundwater Monitoring Unit gave the kids a hands-on water level measurement demonstration. They explained how Field Services personnel measure water levels in wells, often using an electric tape/sounder (e-tape) that the junior hydrologists used to take a water level measurement in a "well." 

“Most of them enjoyed making the e-tape buzz and wanted to take multiple measurements,” said Principal Hydrogeologist Paul Ivanich. “A couple junior hydrologists wanted to see exactly when the e-tape would start buzzing when the probe went into the water.”

Finally, said Ivanich, “we got a good reaction from a short video I took at an automated site of a black widow spider wrapping and then feeding from her prey, which one junior hydrologist - or maybe biologist - suggested was (the spider’s) (late) husband.”

Geophysics/Surveying Unit
The Geophysics/Surveying Unit put on a “Land Subsidence Presentation and Experiment.” The presentation consisted of slides that explained the sub-surface, aquifer, over-pumping, and land subsidence and earth fissure mechanics. 

The land subsidence experiment consisted of a clear cup of Rice Krispies that represented the sub-surface that was then filled with milk which represented the groundwater. A straw representing a groundwater well was then inserted into the cup, and each junior hydrologist started sucking out the milk, which represented groundwater withdrawal. As the milk level drops, the Rice Krispies rearranged and compacted, just like what occurs when excessive groundwater pumping occurs, causing land subsidence at the surface.   

“The junior hydrologists enjoyed the experiment and felt that it really helped to explain how land subsidence occurs in Arizona,” said land-subsidence expert Brian Conway.

Groundwater Modeling Section
The Groundwater Modeling Section gave the junior hydrologists an interactive and educational presentation on how the section uses data to build a picture of an invisible resource - groundwater!  
They described the need to get enough data points and talked about spatial distribution of data, all of which is needed to make an accurate picture of water underground. 

“Because this concept is a little abstract, and kids tend to be very literal, we related it to the common childhood pastime known as connect the dots,” explained groundwater modeler Dianne Yunker.  

“For the interactive part, we had half of the children leave the room while the other half added just enough dots to be connected to form a shape, which the kids who stepped outside did when they got back, all using colorful dry erase markers!  We discussed how missing an important dot would change the shape, and how that happens if we have geographic gaps in our water level elevations.”

The IT Division hosted a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) station, which provided 'coloring maps' containing hydrographic GIS layers that the Department actually uses in day-to-day operations. 

The kids first received two black-and-white poster-size maps. By the end of the morning the students and their parents had brought both maps to life by coloring in each watershed and drawing and labeling the major rivers in the state. 

“The students got an introduction to watersheds as well as the basic map elements,” said IT’s Veronica Nixon.

Water Planning Division
The division uses a unique, physical model constructed of plywood, sand and lights to demonstrate how water travels underground, as well as the meaning of terms such as “overdraft” and “recharge” and how they affect aquifers and neighboring wells. 

The students discovered how pollutants in lakes and streams can impact drinking water supplies by pumping water from a well that was near a contaminated lake. 
“I held up the vial of extracted green liquid and asked the students if they would drink it, and they shook their heads in disgust with an understanding that all water is connected and should be respected by keeping it clean and never using more than what one needs,” said Zacary Richards of Water Planning.