David DeWalle tests the waters
at Spring Creek Park.
Water issues have always been important
to Loretta Jeffreys. Her children grew
up drinking from a well at their home
in Houserville, and her new house in
Huntingdon County also will have a well.
To learn more about how to ensure that
her family has high-quality drinking
water, she signed up for the Penn State
Master Well Owner Network, which provides
expert information on all aspects of
water quality and well management. Network
instructors train volunteers during
a free one-day workshop, then participants
teach others in their communities.
Because there are no statewide regulations
on wells, well owners need the kind
of education that this network provides,
After taking the class, said Jeffreys,
"I've become more conscious of
the best ways to dig a new well for
the house I'm building. I feel like
I've become a better watchdog for my
The Master Well Owner Network is only
one of numerous University initiatives
to protect and improve the state's water
systems. These outreach activities address
not only individual and home water supplies,
but also broader environmental issues,
explained Dr. David DeWalle, professor
of forest hydrology and associate director
of the Penn State Institutes of the
Environment and director of the Pennsylvania
Water Resources Research Center, which
sponsor the initiatives.
DeWalle, who recently testified before
the state legislature on the Institutes'
research and outreach initiatives, explained,
"We support innovative ideas of
faculty across the state, and we especially
like projects that involve a lot of
Recent activities include treating areas
contaminated by acid discharge and acid
rain. One example is Mosquito Creek
in north central Pennsylvania. The creek
runs through a recreational area where
The Institutes also find creative ways
to treat wastewater. For instance, Dr.
Yuefeng Xie, associate professor of
environmental engineering at Penn State
Harrisburg, Capital College, has developed
a treatment process using ground-up
rubber tires as a filtering medium.
And DeWalle has teamed up with graduate
student Anthony Buda to develop a method
to trace sources of excess nitrate in
streams that could lead to ways to reduce
Other projects range from providing
treatment plans to watershed areas to
tracking improvements resulting from
the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.
"Our activities are adapted to
the needs and problems of this state,"
Pennsylvania Water Resources Research
Center was established through a 1964
law that sought "... to stimulate,
sponsor, provide for, and supplement
present programs for the conduct of
research, investigations, experiments,
and the training of scientists in
the fields of water and of resources
which affect water." The act
charged a college or university in
each state appointed by the state's
governor to carry out the act's provisions;
then-Governor William W. Scranton
designated Penn State in the Commonwealth.
Extension board member Kent Strock
is helping to work out an action
plan for Cumberland County agriculture.
A group of Cumberland County farmers
and Cooperative Extension educators
first met a couple of years ago to consider
the future of agriculture in the community.
Other interested residents joined in,
helping to take part in a survey designed
to determine farmers' expectations for
the future. Extension staff at the Penn
State University Park campus helped
analyze the survey, and volunteers attended
a retreat to set up an action plan based
on the results.
Cumberland County was the first to reap
the benefits of "The Future of
Agriculture in Our Community,"
a program developed by Penn State Professor
of Agricultural Economics Dr. Tim Kelsey
and Extension educator Tim Collins that
aims to bring the community together
to understand and address the challenges
"The program is county specific
and grassroots driven," says Nina
Redding, senior extension educator in
The action plan in Cumberland County
includes marketing local produce to
the county's residents and businesses
and educating the public on farming
within the county.
"We don't tell people what to do.
Local people are empowered to identify
priorities and issues, and they decide
how to respond," said Kelsey. Extension
educators also have brought the program
to York County, and residents in Westmoreland
County can take advantage of the program
computer program analyzes a landowner's
decisions. This depiction shows
the effects of treatment during
Charles Finkbiner of Newfoundland,
Pa., knows exactly what's in his 185
acres of woods and how they are going
to look over time, thanks to a software
program offered by Penn State that provides
graphic depictions of forests.
Finkbiner learned how to use the program
through a seminar for Pennsylvania landowners
led by Penn State Professor of Forest
Resources Dr. James Finley.
"We want to educate private landowners
about the benefits of careful planning,"
Finley modified 3-D software originally
developed by the U.S. Forest Service
and the University of Washington by
simplifying the data input, making the
program more accessible to private landowners
and other users. He then made it available
as a free download and, with graduate
student Paul Roth, offers demonstrations
on the program throughout the state.
Last spring, Unimark Plastics of Reedsville
invited a group of Penn State students
to assess its facilities and come up
with recommendations that could help
it become more energy efficient and
The students made a number of recommendations
for the company, including switching
to more energy-efficient lights and
controlling thermostats on the air conditioning
unit to prevent unauthorized changes.
The project was the result of a collaboration
developed last year between Penn State's
Small Business Development Center's
Environmental Management Assistance
Program--which provides assistance to
businesses in Centre and Mifflin counties--and
Dr. Sarma Pisupati, associate professor
of energy and geo-environmental engineering,
who teaches an energy conservation and
environmental protection course.
Pisupati plans to take his students
to other companies throughout the fall