The Groundwater Foundation annually presents three national awards to honor ground water protection activities in distinct areas of achievement.

The Groundwater Foundation, dedicated to educating citizens about the importance of ground water protection and preservation, annually presents three national awards to honor ground water protection activities in distinct areas of achievement. Named after the exemplary initial recipients, the awards and their 2001 recipients include:

The Vern Haverstick Groundwater Hero Award - This award was created to showcase groundwater protection activities by the unsung, yet heroic, efforts of community residents. This year's recipient is Bill Compton of Peoria, Ill.

Over the past 10 years, Compton has served as the Chair of the Central Regional Groundwater Protection Committee, serving the four county Peoria area. As the committee chair, Bill has provided guidance on such issues as abandoned well policies and legislative water proposals. Under his leadership, the committee has made great strides in ground water education and protection and set a high standard for other regional ground water protection committees. Bill has assisted in training new committee members from throughout the state to serve on the four regional ground water protection committees and convened the first forum for developing improved understanding and consensus among regional committee members on ground water protection issues.

In addition, Compton serves on the Governor's Water Resources Advisory Council and State Government Accountability Council. In both roles, he advocates integration of ground water protection into water resource programs and strong communication and cooperation between local and state agencies.

The Edith Stevens Groundwater Educator Award - This award recognizes individuals who understand the importance of ground water, motivate others to protect ground water and lead by personal example. Joan Jessen of McMurray, Pa., receives the 2001 award.

In 1991, Jessen, representing the League of Women Voters of Washington County, helped found the Washington County Groundwater Coalition, which later became known as the Groundwater Coalition Education Committee of the Washington County Watershed Alliance. Joan serves as the Alliance coordinator and treasurer and co-chair of the Education Committee, guiding volunteers to set up mall displays, conduct workshops, test homeowner drinking water and sample streams with college interns. Joan also arranged for the coalition to purchase ground water flow models for all of the schools in the county and set up teacher training workshops to show them how to operate the model.

In 1995, Jessen coordinated The Washington County Children's Groundwater Festival, Pennsylvania's first groundwater festival. Held annually, the Festival has drawn over 7,100 sixth grade students. Additionally, more than 1,200 high school volunteers, parents, teachers and professionals have assisted in conducting the festival under Jessen's guidance

The E. Benjamin Nelson Government Service Award - The purpose of this award is to recognize government officials who have significantly advanced environmental and ground water stewardship. Central Platte Natural Resources District general manager Ron Bishop is the 2001 recipient.

Since the initiation of the Natural Resources Districts, Bishop has been a leader in enhancing ground water quality and protecting valued natural resources. In 1974, Bishop and the Central Platte Natural Resources District (CPNRD) directors initiated research for ground water quality management. As a result, he played a significant role in the development of CPNRD's Groundwater Quality Management Program. This program, which is designed to address high levels of nitrates in ground water, has received national acclaim. Under Bishop's management and guidance, the CPNRD also has acquired a national reputation for progressive and innovative ground and surface water stewardship, a task made especially difficult by the convergence of several difficult legal, social and environmental issues within the Central Platte region of the state.

Bishop has written, introduced and supported numerous bills for ground water quality and ground water rights. He assisted with the formulation of Nebraska's conjunctive water use law, which develops a framework for resolving disputes between surface water and ground water uses. In addition, he also assisted in developing a compromise on the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission instream flow water rights for wildlife and provided leadership in applying for instream flow water rights for protection of threatened/endangered wildlife species on the Platte River.

The awards were presented at a luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 14, held in conjunction with the Groundwater Foundation's Annual Conference in Pittsburgh.