The Groundwater Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating citizens about the importance of ground water protection and preservation, annually presents two national awards to honor ground water-protection activities in distinct areas of achievement.

The Vern Haverstick Groundwater Hero Award - This award was created to showcase ground water protection activities by the unsung, yet heroic, efforts of community residents. William Crawford retired president/CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) has been selected to receive the 2003 award.

Crawford encouraged extensive MLGW involvement with water organizations and lobbied local government officials to form Shelby County's Groundwater Quality Control Board (GWQCB). The GWQCB established regulations to protect the area's water supply and brought together representatives from MLGW, local government, local citizens and other water experts. The GWQCB serves as a model in the state of Tennessee and the Mid-South region as an institutional method to involve all stakeholders in ground water issues. Crawford also helped develop a strategic plan for the board and led the GWQCB to establish a wellhead protection plan that requires the review of all planned development in the county to ensure the safety of the water supply.

In 1991, Crawford led MLGW and the University of Memphis to collaboratively establish The Groundwater Institute, a research entity of the Herff College of Engineering. The Groundwater Institute serves as a database and research center for water issues in the Mid-South. As a member of the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee for the institute, Crawford proposed and became a chair of a group of local citizens that is in the process of establishing funding for a Chair of Excellence in Groundwater at the University of Memphis.

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. Patricia Welch, emergency response coordinator for the Illinois Department of Public Health, has been selected to receive the 2003 award.

In 1991, following the enactment of the Illinois Groundwater Protection Act, Welch volunteered to serve on the Central Regional Groundwater Protec-tion Committee. The committee was the state's first ground water protection committee to develop a ground water education plan, and it held the first well-sealing demonstrations. Welch also led the first ground water education workshop for teachers. At the workshop, teachers built ground water models using local well logs. This workshop led to the development of the Middle School Groundwater Project, which has placed more than 800 ground water models using local geology in area schools.

Welch was instrumental in developing the Clean Water Celebration, an environmental classroom program, and has served as a member of the planning committee for the past 10 years. Begun in 1993, the Clean Water Celebration is a two-day annual event educating middle and high school students, their teachers and the general public about water quality protection and conservation. In addition, Welch worked with a Future Farmers of America chapter to encourage water sampling and testing, organized and mentored college interns to provide direct pollution prevention assistance to local businesses and factories in ground water protection areas, and organized the Tazewell County Environmental Education Day for all county 5th graders.

The awards were presented last month at an awards luncheon held in conjunction with the Groundwater Foundation's Annual Conference, November 12-15, 2003, in Las Vegas, and are made possible in part by generous support from the ChevronTexaco Corp.