Wells and ground water will be an integral part of a traveling exhibit on water that will tour the world’s leading science museums.

The 7,000-square-foot exhibit, Water: H2O=Life, opened Nov. 3 at its first stop, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. After New York, the exhibit travels to the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM), Chicago’s Field Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Destinations outside of North America include the Singapore Science Center; Instituto Sangari of São Paulo, Brazil; and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The organizers of the ex-hibit, AMNH and SMM, expect more than three million people to see the exhibit during its several year run. The exhibit’s organizers still are ex-ploring additional stops, as well.

The exhibit, which focuses on all sources of water, features live animals, hands-on exhibits, and immersive dioramas.

“We expect the exhibit to invite people of all ages to discover the beauty and wonder of water and explore the challenges to protecting Earth’s most precious life-giving resource,” says Patrick Hamilton, SMM’s director for this project.

The ground water portion of the exhibit features “Porous Stones,” an exhibit component intended to help dispel the common misperception that ground water occurs largely as underground lakes, rivers and “veins” of water. Visitors are encouraged to trickle water onto various rock samples to observe that some have sufficient porosity and permeability to permit water to enter and flow through them.

Also featured is a component that shows what may happen when two wells access the same aquifer. When water is pumped from one of the wells (by turning a hand crank), the pressure in the aquifer drops as a cone of depression spreads out until it reaches the recharge area of the aquifer, the discharge area, or both.

A third ground water component is featured in the three-dimensional GeoWall animation. It shows how ground water underneath Tucson, Ariz., has fluctuated during the past several decades in response to ground water pumping and recharge.

“At less than two cents per visitor, we can’t find a more cost-effective means of reaching the general public with these important messages,” Kevin McCray, the National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation (NGWREF) executive director, explains.

“It is important for the ground water story to be told as often and as widely as possible,” says Foundation director Mark Husnik. “We’re delighted to be able to be a part of this comprehensive exhibit.”

“Efforts that contribute to greater public understanding of the drinking water resource of half of the nation’s population will contribute to better stewardship of the resource,” adds Jack Henrich, MGWC, also a Foundation director.

The National Science Foundation provided major support for the exhibit, with leadership support from the Freshwater Society and the Tamarind Foundation in association with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The exhibit also received a generous grant from the NGWREF.