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Undercurrents – The Hidden Knowledge of Groundwater

Out of sight, out of mind. For most of humanity’s existence, this has been the extent of our perception of groundwater. But in the 21st century, the pressures of growing populations and increasingly industrialized societies has pushed the importance and fragility of all water resources to the very front of the critical concerns of this new age. By the late 20th century, many countries had taken significant steps to improve and maintain the quality of their lakes and rivers, and most people are reasonably familiar with the hydrological cycle and the cultural and economic benefits derived from keeping their surface waters clean. Yet to many, groundwater, much like the deep oceans, remains relatively unknown.

This series will share the hidden secrets of groundwater with the listener, from the earliest myths and conjectures about the mysterious waters that lie beneath our feet, through the scientific breakthroughs in comprehension of groundwater, and out to the frontlines with the scientists, specialists and citizens who are working towards understanding and solving the daunting challenge of sustaining our groundwater resources for future generations.

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Playlist for Undercurrents – The Hidden Knowledge of Groundwater

  1. Episode 1 – What Lies Beneath  (20:49) — 7/1/2016 [Download]
    Human respect and awareness of water sources inside our planet predates history itself, and traces of these early beliefs still persist today. Beginning with early myths and assumptions regarding groundwater, Dr. Chris leads you through the most significant moments in the initial development of human thought about the properties and actions of water as it circulates beneath the surface. You’ll visit Valhalla, India and Appalachia, and learn why Charles Darwin had a sick stomach and how the god Odin lost his eye.

  2. Episode 2 – Apprehending the Apparition  (19:15) — 7/1/2016 [Download]
    When modern science first began to coalesce in the 19th century, its first global superstar, Alexander von Humboldt, described the arduous task of collecting accurate data to obtain verifiable explanations for natural phenomena as “apprehending the apparition.” Doctors, engineers and scientists across the globe made key discoveries that together laid the foundation for today’s field of hydrogeology and made the task of understanding groundwater possible. Find out about Darcy’s law, cholera in London, and just how much of the world’s available freshwater is actually groundwater. (The answer will surprise you!)

  3. Episode 3 – The Library of Rock  (23:55) — 7/26/2016 [Download]
    In this installment, Dr. Chris meets up with Wisconsin hydrogeologists, both out in the field and in the laboratory, to learn who they are and how they investigate groundwater. Find out about the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and its latest efforts to understand the complexity of Wisconsin’s water resources and the role that naturally occurring contaminants play in water systems beneath the ground as you hear the sounds made when drilling cores in old quarries and bombarding samples with X-rays.
    You’ll discover why geologists love what they do, and that, yes, there is indeed a Library of Rock.

  4. Episode 4 – Damage Control, Part One: Legacy  (16:04) — 10/31/2016 [Download]
    Dr. Chris travels to Colorado to get the scoop on two textbook cases of modern groundwater contamination and finds out what developers and managers must do in order to deal with them. In this episode, Dr. Chris visits a busy freeway interchange in Colorado Springs and meets workers from Kraemer, North America, who share the groundwater clean-up techniques that were implemented following the discovery of unexpected contamination from previous times. The immediacy of being on location is supplemented with important background information in order to understand how legacy problems such as these are dealt with in the real world.

  5. Episode 5 – Damage Control, Part Two: Novelty  (19:38) — 5/5/2017 [Download]
    The flip side of legacy problems are revealed as Dr. Chris continues this Colorado investigative expedition, uncovering a new form of groundwater contamination, PFCs. This type of contaminant has only recently exploded onto public consciousness and concern. In an unusual twist, Dr. Chris speaks directly with a homeowner from Security, Colorado, whose life has been directly affected by compromised groundwater – a homeowner who also happens to be a personal friend. Through the course of a thoughtful interview, the protagonists are identified and the unfolding of a groundwater crisis are documented. While providing all the necessary information to understand this new form of groundwater contamination, the listener will most likely start to wonder whether something like this could happen to them, and what their response might be.