Carrying Water

Warm-up: Personal Water Audit – Pre-Assignment
     1. To be done as homework the night before the lesson, send students home with Reproducible #1 – Personal Water Audit. This will give students insight into their own daily water usage, and will be an indication of how much water is needed on a daily basis.

Activity One: Daily Water Usage - Discussion
     1. Begin by listing a range of student water usage totals (as calculated in their Personal Water Audit pre-assignment) on the chalkboard or whiteboard. Guide students in determining the class average of daily water usage.

     2. Lead a discussion of the Personal Water Audit results, water use, and availability. Use the following questions and answers as a guide:
               a) Were you surprised by your daily personal water usage? Did you imagine that you used more or less water each day? How does your personal total differ from the class average?
               b) How much of your total water was actually used and how much was wasted down the drain?
               c) How would your audit look if you did it on a different day of the week or a different time of year? (Think about summer vs. winter, weekdays vs. weekends, playing with a sprinkler or filling a pool, watering a garden or yard, laundry day, etc.)
               d) Do you think you actually use more water than what was calculated in your Personal Water Audit? Why or why not? Remember, this was an audit of your personal domestic water use. (Remind students that a large majority of water used in the US is in agriculture and industry. For example, it takes thousands of gallons of water to raise a cow to make beef, and nearly all of their food and drink required water to process. In addition, almost every product they use required water to make, transport, etc.)
               e) How do you think your water usage compares to other people in the US? (Ex: Southwest is very dry, Northwest is very wet, urban vs. rural, poverty levels, etc.)
                f) How do you think your water usage compares to people in other countries? (Consider climate, cost, availability, access, etc.)
                g) Conditions such as drought, pollution, rising population, and unequal distribution of natural resources threaten our water supply, even in the US. What might happen if we were faced with extreme water shortages? (Cost would go up, our usage would have to go down, access would be less reliable, conservation practices would become more common, etc.)

Activity Two: Imagining Kapsasian, Kenya
     1. Show Kenya on a map (Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania). Find out what students may already know or think about Africa and Kenya - have students brainstorm what it might be like there right now. Consider season, weather, temperature, people, culture, technology, language, food, drink, schools, etc. (Example: hot, mostly arid or semi-arid, grasslands, some agriculture, ranges from drought to strong rains, desertification, pollution, safaris, villages, cities, deserts)

     2. Have students close their eyes and imagine they are living in the village of Kapsasian, Kenya. Read the following passage :

You live in the village of Kapsasian, Kenya, in eastern Africa. Although there is a rainy season, it is usually hot and dry. Piped water is unavailable in your area, and no one in your village has running water in their homes. Every time you and your family wash your hands, take a bath, have a drink, or prepare a meal, you use water. Where does it come from? There are about seven thousand other people in and around your town – how do they get water? Whose job is it to provide water for every household, building and school? In most families it is up to the women and children to find and collect water.

The nearest water source is a small plastic tank one kilometer from your home, or more than half a mile away. When this tank is empty or dirty, water must be obtained from seasonal springs which could be up to several hours walking distance from your village! Even these dry up during the dry season, and the entire population suffers from outbreaks of waterborne diseases, such as typhoid and dysentery, from sharing contaminated water.

How much of your day do you spend carrying water? How much can you carry by yourself? Do you have time to go to school? When do you play with your friends? Can you walk in the dark? How do you bathe and where do you go to the bathroom? Think about these questions and how it would affect your life to not have clean running water. How would you reduce your water use, and how would you prioritize between drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing, or recreation?

Activity Three: Kapsasian Calculations
     1. Pass out Reproducible #2 – Kapsasian Calculations.

     2. Break students up into small groups to work on the calculations together. Encourage them to answer as many questions as they can without a calculator.

Wrap Up: Lessons Learned – Conservation Discussion
     1. Ask students what they learned from the Kapsasian Calculations. These are real-life problems faced by billions of people around the world. Do they have a better idea of the issues associated with lack of access to water? (This could include illness, lack of sanitation, lack of time for education, recreation, and professional activities, etc.)

     2. Have students imagine that they and their families must live off of less than 10 gallons of water a day. How would life be different? (Consider cooking, cleaning, toilet use, bathing, drinking, appliances, etc.)

     3. Transition into a discussion of what students could do to reduce their daily water usage. (For example, do not let water run when brushing teeth or washing dishes, take shorter showers, do full loads of laundry or dishes, use rainwater to water lawns, etc.)

     4. Empower students to share these ideas with friends and family. Remind them of the lessons learned and the importance of water conservation around the world.

Extension: Global Water Network
     1. As a class or in small groups, visit the “Adopt-a-Water-Project” section at to learn more about Kapsasian, Kenya, and a water source project to benefit the area.

     2. Visit the “Adopt-A-Water-Project” section at the Global Water Network ( to read about other water-related projects around the world. Compare these stories to the scenario and discussions in class. How many people around the world deal with these issues everyday?

     3. You can also make donations through The Global Water Network to support these projects. Consider adopting a project, and have your class brainstorm ways to fundraise contributions.