Where Does Your Drinking Water Come From?

Warm-up: Do You Know Where Your Tap Water Comes From?

1. Ask your students if they know where the water comes from when they turn on the tap at school or at home.

2. After hearing their ideas, tell them that in this lesson they will be learning exactly where the water comes from that they use to drink, shower, cook, water plants and lawns, and to do laundry. Then, ask your students if they think it is important for people to know the source of their water. Explain that this is a question that you want them to think about as they go through the lesson. After the final activity, you will ask them to respond to this question.

 

Activity One: Sources of Drinking Water

1. Pass out copies of Reproducible #1 – Sources of Drinking Water. Ask students to read the text, examine the diagrams, and answer the questions. They can work individually or in small groups. Small groups will allow students to work together and to share ideas, especially for the last three questions.

2. When finished, use Reproducible #2 – Sources of Drinking Water ANSWER KEY to review the answers as a class, being sure that students know the difference between ground and surface sources of water.

3. Emphasize that all of the substances that people wash down drains, leave on streets to be washed away in storms, or discharge through pipes end up in the very water that we drink and use.

 

Activity Two: Preparation for a Fieldtrip to Your Local Water Treatment Facility

This activity focuses on preparation for a class fieldtrip to a water treatment plant, an interview with a water treatment facility worker, and/or student research of water treatment facilities and other related issues.

Note: If this trip is not possible for your class, the fieldtrip can be substituted with an interview with someone at your local water treatment plant via email, phone, skype, or other communication. Otherwise, students may conduct a thorough examination of online resources such as Water Science for Schools, by the U.S. Geological Survey, found at http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wwvisit.html and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Ground Water and Drinking Water, found at http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/index.html. In place of interview questions, your students will be using Reproducible #5 – Water Treatment Facility Research to come up with questions they would like to answer during Activity Three (Alternate): Researching Your Water Treatment Facility.

1. Explain to your students that they will be taking a fieldtrip to and/or researching their local water treatment facility (or studying the inner workings of a water treatment plant). This facility is responsible for obtaining fresh water, removing contaminants, meeting drinking water standards, and getting the water to homes and businesses. As the students visit the facility, speak with a plant representative, and/or conduct research, they will have an opportunity to ask questions. Let them know you would like them to prepare a set of questions beforehand.

2. Pass out copies of Reproducible #3 – Preparation for the Water Treatment Facility Fieldtrip or Reproducible #5 – Preparation for Water Treatment Facility Research. Either as a homework assignment or in small groups during class, ask students to use the worksheet to develop and record questions they would like to ask when they visit the water treatment center, conduct their interview and/or perform research. Have them keep in mind that in an interview, questions that require specific details are often better than questions that elicit very general responses.

3. Use Reproducible #4 – Preparation for the Water Treatment Facility Fieldtrip/Interview – Teacher Guide or Reproducible #6 – Preparation for Water Treatment Facility Research – Teacher Guide to help elicit possible interview questions or research topics from the students.

4. As a class, discuss their ideas and produce a list of questions for the fieldtrip, interview and/or research. Have the class prioritize the questions in case there is not enough time to get answers to all of them.

 

Activity Three: Take a Fieldtrip to Your Local Water Treatment Facility

This activity focuses on preparation for a class fieldtrip to a water treatment plant.If this trip is not possible for your class, the fieldtrip can be substituted with an interview with someone at your local water treatment plant via email, phone, skype, or other communication.

1. Prepare your class for the fieldtrip. Tell students that many people do not think about where their water comes from and what it takes to get clean water to their homes. They simply turn on the tap and, like magic, the water appears! After this visit, students will be able to share what they learn with others.

2. Explain to students the expectations for their behavior and review any security requirements that may have been provided by your facility contact. Make sure to provide adequate timing and account for any necessary permission forms.

3. Revisit student-developed research topics from Reproducible #3 – Preparation for Water Treatment Facility Fieldtrip/Interview. Organize and prepare students so they know who will ask questions, and who will take notes or photographs, if allowed. (It may be that your class is allowed to take photos of some parts of the process, but not others. Remind students that they should always ask for permission to take a photo before doing so.)

4.Let students know that they will be sharing this information with others, so they should focus on information relevant to that audience, as well as solutions or actions they can take.

5. On the fieldtrip, be sure to get a contact name and address so a thank you note can be sent. You may also want to ask if there is an email address to which students could ask any additional questions that are raised once they get back to school.

 

Activity Three (Alternate): Researching Your Water Treatment Facility

If the fieldtrip or interview is not possible for your class, students may instead conduct a thorough examination of online resources to learn about their local watershed, water treatment facility, and other information.

1. Revisit student-developed research topics from Reproducible #5 – Water Treatment Facility Research. Students should conduct research based on the questions they prepared ahead of time.

2. Have students visit websites such as:

·        “Ground Water & Drinking Water FAQs,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/faq/faq.html#source.

  • This is a great place to start for answering Frequently Asked Questions on groundwater and drinking water. For more information on your drinking water you can also visit their question and answer database on this site or call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

·        Water Science for Schools, U.S. Geological Survey, http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wwvisit.html.

  • This site includes a step-by-step guide describing what happens at each stage of the water treatment process and how pollutants are removed to help keep our waterways clean.

·         “Local Drinking Water Information,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo/index.html.

  • This site allows you to find data and contact information for your state drinking water program.   

·        “Standards and Risk Management,” Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/standards.html.

  • Here you can find information on contamination and regulation of drinking water.

·        Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Results, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/waters/.

  • This site unites water quality information from several independent and unconnected databases.
  • Let students know that they will be sharing this information with others, so they should focus on information relevant to that audience, as well as solutions or actions they can take.

 

Activity Four: Teach Others What You Learned

1. Explain to your students that many people do not know the source of their tap water, what is done to treat it, and how much energy it takes to deliver it to their homes and businesses. You would like them to share what they have learned with others, with the goal of educating others and demonstrating specific actions they can take to make their actions more sustainable.

2. Engage your class in a discussion about the audience they would like to address. This could include another class or grade, the school community, parents, the larger community or another scho

3.  Once the audience is selected, decide what specific information would be most important to share with that audience. What should they learn that they probably do not know? What actions can they take that will actually have an impact? You could provide these questions as a homework assignment and before following up with a class discussion. List the student ideas on the board and have the class prioritize the information that should be shared.

4. Be sure students focus on presenting information as well as actions, ‘how-to’s or suggestions for their audience to use this new information constructively. For example, if students discovered that the most common form of solid pollution in their watershed is plastic bags, they can encourage their audience to use reusable shopping bags. If students discovered that there is a water shortage in their area, they can instruct the audience on relevant water conservation practices.

5. Discuss the best media for addressing this information with this audience. For example, creating a presentation or video might be most effective when showing to other classes or to the whole school during an assembly. A podcast or website might help to reach a different audience. Exhibit stations with students answering questions and a class oral presentation might be best for a parent audience that comes to school for the presentation. A well-designed pamphlet might work best to deliver the message to parents and community members at home. Allow students to discuss their ideas and rationale, and work toward a class decision.

6. Students should work in small groups to create their presentation or display. Each group could address a different audience.

7. Provide class time to help students get organized and explain the timeline and expectations of the project. If the class is working in groups, allow time for rehearsals or class presentations, having students critique each other’s work before the final presentation or publication.

 

Wrap Up: Celebrate the Class Project and Share their Experiences

1. Once the class’s presentation project(s) are completed, find a simple way to celebrate and acknowledge the work of the students. (Perhaps juice and snacks could be provided.)

 

2. Gather in a circle to allow students to share their experiences. Discuss as a class or have each group could address these questions.

  1. If there was one single class project, what went well?
  2. What would they do to improve their project and its impact if they were to do it again? Why or why not?
  3. Finally, ask students to share the following:

·        What they learned that had the most impact on them and why?

·        What they learned that most surprised them?

·        What solutions did they learn about that would have the biggest impact on water and energy issues in the area?

·        What actions they are willing to take in their own lives to address what they have learned?

3. Consider writing a class pledge about sustainable actions and behaviors students (and teachers) will commit to based on their new knowledge. 

 

Extension: Tap Water versus Bottled Water?

1. Based on their new knowledge about the water in their area, ask students to share their opinions of the safety and cleanliness of tap water. Have them consider which water they consider safer to drink – tap water or bottled water – and why. Have them consider what they learned on their fieldtrip about how their water is cleaned and regulated. Do these same standards apply to bottled water? Students could do additional research on the internet to further inform their position. Ask each student to explain their opinion and why verbally or in writing. Consider holding a class debate so they can share their views with their classmates.

2. Depending on the audience and success of the students’ presentation projects, consider extending the message out to the community to raise awareness and involvement in the issue of water quality. Create Public Service Announcements, flyers, posters, etc. Organize a service project committed to a water-related issue such as watershed clean-ups or storm drain marking.

 

CONCLUSION

In this lesson, students learned about various sources of drinking water. Through a fieldtrip to a local water treatment facility or online research, they learned where their tap water comes from, how it is treated, and how much energy is used to treat and transport it to their homes. Finally, students shared what they learned with a new audience, including suggestions about what people can do to make the use of water and energy more sustainable.