Water Conservation Theme Learning Activities and Lesson Plans
By Anthea Hudson
Become a young environmentalist and get stuck right into some research... and fun!
Below is a varied collection of explorations into the topic of water, designed to stimulate curiosity and awareness of the importance of being waterwise and protecting our waterways from environmental impacts.
Water is a precious resource which not only provides us with one of our most important survival necessities- the human body is comprised of approximately 60% water- but is also home to a wide range of creatures.
Did you know that 75% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, and that 97% of that water is salt water found in the oceans?
Of the remaining 3% of water, 2% is frozen and only 0.5% is actually usable fresh water!
This gives you some perspective as to how much respect and care we should be giving to our fresh water.
Not that this means we shouldn't care for our oceans as well. They are extremely important in all kinds of ways, and we are heading towards destroying so much of their diversity by our thoughtless abuse of them.
FROM RAINDROP TO TAP
In this activity young environmentalists research and follow the path of their local water source (or a chosen source), from its origins, until it arrives in their tap. Some of the points they could consider are:
- Cloud formation and precipitation- how do clouds form and what can affect their formation, or where they form and where the rain eventually falls?
- What path does the water take on the ground? For instance- what is the major river and what smaller waterways flow into this? Where do they originate? What types of areas does the water flow though and what pollutants might it come into contact with?
- Does the water end up in a reservoir? Research the history of that reservoir. When was it built? What was there before? How much water does the reservoir hold? What happens if the reservoir gets full? What treatments does the water undergo before it leaves the reservoir, or anywhere in the process?
- Once the water leaves the reservoir, where does it travel via pipe? What distance? What difficulties might need to be addressed?
- If the water is a groundwater source, such as wells or bores, how does the water get there in the first place, and what is significant about the kind of places where ground water is easily accessible? How is the water raised to the surface for use? What quality is the water and does it require any treatment to be drinkable? What dangers does this ground water quality face, such as pollutants, overuse?
- If the water source is harvested rainwater, how is this harvested and what considerations are needed? How does it get from the storage tanks to where it is required? What problems might need to be overcome?
A RIVER'S JOURNEY: AN INTERACTIVE STORY
This is a fun hands-on activity where everyone gets to help show what happens to a river as it makes its journey to the sea. As it passes through various potentially polluting situations, students add the "pollutant" to the water. At the end of the story students can see what the cumulative affect of water pollution are on the river.
The instructions for this activity are located here ( A RIVER'S JOURNEY LESSON PLAN ) and the actual story to read aloud is located here. ( A RIVER'S JOURNEY: AN INTERACTIVE STORY )
HOME WATER AUDIT
In this activity young environmentalists learn the value of water use in their homes, and what they can do to save both money and this precious resource.
The project is mainly carried out in their own homes, with sharing of information and discussions of what they have discovered. Alternatively, this could be carried out as a school water audit project... or even a local business!
- When water arrives at your house- how much does your household have to pay per kilolitre (or however your water is charged) and how much do you use on average- per day, week, month and year?
- Try to work out how much various types of water usage require each day, such as toilet, shower, dish washing, clothes washing, garden watering, drinking. Devise ways to measure each of these usages.
- In what ways does your household conserve water usage... and how could they improve on this?
Things to consider- low flow shower heads, limit shower time, dual flush toilets, low water usage dishwashers and washing machines, don't just run water while brushing teeth or wash dishes under running water, fix dripping taps etc, re-use grey water suitably.
- How can you make garden water requirements less and water more efficiently?
- Involve your household on a period of being ultra water conservation conscious and see if you can make a difference in your water usage/cost.
A WALK WITH WATER
To us in more affluent cultures, water is easy to obtain for our daily needs... just turn on a tap and there it is! Not so in many parts of the world. Water must be carried, sometimes for many kilometres if closer water becomes contaminated or dries up, each and every day, usually by the women and children of the community.
In this activity young environmentalists use the water usage data collected in their audit and discover first-hand just how much work it would take to obtain all of that precious water if it wasn't "on tap", by undertaking the following:
- Find a bucket and measure how much water this bucket holds. Preferably a large bucket, as there would be little point in the energy of a strong young person carrying only a small amount of water... as this would mean many more trips to the well. But, it's your choice... more at a time, or more trips.
- Based on how much water your household uses on average in a day, how many times would you have to fill your bucket?
- Now try carrying that bucket back and forth along your footpath for maybe 200 metres... or 500, or around an oval, or whatever distance you choose to your "well". Tired? No? Well... now try carrying it for as many times as the number of buckets you worked out that you would need to fill. Tired now?? If you want to try more, increase the distance to your "well".
- Do you have a sense now of what great value water is given in these communities? Do you see it in a different light? Do you think that if you suddenly lived in a community that got its water this way, you would change your water usage to considerably less than it is now? What changes might you make to save on water usage? What changes could you make in your own home right now to use less of this valuable resource?
This is a project, either done as a group activity over a series of outings, or for young environmentalists, either alone or in small groups, to carry out in their own time.
It comprises various elements of research into one or more waterways, which requires some discussion, so please visit this page for the complete activity. ( Riverscapes )
This project involves visiting the beach at various locations and making comparisons.
Some suggestions are:
- Take photographs of each location for your records.
- Collect water samples and devise tests to ascertain salinity, oil and other pollutants etc.
- Collect and compare samples of beach sand, shells, seaweed, rocks etc. Are there any differences, and if so, why do you think that is?
Photograph or mount your samples for display.
- How popular is each beach and what seem to be the activities being carried out there?
- What features does each beach have? Mostly sand or lots of rocks? Jetty? Dogs allowed? Vehicles allowed on beach? Kiosk? Boat or other hire?
- What businesses are nearby that are probably located there because of the beach and its users?
- How much littering is obvious at each beach?
- What vegetation and wildlife are present? How does this vary at each location? Why? Photograph the plants and birds/animals.
- Make Seascapes sound recordings.
The Seascapes exploration could be carried out in a more comprehensive way by following much of the same procedure as RIVERSCAPES.
Important Note: Please make sure participants are well supervised and understand the potential dangers of the sea.
Also, check beforehand that it is allowable to collect various samples. You may need to actually perform tests at the site, and take photos for reference, not physical samples.
Join or start a Waterwatch group!
Waterwatch was established by the Australian Government to act as a coordinating body for community participation in monitoring, protection and management of the water quality of our waterways. Waterwatch groups not only determine the health of their sites, but initiate solutions to overcome hazards to their quality such as combating pollutant problems, removing weeds, fencing and community awareness.
Becoming involved in a Waterwatch project is a great way to become familiar with scientific testing and solution generation techniques, as well as the practical hands-on application of these techniques.
For useful reference information about Australia's water visit these sites: