Water: Access and Use
by Randy Colton

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Grades: 3-12

Suggested Curricular Areas:
- Social Studies
- Geography
- Science
- Environmental Education
- Economics

- Get a personal sense for another culture's way of doing things
- Develop a list of sources for water
- Determine influences that affect availability of water
- Compare "modern" with older ways of doing things; discuss benefits and drawbacks (gain and loss)
- Practice using the scientific method
- Compare water resource consumption relative to its distribution
- Generate discussion about investment in infrastructure and the return on it
- Examine means for conserving, or for generating, reliable sources of water


Part I

Time required:
Day 1: 30 minutes
Day 2: 45 minutes

Background and introduction for teachers and students:
- Water is a basic need for people worldwide. People use it for many purposes.

- People get water in a variety of ways, with varying costs, not just financial.

- Disruptions in local water cycles may present difficulties for people. Drought may cause hardship, as may heavy use of water resources. With India's large population, there is a high demand for water. Overdrawing or mismanaging water resources may upset the natural water cycle to the point that they may not recover, posing serious problems for people in affected areas.

Day 1

Generate and discuss a list of:
- water sources (rivers, lakes, wells, springs, seas and oceans, reclaimed water, precipitation)

- ways people can get a steady supply of water for their needs (pump from underground sources; dam rivers for holding water reservoirs; transport water by hand, vehicles, and pipes; save rainwater in water tanks; desalinize salt water; purify and recycle water; solar stills)

- ways people use water (drinking; cooking; washing selves, food, clothing, households, property; irrigation; transportation; cooling; for animals)

- ways people may ensure a more constant supply of water (efficient use, water conservation, vegetarian diet, capturing rainwater and saving it, river reservoirs, reclaiming/recycling water, avoiding cutting forests which influence the water cycle/climate)

- costs for water distribution -- financial, environmental, human (financial costs: infrastructure of drilling wells and pumping from them; pipelines; transporting water by vehicles; bottling and distributing water // environmental costs: upsetting natural earth systems' climates; altering river flows, drying out river beds; overtaxing underground water sources, lowering water tables; pumping groundwater to the point that coastal supplies are tainted by the incursion of salt water that "backfills" the drained underground sources // human costs: physical hardship on the body from carrying large containers of water, not able to carry enough water for a family's needs)

- sources of surface freshwater (using a map of South India, note rivers and lakes, mindful that some could be dry)

Terms: (pull these in during the discussion above)
Water cycle
Water table
Rainwater harvesting
Drought (a byproduct of climate change?)
Surface water
Bottled water

Day 2

Review points of discussion from Day 1. View photographs and videotape segments that relate to the topics. Watch the public service announcement on rainwater harvesting. See the internet sites that highlight the water situation for India.


Part II

Time required:

- An initial introductory class session of 30-40 minutes.
- A week's time for all students to have an opportunity to do the homework.
- Daily five-minute prompts for the homework.
- An hour of class time for a summary session with discussion.

Background and introduction:

Introduce PHEOCCC as an outline for applying the scientific process:
P = Problem, a question to be answered
H = Hypothesis, a prediction for the outcome
E = Experiment, a thought-out means of checking possibilities for the question (being mindful to anticipate, then circumvent, variables that could skew results)
O = Observation, seeing how the experiment bore out
C = Conclusion, explaining how results came to be
C = Communicate, sharing results with others

Introduce students to the PHEOCCC structure, to establish a basis for scientific inquiry. Then guide students through procedures to apply this structure as in the following example:

- Problem (in question form): Which would use more water for bathing, a typical shower/bath that we take, or use of a bucket and dipper?

- Hypothesis: [Instruct students to predict which way of bathing would use more water.] I think…

- Experiment: [With student involvement and suggestions, generate an experiment for making comparisons between the two ways of bathing. Guide students to something similar to what follows, being careful to avoid ambiguities that may skew results with "surprise" variables.]

1. Plug the drain.
2. Take a normal bath/shower.
3. When done, note how deep the water is. Measure and record.
4. Drain.

Next trial:
5. Plug the drain.
6. Put water in a bucket.
7. Dip water out for rinsing.
8. Wash, then rinse self.
9. When done, note how deep the water is. Measure and record. [For further later discussion, students could take a cool-water bath with the bucket to more closely resemble a bath with unheated well water.]

Soap up and shampoo the same way each time. When done, note how far up your foot the collected water is when you stand in the same deepest part of the tub for each bathing episode. Measure how high up on your foot this was after you get out of the tub (this saves dipping a ruler in gray water). Rinse the bucket and dipper when done, to prepare it for the next user.

- Observation: [Have students write down water depths for each episode and then compare results.]

- Conclusion: [Have students write up what they found out through this experiment. They should write down what they feel led to the results. Students may come up with new questions to explore. For example: "How could people bathe with less water when using modern plumbing?"] Sample response: Modern showers/baths use more water than bucket-dipper baths.

- Communicate: -Share results and impressions with fellow students.
- Discuss experiences.


- Five 2 1/2 gallon buckets and five pint-size measuring cups with handles (can get these from a "Dollar Store" for a good price)
- Websites highlighting India's water situations, and rainwater harvesting:
- http://cseindia.org/
- http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/
- CD segment with rainwater harvesting public service announcement
- Paper or CD image map of South India, showing major rivers and lakes
- Photos and videotape footage of:
- people gathering water at wells,
- vessels used for carrying water (also show some for sale),
- people transporting water by hand-carrying it, using bicycle rickshaws, and water tank trucks,
- water pipeline construction,
- water purifier,
- water being boiled,
- people using water,
- bottled water.

Have students engage in thoughtful writing, to see the depth of their understanding of the different parts of the lesson:

1. Tell about different means of moving water, their costs, benefits, and liabilities. How might different ways of moving water affect personal decisions about water use?

2. In your experience, for which method of bathing were you more in touch (with an intimate and conscious relationship) with the water and/or aware of your water use? Did you have a greater appreciation for water used with one method or the other? Explain.


Social Studies:
- E.4.13 Investigate similarities and differences in ways cultures meet human needs
- E.8.5 Describe and explain the means for how people meet their needs

- F.4.1 How organisms meet basic needs for water…
- F.8.2 How organisms have adapted structures for survival in specific environments
- F.8.7 Examine how behaviors evolve through adaptations to environments
- F.12.11 How living things develop means to take care of needs for survival
- H.4.1 How technology has affected taking care of people's needs
- E.4.8 Examine needs for resources
- E.8.6 Examine how people's practices in resource use has necessitated conservation efforts

See the Project WET activities, "Easy Street" and "Water Concentration," for comparisons.

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