• Water Consumption


  • Wetlands Science Studies

  • Water Consumption

    Students will learn how to conserve water

    Grades: 7-12

    One classroom meeting plus student involvement over time.



    Clean water is a necessity for all living things. Before the arrival of Europeans, an abundance of small springs and clear streams supplied the inhabitants of the Southern Appalachians with clean water. Now many of the springs and all the streams are unsafe for drinking, and drinking water must be extracted by complex industrial processes from reservoirs, rivers, and groundwater that are fouled with sewage and toxic waste.

    A chlorine addition is the major process used at water treatment plants to kill bacteria and purify the water. Chlorine is itself a pollutant that reacts to form carcinogenic by-products, especially chloroform. There is evidence that drinking chlorinated water slightly increases the risk of cancer of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. Of course, water untreated with chlorine presents greater and more immediate dangers of infectious disease. For this reason, it is important to keep track of the ways in which we use water directly. By reducing the amount of water we consume, we lessen the amount of water that has to be treated with chlorine.

    Ask the students to keep a record of the ways in which they use water directly over the span of a full day. This includes activities such as bathing, flushing the toilet, cooking, drinking, watering the lawn, or washing the car. They can use the following amounts to approximate their water use:

  • flushing the toilet > 5 to 7 gallons per flush
  • taking a shower > 5 to 15 gallons per minute
  • taking a bath > about 25 to 30 gallons
  • washing clothes > 25 to 30 gallons per load
  • washing dishes > 15 gallons per load
  • using a faucet > 2 to 5 gallons per minute
    Ask the students to read the water meter at their house to figure out the amount of water they use throughout the day. If they do not have a water meter to read, suggest that they figure it out some other way.

    As well, ask the students to find ways to cut their water use in half, and then actually do it. Suggest that they continue to practice these changes even after the experiment period is over. Also, discuss whether other living things, like plants, can reduce their water use. Talk about adaptations plants and animals have made to deal with scarce supplies of water. Discuss how water is important to all living things.

    Additional Activities:
    1. Pretend you are some living thing other than a human being. Your friends can pick other different living things to be. Each one of you figure out how much water and for what purposes you use water in a day. Figure out whether the amount of water and the uses are dependent upon the time of year. Finally, compare the differing amounts and uses of water by the different living things.
    2. Draw a large picture of the water cycle. Make different designs for different circumstances. For example, try it with and without plant and animal involvement.
    3. List five examples of correct uses of water. Then, list five of incorrect uses of water.