This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Content Created by The Concord Consortium

Customize your view of this lesson. Use the checkboxes below to filter activities in or out.

  • Total Water on Earth. Copyright 2008. United National Environment Programme.

    Students explore how water moves above and below Earth's surface by using interactive computational models. Then they examine the supply and demand issues around their local water source(s), and they meet a hydrogeologist who introduces students to some of the issues around the sustainability of fresh water sources around the world.

    Tips & Modifications

    Tip

    To save students' data for grading online, register your class for free at the High-Adventure Science portal page.

    Tip

    This activity is part of a sequence of activities in the lesson Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?. The activities work best if used in sequence.

    Modification

    This activity may be used individually or in groups of two or three students. It may also be modified for a whole-class format. If using as a whole-class activity, use an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to project the activity. Turn embedded questions into class discussions. Uncertainty items allow for classroom debates over the evidence.

    1. Engage students in thinking about how water is distributed on Earth.

    Show the Earth from Space photograph. Tell students that most of Earth is covered with water. Show the Diagram of Water Distribution on Earth. (In media carousel; click the photograph images. Click the image and carousel down arrows to see the full image.) Ask: 

    • How much of the water is available for us to use for things like drinking and crop irrigation—things that require fresh water? (Less than 3% of the total water on Earth is fresh water.) 
    • How does water cycle through Earth's systems? (Water moves throughout Earth's systems through precipitation, runoff, and evaporation, among other processes.) 

     

    2. Discuss the role of uncertainty in the scientific process.

    Tell students that science is a process of learning how the world works and that scientists do not know the “right” answers when they start to investigate a question. We see examples of scientists' uncertainty in the forecasting of precipitation amounts. Have students go to the NOAA National Weather Service. Ask them to input their zip codes into the "Local forecast by "City, St" or ZIP code" box in the top left (under "Home"), hit “Go”, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Hourly Weather Graph”. This page shows the hourly weather forecast for your area. The first box shows the predicted temperature and dewpoint (along with wind chill or heat index, when applicable). The second box shows the predicted wind speed and direction. The third box shows the predicted sky cover (i.e. cloud cover), relative humidity, and chance for precipitation. The boxes below that line show whether the precipitation is likely to be rain, snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Point out the line for precipitation potential (the brown line). Ask: 

    • Why is the precipitation shown as a “%”? (Precipitation is dependent on other factors, such as relative humidity and temperature. It is more likely to precipitate when the temperature is the same as or lower than the dewpoint.) 
    • If there is a likelihood of precipitation, why is the amount of rain/snow shown as ranges? (The amount of precipitation that will fall is dependent on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is continually changing, so the amounts are guidelines for what could happen rather than perfect predictions.)

     

    Tell students that they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they should think about what scientific data is available as they assess their certainty with their answers. Encourage students to discuss the scientific evidence with each other to better assess their level of certainty with their predictions.

     

    3. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth's water resources.

    Tell students that forecasting what will happen in Earth's climate system is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.

     

    On an island, there is a population of foxes and a population of rabbits. The foxes prey on the rabbits. Ask: 

    • When there are a lot of rabbits, what will happen to the fox population? (It will increase because there is an ample food supply.) Ask:
    • What happens to the fox population when they’ve eaten most of the rabbits? (The foxes will die of starvation as their food supply decreases.) 
    • What happens to the amount of grass when the fox population is high? (The amount of grass will increase because there are fewer rabbits to eat the grass.)
    • If there is a drought and the grass doesn’t grow well, what will happen to the populations of foxes and rabbits? (The rabbit population will decrease because they have a lesser food supply. The fox population should also decrease as their food supply decreases.)

    Humans introduce dogs to the island. The dogs compete with the foxes over the rabbit food supply. Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? (The foxes will decrease because they’re sharing their food supply, the rabbits will decrease because they’ve got more predation, and the grass will do well because of the lowered impact of the smaller rabbit population.)

     

    Tell students that simple cause-effect relationships can expand into more complex system relationships. Let students know that they will be exploring the relationship between how sediments and rock types affects groundwater movement. Encourage students to think about how human actions play a role in changes in the flow of water and in freshwater availability.

     

    4. Introduce and discuss the use of computational models.

    Introduce the concept of computational models, and give students an example of a computational model that they may have seen, such as forecasting the weather. The weather forecast provides a good example of how model input is used to predict future conditions. Project the NOAA Weather Forecast Model, which provides a good example of a computational model. Tell students that scientists used current information about the energy and moisture in the atmosphere as an input to the model, and that what they see on the weather map is the output of the model's calculations.


    5. Have students launch the Availability of Fresh Water interactive.

    Provide students with the link to the Availability of Fresh Water interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to allow groups to share a computer workstation. Tell students they will be working through a series of pages of models and data with related questions. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.

     

    NOTE: You can access the Answer Key for students' questions—and save students' data for online grading—through a free registration on the High-Adventure Science portal page.

     

    Let students know that this is Activity 1 of the Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson. 

     

    6. Discuss the issues.

    After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on the following questions. Ask:

    • When water falls on the ground, what can happen to it? (Water that falls on the ground can run off into streams or it can be absorbed into the ground. Students may also say that water can evaporate.)
    • Why is water considered a renewable resource? (Water is considered a renewable resource because it cycles through the ground and atmosphere.)
    • What are some ways that humans have affected the quantity and quality of water supplies around the world? (Humans have changed the surface, which has allowed less water to infiltrate the surface. They have pulled water out of very deep aquifers in desert areas. They have inadvertently contaminated some water supplies.)

    Informal Assessment

    1.  Check students' comprehension by asking students the following questions:

    • When water falls on the ground, what can happen to it?
    • Why is water considered a renewable resource?

     2.  Use the answer key to check students' answers on embedded assessments.

    Center pivot irrigation on wheat growing in Yuma County, Colorado. 1987

    Students explore maps to discover the distribution of fresh water resources on Earth, and they examine graphs to discover how fresh water supplies are used by humans.

    Tips & Modifications

    Tip

    To save students' data for grading online, register your class for free at the High-Adventure Science portal page.

    Tip

    This activity is part of a sequence of activities in the lesson Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?. The activities work best if used in sequence.

    Modification

    This activity may be used individually or in groups of two or three students. It may also be modified for a whole-class format. If using as a whole-class activity, use an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to project the activity. Turn embedded questions into class discussions. Uncertainty items allow for classroom debates over the evidence.

    1. Engage students in thinking about how fresh water is used.

    Tell students in this activity they will be taking a close look at how humans use water—both in direct and indirect ways. They will examine the relationship between freshwater distribution and populations, and they will analyze the costs and benefits of putting dams on rivers and streams. To begin, ask: How do you use fresh water? (Student answer will vary, but will include examples like the following: Fresh water is used for drinking, bathing, flushing toilets, and irrigating. Fresh water is also used in electricity production and manufacturing.)

     

    2. Discuss the role of uncertainty in the scientific process.

    Tell students that science is a process of learning how the world works and that scientists do not know the “right” answers when they start to investigate a question. We can see examples of scientists' uncertainty in the forecasting of precipitation amounts. Have students go to the NOAA National Weather Service. Ask them to input their zip codes, hit “Go”, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Hourly Weather Graph”. This page shows the hourly weather forecast for your area. The first box shows the predicted temperature and dew point (along with wind chill or heat index, when applicable). The second box shows the predicted wind speed and direction. The third box shows the predicted sky cover (i.e. cloud cover), relative humidity, and chance for precipitation. The boxes below that line show whether the precipitation is likely to be rain, snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Point out the line for precipitation potential (the brown line). Ask:

    • Why is the precipitation shown as a “%”? (Precipitation is dependent on other factors, such as relative humidity and temperature. It is more likely to precipitate when the temperature is the same as or lower than the dew point.) 
    • If there is a likelihood of precipitation, why is the amount of rain/snow shown as ranges? (The amount of precipitation that will fall is dependent on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is continually changing, so the amounts are guidelines for what could happen rather than perfect predictions.) 

      *If there is no or low likelihood of precipitation in your area, you may want to find a different location (in the United States) that has a higher likelihood of precipitation. You can look at a current weather map (radar) to find where in the United States precipitation is happening currently. Your students will then be able to see scientists' forecasts of precipitation amounts represented as a range overlaid on the bar graphs.

       

    Tell students they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they should think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty with their answers. Encourage students to discuss the scientific evidence with each other to better assess their level of certainty with their predictions.


    3. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth's water resources.

    Tell students that forecasting what will happen to Earth's fresh water supplies is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Tell students that scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.

     

    On an island, there is a population of foxes and a population of rabbits. The foxes prey on the rabbits. Ask: 

    • When there are a lot of rabbits, what will happen to the fox population? (It will increase because there is an ample food supply.) 
    • What happens to the fox population when they’ve eaten most of the rabbits? (The foxes will die of starvation as their food supply decreases.) 
    • What happens to the amount of grass when the fox population is high? (The amount of grass will increase because there are fewer rabbits to eat the grass.)
    • If there is a drought and the grass doesn’t grow well, what will happen to the populations of foxes and rabbits? (The rabbit population will decrease because they have a lesser food supply. The fox population should also decrease as their food supply decreases.)

     

    Humans introduce dogs to the island. The dogs compete with the foxes over the rabbit food supply. Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? (The foxes will decrease because they are sharing their food supply, the rabbits will decrease because they have more predators, and the grass will do well because of the lowered impact of the smaller rabbit population.)

     

    Tell students that simple cause-effect relationships can expand into more complex system relationships. Let students know that they will be exploring the relationship between how sediments and rock types affects groundwater movement. Encourage students to think about how human actions play a role in changes in the flow of water and in freshwater availability.


    4. Have students launch the Using Fresh Water interactive.

    Provide students with the link to the Using Fresh Water interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to allow groups to share a computer work station. Tell students that they will be working through a series of pages of data with questions related to the data. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.

     

    NOTE: You can access the Answer Key for students' questions—and save students' data for online grading—through a free registration on the High-Adventure Science portal page.

     

    Tell students that this is Activity 2 of the Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson.


    5. Discuss the issues.

    After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on these questions:

    • Even if you live in an area where fresh water is plentiful, why do you have to be concerned about the freshwater supply? (You should still be concerned about the freshwater supply because it can be contaminated by human actions. This would make the fresh water useless even if there was a lot of it.) 
    • Are the benefits of dams worth the costs of dams? (Answers will vary. Some of the benefits of dams are flood control, recreation, and electricity production. Some of the costs of dams are habitat disruption, sediment depletion of river deltas, and loss of surrounding land.) 
    • What are some ways that humans have affected the quantity and quality of water supplies around the world? (Humans have changed the surface, which has allowed less water to infiltrate the surface. They have pulled water out of very deep aquifers in desert areas. They have inadvertently contaminated some water supplies.)

    Informal Assessment

    1.  Check students' comprehension by asking them the following questions:

    • How are freshwater resources distributed on Earth?
    • What are some direct and indirect uses of water?

     2. Use the answer key to check students' answer on embedded assessments.

    Water Accumulation. Concord Consortium.

    Students explore how porosity and permeability of different sediments affect the way water flows through Earth's layers. Students use interactive computational models to explore the underground flow and deposition of water and determine the best places to access the water in a sustainable manner.

    Tips & Modifications

    Tip

    To save students' data for grading online, register your class for free at the High-Adventure Science portal page.

    Tip

    This activity is part of a sequence of activities in the lesson Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?. The activities work best if used in sequence.

    Modification

    This activity may be used individually or in groups of two or three students, or as a whole class activity. If using as a whole class activity, use an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to project the activity. 

    1. Spark student discussion about how water moves.

    Show the Model 2: Sediment Columns. Run the model, and let students observe how the water molecules move through the different sediments. Ask:

    • Why do you think water pools at the top of the black column while it flows through the pink column? (Students might respond that the material of the black column has fewer holes through which the water can flow. The material in the pink column might be more loosely packed than the material in the black column. The spaces allow the water to flow down. If there are no spaces, then the water can't flow down as easily (or at all).)
    • What would happen if the water level reached the top of the black basin? (If the water level reached the top of the black basin, it would spill over into the next column.)

    Tell students that they will be investigating the characteristics of different rocks and sediments that let water flow through at different rates.

     

    2. Discuss the role of uncertainty in the scientific process.

    Tell students that science is a process of learning how the world works and that scientists do not know the “right” answers when they start to investigate a question. We can see examples of scientists' uncertainty in the forecasting of precipitation amounts. Have students go to NOAA National Weather Service. Ask them to input their zip codes, hit “Go”, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Hourly Weather Graph”. This page shows the hourly weather forecast for your area. The first box shows the predicted temperature and dew point (along with wind chill or heat index, when applicable). The second box shows the predicted wind speed and direction. The third box shows the predicted sky cover (i.e. cloud cover), relative humidity, and chance for precipitation. The boxes below that line show whether the precipitation is likely to be rain, snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Point out the line for precipitation potential (the brown line). Ask:

    • Why is the precipitation shown as a “%”? (Precipitation is dependent on other factors, such as relative humidity and temperature. It is more likely to precipitate when the temperature is the same as or lower than the dew point.)
    • If there is a likelihood of precipitation, why is the amount of rain/snow shown as ranges? (The amount of precipitation that will fall is dependent on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is continually changing, so the amounts are guidelines for what could happen rather than perfect predictions.) 

      *If there is no or low likelihood of precipitation in your area, you may want to find a different location (in the United States) that has a higher likelihood of precipitation. You can look at a current weather map (radar) to find where in the United States precipitation is happening currently. Your students will then be able to see scientists' forecasts of precipitation amounts represented as a range overlaid on the bar graphs.

    Tell students they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they should think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty about their answer. Encourage students to discuss the scientific evidence with each other to better assess their level of certainty with their predictions.

     

    3. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth's water resources.

    Tell students that forecasting what will happen to Earth's fresh water supplies is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Tell students that scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.

     

    On an island, there is a population of foxes and a population of rabbits. The foxes prey on the rabbits. Ask:  

    • When there are a lot of rabbits, what will happen to the fox population? (It will increase because there is an ample food supply.) 
    • What happens to the fox population when they’ve eaten most of the rabbits? (The foxes will die of starvation as their food supply decreases.) 
    • What happens to the amount of grass when the fox population is high? (The amount of grass will increase because there are fewer rabbits to eat the grass.)
    • If there is a drought and the grass doesn’t grow well, what will happen to the populations of foxes and rabbits? (The rabbit population will decrease because they have a lesser food supply. The fox population should also decrease as their food supply decreases.)

     

    Humans introduce dogs to the island. The dogs compete with the foxes over the rabbit food supply. Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? (The foxes will decrease because they are sharing their food supply, the rabbits will decrease because they have more predators, and the grass will do well because of the lowered impact of the smaller rabbit population.)

     

    Tell students that simple cause-effect relationships can expand into more complex system relationships. Let students know that they will be exploring the relationship between how sediments and rock types affects groundwater movement. Encourage students to think about how human actions play a role in changes in the flow of water and in freshwater availability.


    4.    Introduce and discuss the use of computational models.

    Introduce the concept of computational models, and give students an example of a computational model that they may have seen, such as forecasting the weather. The weather forecast provides a good example of how model input is used to predict future conditions. Go to NOAA Weather Forecast Model. Tell students that scientists used current information about the energy and moisture in the atmosphere as an input to the model, and that what they see on the weather map is the output of the model's calculations.

     

    5. Have students launch the Groundwater Movement interactive

    Provide students with the link to the Exploring Groundwater Movement interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping for sharing computer work stations. Inform students they will be working through a series of pages of models with questions related to the models. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.

     

    NOTE: You can access the Answer Key for students' questions—and save students' data for online grading—through a free registration on the High-Adventure Science portal page.

     

    Let students know that this is Activity 3 of the Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson.


    6. Discuss the issues.

    After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on these questions:

    • How can water move through rocks that look solid? (Water moves through very small spaces. The rock can look solid even when it has many tiny spaces through which water can move.)
    • How does the shape and size of pore spaces affect the permeability of different sediments? (More porous sediments have larger particles with large spaces between them. Sediments with smaller particles are less permeable because the particles pack closer together, leaving less space for water to move through.)
    • If a rock/sediment is porous, does that mean it is also permeable? (A rock/sediment can be porous without being permeable. If the spaces do not connect to each other, water cannot move through the rock/sediment.)
    • What kind of rocks/sediments make a good aquifer? (Rocks/Sediments that are very permeable make a good aquifer. This is because they allow quick flow of water, which means that you can get a good flow from the well as well as quick recharge from precipitation, assuming that the aquifer is unconfined.

    Informal Assessment

    1. Check students' comprehension by asking the following questions:

    • How can water move through rocks that look solid?
    • Why does sand have such a high flow rate compared to clay?
    • If a rock is porous, does that mean it is also permeable?
    • Is it better to use a confined aquifer or an unconfined aquifer for a water supply?

    2. Use the answer key to check students' answers on embedded questions.

    Groundwater and Surface Water. Concord Consortium.

    Students use interactive computational models to explore the underground flow of water and how it affects surface bodies of water. They predict how the water table will be affected by the placement of wells around a gaining stream. Finally, they explore the reasons the river dried up in a case study of the Santa Cruz River in Arizona.

    Tips & Modifications

    Tip

    To save students' data for grading online, register your class for free at the High-Adventure Science portal page.

    Tip

    This activity is part of a sequence of activities in the lesson Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?. The activities work best if used in sequence.

    Modification

    This activity may be used individually or in groups of two or three students, or as a whole class activity. If using as a whole class activity, use an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to project the activity. 

    1. Engage students in thinking about how water moves through sediments.

    Tell students that much of their water comes from groundwater and that water moves from the ground to the surface. Ask:

    • Why does water move through gravel more quickly than it moves through clay? (Gravel is more permeable than clay.)
    • Would it be easier to get water out of sand or out of gravel? (It would be easier to get water out of gravel because the pore spaces are larger. The water will move more quickly through larger pore spaces.)

     

    2. Discuss the role of uncertainty in the scientific process.

    Tell students that science is a process of learning how the world works and that scientists do not know the “right” answers when they start to investigate a question. We can see examples of scientists' uncertainty in the forecasting of precipitation amounts. Have students go to NOAA National Weather Service. Ask them to input their zip codes, hit “Go”, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Hourly Weather Graph”. This page shows the hourly weather forecast for your area. The first box shows the predicted temperature and dew point (along with wind chill or heat index, when applicable). The second box shows the predicted wind speed and direction. The third box shows the predicted sky cover (i.e. cloud cover), relative humidity, and chance for precipitation. The boxes below that line show whether the precipitation is likely to be rain, snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Point out the line for precipitation potential (the brown line). Ask:

    • Why is the precipitation shown as a “%”? (Precipitation is dependent on other factors, such as relative humidity and temperature. It is more likely to precipitate when the temperature is the same as or lower than the dew point.)
    • If there is a likelihood of precipitation, why is the amount of rain/snow shown as ranges? (The amount of precipitation that will fall is dependent on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is continually changing, so the amounts are guidelines for what could happen rather than perfect predictions.) 

      *If there is no or low likelihood of precipitation in your area, you may want to find a different location (in the United States) that has a higher likelihood of precipitation. You can look at a current weather map (radar) to find where in the United States precipitation is happening currently. Your students will then be able to see scientists' forecasts of precipitation amounts represented as a range overlaid on the bar graphs.

     

    Tell students they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they should think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty with their answers. Encourage students to discuss the scientific evidence with each other to better assess their level of certainty with their predictions.


    3. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth's water resources.

    Tell students that forecasting what will happen to Earth's fresh water supplies is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Tell students that scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.

     

    On an island, there is a population of foxes and a population of rabbits. The foxes prey on the rabbits. Ask: 

    • When there are a lot of rabbits, what will happen to the fox population? (It will increase because there is an ample food supply.) 
    • What happens to the fox population when they’ve eaten most of the rabbits? (The foxes will die of starvation as their food supply decreases.) 
    • What happens to the amount of grass when the fox population is high? (The amount of grass will increase because there are fewer rabbits to eat the grass.)
    • If there is a drought and the grass doesn’t grow well, what will happen to the populations of foxes and rabbits? (The rabbit population will decrease because they have a lesser food supply. The fox population should also decrease as their food supply decreases.)

    Humans introduce dogs to the island. The dogs compete with the foxes over the rabbit food supply. Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? (The foxes will decrease because they are sharing their food supply, the rabbits will decrease because they have more predators, and the grass will do well because of the lowered impact of the smaller rabbit population.)

     

    Tell students that simple cause-effect relationships can expand into more complex system relationships. Let students know that they will be exploring the relationship between how sediments and rock types affects groundwater movement. Encourage students to think about how human actions play a role in changes in the flow of water and in freshwater availability.

     

    4. Introduce and discuss the use of computational models.

    Introduce the concept of computational models, and give students an example of a computational model that they may have seen, such as forecasting the weather. The weather forecast provides a good example of how model input is used to predict future conditions. Go to NOAA Weather Forecast Model. Tell students that scientists used current information about the energy and moisture in the atmosphere as an input to the model, and that what they see on the weather map is the output of the model's calculations.


    5. Have students launch the Groundwater and Surface Water interactive.

    Provide students with the link to the Groundwater and Surface Water interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping for sharing computer workstations. Inform students they will be working through a series of pages of models with questions related to the models. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.

     

    NOTE: You can access the Answer Key for students' questions—and save students' data for online grading—through a free registration on the High-Adventure Science portal page.

     

    Let students know that this is Activity 4 of the Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson.


    6. Discuss the issues.

    After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on these questions:

    • How does the water table affect the relative amount of water in surface bodies and underground? (When the water table is high, meaning the soil is saturated, water will move [or stay] above ground and surface bodies of water will expand. When the water table is low, water will move from the surface downward toward the ground.)
    • What are the effects on a stream of removing too much water from the ground? (If too much water is removed from the ground, the stream can dry up. The water table can be lowered below the level of the stream.)
    • How can humans better manage their use of limited water supplies? (Humans can conserve water. They can use the wastewater to recharge the water supplies.)
    • Are rivers an endless supply of fresh water? (Rivers are not an endless supply of fresh water. They can be run dry if the water table goes too low. This can happen when people withdraw too much water from the river and/or from the groundwater that supplies the river. Even though the rivers still receive precipitation, they can be depleted if the water table isn't high enough.)

     

    Informal Assessment

    1. Check students' comprehension by asking students the following questions:

    • How does water move between groundwater and surface water when the water table is high?
    • What can humans do to keep water flowing in streams?

    2. Use the answer key to check students' answers on embedded assessments.

    The Urban Water Cycle. Auckland Council.

    Students use interactive computational models to explore the relationship between infiltration and recharge in natural and urbanized areas. They investigate how human development has changed the natural flow of water. Students explore the transfer of water from one aquifer to another and propose solutions to allow for water extracted from wells to recharge the aquifers from which they came.

    Tips & Modifications

    Tip

    To save students' data for grading online, register your class for free at the High-Adventure Science portal page.

    Tip

    This activity is part of a sequence of activities in the lesson Will There Be Enough Fresh Water?. The activities work best if used in sequence.

    Modification

    This activity may be used individually or in groups of two or three students. It may also be modified for a whole-class format. If using as a whole-class activity, use an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to project the activity. Turn embedded questions into class discussions. Uncertainty items allow for classroom debates over the evidence.

    1. Engage students in thinking about how water cycles through the ground.

    Tell students that much of their water comes from groundwater and that water moves from the ground to the surface. Show the Urban Water Cycle diagram. Ask:

    • When precipitation falls, how does it move into and through the ground? (When precipitation falls on the ground, it can run down the surface (runoff) or it can move into the ground. Water moves through the ground because sediments are permeable. If the sediments are very permeable, the water can penetrate deep into the ground, but if they are less permeable, the water will not be able to flow very deep into the ground.)
    • What effects have humans had on the natural movement of water? (Humans have made a lot of the surface impermeable with buildings and pavement. The water cannot easily enter the ground through paved surfaces because they are impermeable.)


    2. Discuss the role of uncertainty in the scientific process.

    Tell students that science is a process of learning how the world works and that scientists do not know the “right” answers when they start to investigate a question. We can see examples of scientists' uncertainty in the forecasting of precipitation amounts. Have students go to the NOAA National Weather Service. Ask them to input their zip codes, hit “Go”, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Hourly Weather Graph”. This page shows the hourly weather forecast for your area. The first box shows the predicted temperature and dew point (along with wind chill or heat index, when applicable). The second box shows the predicted wind speed and direction. The third box shows the predicted sky cover (i.e. cloud cover), relative humidity, and chance for precipitation. The boxes below that line show whether the precipitation is likely to be rain, snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Point out the line for precipitation potential (the brown line). Ask:

    • Why is the precipitation shown as a “%”? (Precipitation is dependent on other factors, such as relative humidity and temperature. It is more likely to precipitate when the temperature is the same as or lower than the dew point.)
    • If there is a likelihood of precipitation, why is the amount of rain/snow shown as ranges? (The amount of precipitation that will fall is dependent on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is continually changing, so the amounts are guidelines for what could happen rather than perfect predictions.) 

    *If there is no or low likelihood of precipitation in your area, you may want to find a different location (in the United States) that has a higher likelihood of precipitation. You can look at a current weather map (radar) to find where in the United States precipitation is happening currently. Your students will then be able to see scientists' forecasts of precipitation amounts represented as a range overlaid on the bar graphs.


     

    Tell students they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they should think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty with their answers. Encourage students to discuss the scientific evidence with each other to better assess their level of certainty with their predictions.

     

     

    3. Introduce the concept of systems in Earth's water resources.

    Tell students that forecasting what will happen to Earth's fresh water supplies is a complicated process because there are many different interacting parts. Tell students that scientists think about how one part of the system can affect other parts of the system. Give students a simple example of a system, as described in the scenario below.

     

    On an island, there is a population of foxes and a population of rabbits. The foxes prey on the rabbits. Ask: 

    • When there are a lot of rabbits, what will happen to the fox population? (It will increase because there is an ample food supply.) 
    • What happens to the fox population when they’ve eaten most of the rabbits? (The foxes will die of starvation as their food supply decreases.) 
    • What happens to the amount of grass when the fox population is high? (The amount of grass will increase because there are fewer rabbits to eat the grass.)
    • If there is a drought and the grass doesn’t grow well, what will happen to the populations of foxes and rabbits? (The rabbit population will decrease because they have a lesser food supply. The fox population should also decrease as their food supply decreases.)

    Humans introduce dogs to the island. The dogs compete with the foxes over the rabbit food supply. Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? (The foxes will decrease because they are sharing their food supply, the rabbits will decrease because they have more predators, and the grass will do well because of the lowered impact of the smaller rabbit population.)

     

    Tell students that simple cause-effect relationships can expand into more complex system relationships. Let students know that they will be exploring the relationship between how sediments and rock types affects groundwater movement. Encourage students to think about how human actions play a role in changes in the flow of water and in freshwater availability.


    4. Introduce and discuss the use of computational models.

    Introduce the concept of computational models, and give students an example of a computational model that they may have seen, such as forecasting the weather. The weather forecast provides a good example of how model input is used to predict future conditions. Go to the NOAA Weather Forecast Model. Tell students that scientists used current information about the energy and moisture in the atmosphere as an input to the model, and that what they see on the weather map is the output of the model's calculations.

     

    5. Have students launch the Using Groundwater Wisely interactive.

    Provide students with the link to the Using Groundwater Wisely interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping for sharing computer workstations. Inform students they will be working through a series of pages of models with questions related to the models. Ask students to work through the activity in their groups, discussing and responding to questions as they go.

     

    NOTE: You can access the Answer Key for students' questions—and save students' data for online grading—through a free registration on the High-Adventure Science portal page.

     

    Let students know that this is Activity 5 of the Will There Be Enough Fresh Water? lesson.

     

    6. Discuss the issues.

    After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on these questions:

    • What happens to rainwater when it rains in a city? (The rain runs off impermeable surfaces into basins or rivers.)
    • How does that differ from when it rains in a non-urban area? (In a non-urban area, the water can penetrate the ground because it is not covered by impermeable surfaces. The water in non-urban areas can recharge aquifers.)
    • How can humans better manage their use of limited water supplies? (Humans can use water sparingly for necessary purposes. They can use the wastewater to recharge aquifers so that the wells don't run dry.)

    Informal Assessment

    1. Check students' comprehension by asking them to respond to the following question.

    • Which area's aquifer is more likely to be recharged by precipitation: an urban area or a rural area? Explain your answer.

     2. Use the answer key to check students' answers on embedded assessments.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    • Science
      • Earth science
      • General science

    Objectives

    Students will:

    • describe how wastewater can be used to recharge an aquifer
    • explain the difference between porosity and permeability within the context of water movement
    • explain how the permeability of a sediment affects water movement
    • predict where water will accumulate based on topography and permeability
    • predict the location of aquifers based on a given topography
    • predict what types of rocks/sediments will form aquifers
    • describe the relationship between freshwater distribution and populations
    • list direct and indirect uses of fresh water
    • describe some of the costs and benefits of putting dams on rivers and streams
    • describe how water moves between the ground and surface water bodies depending on the level of the water table
    • describe the effects on a stream of withdrawing too much water
    • describe the locations of fresh water on Earth
    • explain why fresh water is considered a renewable resource
    • describe how humans have affected freshwater supplies on Earth
    • describe how human developments have changed the natural water cycle

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Multimedia instruction
    • Self-directed learning
    • Self-paced learning
    • Visual instruction
    • Writing

    Skills Summary

    This lesson targets the following skills:



    Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

  • What You’ll Need

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Internet access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per learner, 1 computer per pair, 1 computer per small group, Interactive whiteboard, Projector

    Physical Space

    • Classroom
    • Computer lab
    • Media Center/Library

    Setup

    • None

    Grouping

    • Heterogeneous grouping
    • Homogeneous grouping
    • Large-group instruction
    • Small-group instruction

    Accessibility Notes

    • None
  • Background Information


    Prior Knowledge

    • None

    Recommended Prior Lessons

    • None

    Vocabulary

    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'agriculture'}
    aquifer Noun

    an underground layer of rock or earth which holds groundwater.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'aquifer'}
    bedrock Noun

    solid rock beneath the Earth's soil and sand.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'bedrock'}
    clay Noun

    type of sedimentary rock that is able to be shaped when wet.

    condensation Noun

    process by which water vapor becomes liquid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'condensation'}
    confined aquifer Noun

    layer of water-bearing rock between two layers of less permeable rock.

    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'conservation'}
    dam Noun

    structure built across a river or other waterway to control the flow of water.

    evaporation Noun

    process by which liquid water becomes water vapor.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'evaporation'}
    freshwater Adjective

    having to do with a habitat or ecosystem of a lake, river, or spring.

    freshwater Noun

    water that is not salty.

    gravel Noun

    small stones or pebbles.

    groundwater Noun

    water found in an aquifer.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'groundwater'}
    model, computational Noun

    a mathematical model that requires extensive computational resources to study the behavior of a complex system by computer simulation.

    municipal Adjective

    having to do with local government.

    per capita Adjective

    for each individual.

    permeable Adjective

    allowing liquid and gases to pass through.

    population density Noun

    the number of people living in a set area, such as a square mile.

    pore Noun

    tiny opening.

    porosity Noun

    the ratio of the volume of all the pores, or holes, in an object and the object's total mass.

    porous Adjective

    full of tiny holes, or able to be permeated by water.

    precipitation Noun

    all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'precipitation'}
    pumice Noun

    type of igneous rock with many pores.

    recharge Verb

    to renew or restore to a previous condition.

    reservoir Noun

    natural or man-made lake.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'reservoir'}
    runoff Noun

    overflow of fluid from a farm or industrial factory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'runoff'}
    sand Noun

    small, loose grains of disintegrated rocks.

    silt Noun

    small sediment particles.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'silt'}
    stream Noun

    body of flowing water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'stream'}
    sustainability Noun

    use of resources in such a manner that they will never be exhausted.

    system Noun

    collection of items or organisms that are linked and related, functioning as a whole.

    systems-understanding Noun

    process of comprehending and communicating complex, related sets of information and interactions.

    topography Noun

    the shape of the surface features of an area.

    transpiration Noun

    evaporation of water from plants.

    unconfined aquifer Noun

    layer of water-bearing rock covered by permeable rock.

    urbanization Noun

    process in which there is an increase in the number of people living and working in a city or metropolitan area.

    water cycle Noun

    movement of water between atmosphere, land, and ocean.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'water-cycle'}
    water infiltration Noun

    process by which water on the ground surface or atmosphere enters the soil.

    water table Noun

    underground area where the Earth's surface is saturated with water. Also called water level.

    Encyclopedic Entry: {'slug': u'water-table'}

Partner

Funder