The Water Dilemma
By: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 1 class period
Prep Time: Copy articles from http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html
Materials: Fact sheet and article, “The Essence of Life and Chemical Pollution”


Engage Lesson:
Most students don’t appreciate the importance of having access to clean water. Although we use it for cooking, cleaning, bathing, drinking, and swimming in, we tend to take it for granted that the water will always be accessible and clean. Only in circumstances where the water supply is cut off, such as in the case of natural disasters do we truly appreciate this sustaining life force. This lesson will have students explore the possibility of a water shortage and the effect it would have on their lives.

Students will be able to :
1. List the sources of water contamination
2. Describe the inconvenience of living without an adequate supply of clean water.

National Geography Standards
Standard 15: How physical systems affect human systems.
Standard 16: The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

Teacher Background
Background information on water contamination may be obtained from the Fact Sheet, at http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html

Related and Resource Websites

http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html UNICEF Fact Sheet on Water Contamination
http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html article: “The Essence of Life and Chemical Pollution”



Introduce the lesson by asking students the following questions:

1. Has anyone ever drunk contaminated water? What were the circumstances? (drinking out of a stream when hiking, drinking untreated water in a foreign country, etc.)

2. What possible illnesses can you get if you drink water from an unknown or unsafe source?

Next share some of the statistics from the UNICEF Fact Sheet: http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html
Have students read the story, “The Essence of Life and Chemical Pollution” from http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/wes/explore_1856.html
Once they have read the article, students will discuss the following questions in small groups:

1. What are the man-made and natural causes of water contamination?
2. Why is water contamination everybody’s problem as the article states?
3. What are some health issues related to unsanitary water?
4. How does the insufficient supply of sanitary water impact people’s daily lives? Brainstorm and list as many examples as you can think of.

After groups have had time to discuss the article, discuss the questions as a class. Have each group share their list from question #4. Write the student responses on the board.
Tell students that in order for them to understand the direct impact that the lack of clean drinking water could have on their lives, they will participate in the following situation:


Imagine that there is a severe shortage of clean drinking water at your school. There is only one sanitary drinking fountain in the school. All of the other fountains have been polluted with a contaminant—lead. All other sources of drinking water have also been contaminated (water bottles, etc.). Therefore the only source of drinking water is the one drinking fountain located at (teacher will provide the location in their school). When you want a drink you must go to that water fountain. Tomorrow you will discuss how this situation impacted your day.


Discuss the impact that the water supply problem had on students during the previous day. In what ways were students inconvenienced (Lines at the safe drinking fountain, changing their usual path to class, etc.)?
Tell students that in the next lessons they will investigate how water can become contaminated and how communities are attempting to clean up their water supplies.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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