Thursday, August 12, 2010

Curriculum & Resources: Water

Great Resources for Teaching

from the August 2010 YES! Education Connection Newsletter

From measuring your water footprint to understanding the breadth of the BP oil spill, here is a bounty of resources for your classroom of local and world citizens.

3 Big Ideas to Make Water Last 

by ,  

Steward our watersheds, share the water fairly, and live within our means. Here is what sustainability looks like:

The “Watershed Moments” article in the Summer 2010, ‘Water Solutions’ issue of YES! Magazine.
Only a tiny fraction of Earth’s water is available as fresh water.
We’re already at the limits of supply in parts of the United States. But even with climate change and growing populations, there’s enough for everyone if we work together to keep it clean, use it wisely, and share it fairly.

3 Big Ideas to Make Water Last, YES! Magazine poster
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Where is our water?

poster_wave.jpg95.7% of the water on earth is salty. 84% of water in the atmosphere comes from the oceans, than falls as rain.

Of the 2.5% of Earth's water that's fresh, about 70% is ice—and inaccessible. [1]

Of the 2.5% of Earth's water that's fresh, about 30% is groundwater. [2]

Of the 2.5% of Earth's water that's fresh, 0.3% is surface water (in lakes, rivers, and wetlands) or water vapor. [3]

Who takes fresh water?

Who Takes Fresh Water?

3 big ideas to make water last


Take care of the ecosystems that supply us.

  • poster_fish.jpgLower CO2: Mountain snowpacks are shrinking because of climate change. About 75% of the water supplies in the western United States come from snowmelt.
  • Restored wetlands: Clean watersheds save cities billions compared to the cost of water purification plants. New York City is saving $6.5 billion by restoring the Catskill-Delaware watershed. [4]
  • Animal engineers: Beaver ponds slow runoff, letting water percolate into aquifers. Prairie dog tunnels help water soak into the ground.
  • Wild rivers: Naturally meandering rivers reduce erosion, create wildlife habitat, and slow flow, allowing surrounding soil to soak up more water.
  • Refilling aquifers: Groundwater is replenished by surface water, but slowly. Parts of the Ogallala Aquifer recharge at a rate between 0.07 and one inch per year.
  • Rain-friendly design: Porous pavement, rain gardens, and swales let rainwater seep into the soil, rather than overwhelming storm drains.

poster_boat.jpgShare it because it belongs to everyone.

  • Organic fertilizers avoid toxic runoff to rivers and keep fish stocks healthy.
  • Clean Water Act: Watchful Waterkeeper programs and community activists use laws to keep industrial neighbors clean.
  • Protect the commons: Clean and wild waterways allow for both healthy wildlife and human recreation.

Learn to live within our water means.

  • poster_island.jpgWind and solar: Solar panels and wind require little water to generate electricity. Thermoelectric is our single biggest water user.
  • Organic farming methods boost the ability of soil to hold water.
  • Drip irrigation saves up to 50% compared to overhead sprinklers. [5]
  • Native plants: We use 9 billion gallons of water a day on lawns and golf courses. Native plants require little irrigation. [6]
  • Low flow: Fixing leaks and installing low-flow fixtures saves 30% or more on household water use.
  • Reuse: Using reclaimed water for irrigation conserves a community’s drinking water. Reclaimed wastewater contains beneficial nitrogen and phosphorus for plants.
  • Save the rain: Annual rainfall on Los Angeles is equal to two-thirds of the water the city uses each year. Waterloo, Ontario, has given out 40,000 rain barrels. It now uses
    12.7 million gallons less water a year. [7,8]

Doug PibelDoug Pibel researched and edited this poster for Water Solutions, the Summer 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Doug is managing editor at YES! Magazine. Research assistance by Berit Anderson, Ashlee Green, and Keith Rutowski.
Illustrations by Alexandre Dumas.

  1. Of the 2.5% of Earth’s water that’s fresh, about 70% is ice—and inaccessible.
    Source: Igor Shiklomanov's chapter "World fresh water resources" in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).
  2. 30.1% of all freshwater is fresh groundwater.
  3. 0.3% or 31,341 trillion gallons are in lakes, rivers and wetlands. Amount also includes water in plants, animals, and the atmosphere. William E. McNulty, NG Staff graphic for April 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine.  From Igor A. Shiklomanov, State Hydrological Institute, Russia; USGS
  4. “New York City was faced with the potentially enormous cost of an artificial water filtration plant, estimated at as much as $6-$8 billion, plus yearly maintenance expenses amounting to $300-$500 million….With vigorous lobbying, they won agreement from federal regulators to try an alternative: rather than pay for the costly new filtration plant, the city would spend the much smaller amount of about $1.5 billion to protect the upstate watershed, by buying land as buffers and upgrading polluting sewage treatment plants, among other tactics….” Gretchen C. Daily and Katherine Ellison, Orion Magazine, Spring 2002,
  5. "Drip irrigation typically saves between 30-50% of water used on crops and orchards."
  6. Lawns: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation,
    Golf: Golf Course Environmental Profile vol.2: Water Use and Conservation Practices on U.S. Golf Courses, Environmental Institute for Golf."
  7. LA Water usage: Los Angeles Urban Water Management Plan, 2005.
  8. Waterloo, Ontario, has given out 40,000 rainbarrels. It now uses 12.7 million gallons less water a year. Personal interview w. Steve Gombos, Manager, Water Efficiency, Region of Waterloo. April 23, 2010.

    H20 Conserve

    H2O Conserve

    H2O Conserve is an online source of tools and information that enables individuals to make water conservation part of their everyday lives. The New York City-based nonprofit is dedicated to bringing awareness to the complexities and concerns that surround water supply and water quality, and to advocating for solutions to protecting this vital planet resource.
    Water conservation is something that anyone can do. But it does take time and awareness. H2O Conserve offers tools and information to help your students make water conservation part of their everyday lives.

    Water Footprint Calculator

    A water footprint measures how much water someone uses for a specific duration of time. It includes water that is used directly (shower, cooking, drinking) and indirectly to produce consumer goods (plastic to produce).
    H2O Conserve-Water Calculator
    The H2O Conserve Water Footprint Calculator will give you and your students an honest assessment of how much water you use. It will applaud what you’re doing well (recycling saves water!) and flag where you might improve. Rather than wallow in the fact that Americans have the world’s largest water footprints—reflective of our reliance on animal products—motivate your students to find out where they can begin making positive changes. VISIT: Water Footprint Calculator

    Water Saving Tips

    After your students have measured their water footprints, review these water saving tips and choose some to adopt; for a start, select one that is relatively easy and another that is do-able, but requires some thought and effort.  H2O Conserve categorizes suggestions by usage (kitchen, gardening, entertainment, etc.) and notes if they’re free, low-cost or somewhat pricey. Explore the benefits of graywater systems, which recycles water used in the home i.e. shower, laundry, sink, and find out if graywater reuse is allowed in your community. EXPLORE: Water Saving Tips
    YES! Archive

    BP Oil Spill Bundle

    The BP oil spill has raised many questions, but with little consensus on how to recover and prevent such devastation from happening again. What we know for certain is that it’s the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. History. Here is a bundle of resources to help your students make sense of this disaster and begin the healing process.

    Oil on Orange Beach, photo by David Rencher
    Oil from the BP disaster washes up on Orange Beach in Alabama.
    Photo by David Rencher

    Oil Spill By Numbers

    This infographic from PBS puts the BP oil  spill in perspective. Please note the May 3, 2010 press date.  On July 15, 2010 a 75-ton cap over the well shut off the leak.  Up to 184 gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.
    DISCOVER: PBS - Gulf Oil Spill Facts and Figures

    Drill Baby Drill Lesson Plan

    Take a stand on offshore drilling policies.  From PBS, this two-part lesson plan for middle and high school students explores President Obama's policy on offshore oil exploration. Costs and benefits of this policy are assessed through the perspectives of supporters and critics.
    VISIT: PBS - Drill Baby Drill

    50 Ways to Stop an Oil Leak

    By June 2, 2010, BP had received 31,600 suggestions from members of the public on how to cap the oil well and deal with the oil spill. In this article from the BBC,  Professor Iraj Ershaghi, director of petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California, gives his expert verdict on a select group of citizen proposals.
    EXPLORE: BBC - The Oil Spill, Your Solutions
    YES! Archive

    August 2010 Newsletter
    The above resources accompany the August 2010 YES! Education Connection Newsletter
    READ NEWSLETTER: Lessons to celebrate and protect clean, fresh water

    YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. ychang. (2010, July 20). Curriculum & Resources: Water. Retrieved August 11, 2010, from YES! Magazine Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licens