Water Use and the World

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SWBAT to make basic comparisons between per capita water use in the United States and in other countries, using liters.

Big Idea

An understanding of liters can be used to compare our lifestyle with that of people in other countries.


10 minutes

As we transition into this lesson, I play this short video clip of a waterfall in Bryce Canyon National Park.  

We are naturally attracted to water.  It is beautiful and necessary.  This waterfall is of particular interest because Mormon settlers hand dug a very long ditch (assisted by a natural watercourse - remember that often in the desert arroyos/washes are dry for most of the year) to get this water to flow to agricultural areas.

For the teacher:  If you are interested in more data about water issues, I recommend this credible and easy to read resource from the United Nations, Water Facts and Trends.

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

I teach the students how to use Create a Graph and then take them to this Average Use Per Person Per Day data set, which conveniently lists water use in liters.  

In my classroom, we have 2-1 mini laptops so the students work with partners and we enter the following information together.  I chose to have my student use 3 data sets, the United States, the Other Country, and the Difference.  A simpler version would be to have one group on the graph and just list water use by country.

This is how we set up the 3 group graph:  Create a Graph Enrich

Active Engagement

35 minutes

I let students choose any countries they wanted, with this caveat:  they had to have at least one country from each continent and they needed some from the largest consumers (left side of list), the middle consumer group, and the smallest consumers (on the right side of the list).  I preteach the pronunciation of Nigeria and Niger.  I have heard Niger with both a long i sound (American pronunciation) and with the "i" sound as a long e (British pronunciation).  I also show them the location of these two countries on the map, as both their proximity to one another and their names make them easy to confuse.

My students have maps of each continent with the countries labeled but an projected map of the world or pull-down map will also help them locate the countries by continent.  They can also simply search:  What continent is _________ on?  It's not grammatically correct, but it works!

I write these overarching questions on the board as a way to keep students thinking about the larger ideas:

  • Do you see a relationship between the type of environments in which people live (arid/tropical) and their water use?  Why or why not?  
  • Is your water use affected by your local environment?  (This is an especially important question in Tucson, a desert environment in which many people water grassy lawns and have large swimming pools).
  • Do you see a relationship between the wealth of a country and their water use?  Explain?
  • How does our use or overuse of water possibly affect the natural environment?

Here is an example of a student who has completed the data set.  They later corrected their title to Average Water Use Per Person Per Day.

Here is their Complete Data Set.  They really wanted to enter this number of countries but this leads to a very crowded graph.  It looks best when downloaded as a pdf.

Here is a student who used a smaller Student Data Set, as well as her graph: Water Use Per Day Graph.

Student Reflection

8 minutes

This is a lesson that is designed to both stretch their contextual understanding of measurement and to encourage them to question.  I close this lesson with questions!

"What surprised you today?"

"What do you think YOU could do to modify how people waste water?  Be realistic."

"What do you understand about liters now that you didn't understand a week ago?"