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                                     EPA 832-F-08-054
                                                       May 2008
Water Sense
                            Teachers' Guide to  Using
                  A  DAY  IN THE  LIFE  OF  A  DROP
                 Grade Level:
                Key Concepts:
                               Watershed, water uses, drinking water sources, water efficiency, wastewater
                               To help students understand the connections between the source of the water
                               they use; the ways their water use habits affect the environment and human
                               health and ways to reduce their impacts by pledging to take steps to use water
                               more efficiently
Background Information
A. Watershed Protection
This activity has been designed to help students understand a variety of concepts related to water use, efficiency,
and students' own impacts on their watershed. It is intended for use  both in the classroom and at home. The first
concept covered in this exercise is, "What is a watershed?" Ideally this concept will be conveyed  in the context
of the watersheds in which the students live to enhance understanding of the concept and connection to the
places where students live. A watershed  is an area of land that drains into a specific waterbody. The  best way to
understand what a watershed is and how it works is to picture it as a bowl or basin. A group of watersheds within
the same large area is called a basin. Watersheds catch rain and snowfall and channel it into brooks, creeks,
springs, streams and, eventually, rivers. The tops of watersheds, where they join, are at the highest points of land,
called ridges. Ridges divide areas so that on one side of them, rivers and streams flow in one direction, and on the
other side, they flow in another direction. It is extremely important to convey the idea that watersheds come in all
different shapes and sizes and that smaller watersheds are nested  inside larger ones,  much like Russian dolls. Your
small, local watershed lies within a larger watershed, which lies within an even larger regional watershed, and so
on. For more information on watersheds, check out this Web site:  www.watersheds.org.

To begin the exercise, help your students understand not only what a watershed is, but bring the concept home
by helping them to identify their own watershed. The following activities are  just a few examples of  how you can
help your students bridge the gap between a large concept, and their home watershed:

Al.  Determine which one of the 21  Regional Watersheds you  live in and circle the  answer:
      Hint: If you have access to the Internet, use  this Web site as a resource to find the  correct answer:
        New England

     South Atlantic-Gulf

         Great Lakes

       Ohio River Basin

          Lower Colorado
                               Tennessee River Basin

                               Mississippi River Basin

                                 Lower Mississippi

                                 Souris River Basins


Rio Grande

Great Basin
                                        Upper Colorado Region




Pacific Northwest
 A watershed address consists of a name and a number (for example, Lower James Watershed, 02080206). The 8-
 digit number is a Hydrologic Unit Code or HUC. The Hydrologic Unit system was developed by the U.S. Geological
 Survey (USGS) in the 1970s to help keep track of all the different watersheds in our country. Hydrologic units
 are watershed boundaries organized by size and can have from 2 to 16 digits. The HUC can range from 2 (like
 the regional watersheds above) to 16 digits long - the higher the number of digits in the HUC, the smaller the
 watershed. For each watershed size you go down, there are 2 additional digits in the HUC.

AT.  Using EPA's Surf Your Watershed (http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/index.cfm) or Enviromapper for Water
       (http://map8.epa.gov/enviromapper/) Web sites, find the name of your watershed:
       Watershed name:
       10-digit HUC:

 This size watershed is still very large, but being able to use the maps online (especially if you can project
 them onto a screen to show your students) will help you help your students find the answers to the questions
 throughout the rest of activity.

 Bonus: Find the  name and number for your 14-digit HUC. At this level you're far more likely to be dealing with
 familiar landmarks and recognizable land formations that your students might recognize. Maps can be ordered
 online from USGS at www.usgs.gov. Local watershed and conservation groups are also great resources!

 B. Water Supply: Where does it come from?
 Once the students understand the context that they are working  in  (their home watershed), the next key concept,
 understanding where the water they use at home comes from, will be much easier to understand. We hope to
 bring the level of understanding from the faucet to the actual waterbody within their watershed that is the source
 of their drinking  water. Your local water utility or public works department can tell you the source  of your public
 water supply. For more information on drinking water sources and safety, visit www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/
 health/watertap/ch3.htm. During this portion of the lesson, be sure  to talk about waterbodies upstream and
 downstream in your local  watershed. Students should begin the activity with an understanding of the ways their
 local/regional waterbodies are connected and which direction the water is flowing. For example, students in the
 fictitious Cub Run watershed know that water from the Big Bear Lake flows into Crackling Creek and on through
 Cub Pond  and various smaller streams and eventually out into Junction River.

 C. Water Efficiency
 Once students have a better understanding of where their water comes from, the activity moves on to the
 concepts of using water more efficiently by investigating how we use or waste water, where it comes from and
 where it goes after it goes down the drain. We hope that this portion of the activity will become a family activity.
 The tasks  in this  portion of the activity will be most effective with family participation, although they can be
 completed by the student alone. (You might want to consider sending home a notice about the activity ahead of
 time so families are aware of their expected participation.) Below are a few additional activities you might try
 with your students.

Cf •   First, ask the  students how much water per day they think a leaky faucet loses. Ask students to guess how
       much water a faucet that loses 48 drips per minute would waste in one day. You can  set it up as a  team
       competition, a quick bonus question, or give them several practice ones so they can see how quickly drops
       can add up and then have a contest...be creative! In question 9 of Worksheet #1  (with or without the
       additional activity described above), students are asked to brainstorm ways to use water more efficiently.
       To determine how much water this leaky faucet is wasting  per day, month, and year, you can use one of two
       methods.  If you have access to the Internet, you can get a  more exact answer by using this drip calculator
       provided by the American Water Works Association: www.awwa.org/awwa/waterwiser/dripcalc.cfm. If you
       don't have access to the  Internet, you can  use the chart on page 3 to estimate.

C2.  The activity then moves back into the home watershed, and students are asked how water gets into and
       out of their watershed and about different types of impacts that wasting water (using water inefficiently)
       might have. This is an extremely important point that should  be highlighted during the lesson. Using water
       inefficiently is directly tied to designated uses, which are tied directly to water quality.

                    Students should come away from this activity with a greater understanding of why it is
                    important to use water efficiently and what the effects on local waterbodies can be when
                    too much water is removed from the watershed at any given time.

                    When we use water, we are taking it out of the watershed, and the amount of available
                    freshwater goes down. We use water  in  many different ways and eventually return it to the
                    environment in various conditions. How much we  use and how we use it can have significant
                    effects other water uses,  such as aquatic life uses, recreation,  fishing, and the like. (For
                    more information on the  environmental  effects of excess water use, see: www.epa.gov/

C3. To encourage lasting changes  in behavior, the activity concludes with a pledge that  students and members
      of their family are to complete. The pledge form requires students and family members to commit to
      making specific changes to use water more efficiently.  Students should bring  these back to school once
      they are completed and copies should be made of each one. One copy should stay in the classroom for
      reference  in later lessons, and one copy  should be sent home  to remind family members of their pledge.

      One great way to help kids take the message about using water efficiently home to  their parents is to
      teach them to help their parents look for the WaterSense® label when they buy new faucets, toilets
      or irrigation supplies for their yards. You can explain that kids (and parents) can easily identify water-
      efficient products simply by looking for  products that have the WaterSense label on them. You can also
      direct them to the WaterSense Web site to  learn more  about these products, other WaterSense programs
      and for more ideas on how to use water more efficiently. The  Web site also has pages  especially geared
      toward kids, which includes a  WaterSense game. The game can be played in its entirety online at
      www.epa.gov/WaterSense or can be downloaded in a printer-friendly format  as a quiz game at:

       Estimated Water Loss Through Leaky Fixtures
Drips per
Water wasted
per day (gallons)
Water wasted per
month (gallons)
Water wasted per
year (gallons)
       Please Note: When working with big issues that have portions that can be perceived as doom and gloom,
       students can start to feel overwhelmed. It is important to remind your students that they are each just one
       person. Alone they can't save the world, but they can make a difference. And the more people who commit
       to making a difference, the  bigger the change will be!

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Interdisciplinary Activities
A Day in the Life of a Drop was designed with the hope that teachers in multiple subjects will take the
opportunity to collaborate and make the activity and  pledge the basis for a rich, interdisciplinary learning
experience where water usage serves as an integrating context. While the activity can be used in many ways,
it is our hope  that it will  be incorporated into lesson plans in mathematics, science, social studies/geography,
and language arts. The lesson can also  be easily adapted for classroom use rather than a home activity.
(Use of the lesson in the classroom might help to reduce challenges associated with variables such as multi-
bathroom  homes, or math skills that  have not yet been covered which could potentially take away from the
primary messages.) A Day in the Life of a Drop allows students to apply practical skills to real life situations
with a  unifying context that everyone can relate to...water!

Don't Let Math Hold You  Back!
A Day in the Life of a Drop provides a  framework for discussing where water comes from  and where  it goes,
different types of water uses, the effects of those uses, and  individual responsibility. The activity itself
(without other suggested lessons and activities) has a significant mathematics component. We recognize that
while the skills used in this lesson are consistent with  national mathematics standards for 3rd-5th graders,
students' abilities in this area will vary depending on when the lesson is used. For this reason, we recommend
that teachers communicate with parents about the level of support necessary for the students' successful
completion of the activity. Also, based on your students' skill level, you should decide before beginning the
activity if you want your students to  use whole numbers, decimals, and whether or not you  would like them to
round the  numbers. Students who have not yet mastered all  the math skills required to complete the activity
should  still benefit from the lesson as a whole with support from teachers and family members and the use
of tools such as computers and calculators. Teachers using the activity in  subjects other than math, or not
in cooperation with math teachers, should design assistance strategically so as not to detract from  other
important lessons to be learned from the activity.