a  Leak  Week   Teacher's  Guide
Grade Level:  3-5
Key Concepts: Water meter/measurement, leak detection, toilet components, water efficiency, water
conservation, water savings calculations

Goal: Students will learn how much water leaks can waste in homes across the country; understand
how to measure the water used in their homes; examine possible sources of leaks at home; determine
whether their toilet(s) leak; and calculate savings from fixing leaks.

Background  Information

What Is Fix a Leak Week?
Leaks account for approximately 1 trillion gallons of water wasted in the United States each year. The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) WaterSense® program promotes its annual Fix a Leak Week in
March as part of its efforts to encourage Americans to use water efficiently. The average home can waste
11,000 gallons of water per year—more than enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. By finding and
fixing running toilets, leaky faucets, and dripping showerheads, a family can save as much as 10 percent
on its utility bills and save water for future generations.

Why Save Water?
Water is a precious resource. Even though our water sources in some parts of the country can replenish
themselves through precipitation, our changing climate, growing population, and ever-increasing thirst
for water threaten these supplies. (Note: See the accompanying Teacher's Guide to Using A Day in the Life
of a Drop for more information about water supplies.) In fact, from 1950 to 2000, our country's popula-
tion doubled, but our demand for water more than tripled. Water efficiency is a way for families to use
less water without sacrificing their quality of life. Taking simple steps such as finding and fixing leaks and
looking for the WaterSense label when shopping for plumbing products can  make a big difference.

What Is WaterSense?
WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA that makes it easy for consumers to identify water-
efficient products and learn water-saving behaviors. The WaterSense label can  be found on plumbing
fixtures that use less water but still perform as well or better than conventional models. The WaterSense
Web site, www.epa.gov/watersense, has a wealth of information on water-efficient products, facts, and
figures about water use in the United States, as well as simple steps consumers can take to save water.

Fix a Leak Week Lesson Plan
While Fix a Leak Week itself (scheduled for March 15 to 21,2010) is a good time to cover this topic, saving
water can be taught at anytime of the year. Students can be encouraged to conduct water-saving audits of
their homes and experiments on leaky toilets to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), promote Drinking Water Week
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(May 2 to 8,2010), or participate in their local science fair. Your local utility may also be interested in your
efforts; WaterSense utility partners often celebrate Fix a Leak Week in March with educational campaigns and
distribute free materials to help their customers find and fix leaks. This curriculum covers a range of subjects
(reading, science, math, social studies), and lessons were developed to ensure this work can help meet
relevant standards in the various curriculum areas. It can be adapted to different grade levels and class abilities.

Lesson 1: Water Meters and Measurement
To introduce Fix a Leak Week
To discuss how water meters can give clues as to whether a house has a leak
45 minutes
Fix a Leak Week Student Worksheet and Fix a Leak Week Family Fact Sheet
Estimated Class Time:
Materials Needed:
Curriculum Focus:
  •  English: Students will improve reading comprehension by learning new vocabulary about water use.
  •  Math: Students will develop greater understanding of multiplication or division by learning to
    convert water measures.
  •  Students will locate the water meter in their homes, answer questions about water
    meters, and record meter readings at the start and finish of a period when water
    isn't being used.
  •  Students will convert reading from gallons to cubic feet, or vice-versa.
Use this first lesson to get students excited about finding and fixing leaks—and
for explaining why saving water matters. Encourage students to read the Fix a Leak
Week Family Fact Sheet either in class or at their homes. To expand this reading activity, you
can create a pre-reading and post-reading questionnaire for students to fill out individually or as a class.

Before students see how much water can be wasted by leaks in their homes, they need to learn how
much water their families use. A meter that tracks water consumption in gallons or cubic feet can be
found on the outside of most homes or under a metal cover marked "Water" on the sidewalk. Ask your
students to find out where the water meter is located at their homes, seeking help from a parent if
necessary. If the meter records cubic feet (or ccf, a hundred cubic feet), it will be necessary to convert
this measurement to gallons. 1 cubic foot of water = 7.48 gallons. A good source for how to read a water
meter can be found atwww.h2ouse.org/resources/meter/index.cfm.

A simple way to determine if a home has silent water leaks is to take a water meter reading at a time when
no one is using water, maybe when everyone is away from home. Wait at least two hours, during which time
       no one should use water in the house, even to flush the toilet, then take a meter reading again. If the
          number changed, there is probably a leak. Note: When water is measured in cubic feet it may
           take several hours to show a change in water use. Students can instead try taking a meter read-
            ing before school and after school, if no water is used at home during the school day.

             Another activity involving the water meter is having the students take a reading  once
            per week for a semester. Adding up the weeks and dividing by the number of days in the
          period will results in an average daily water use rate for the family. For Earth Day or during
         Fix a Leak Week, students and their parents can be encouraged to take the pledge on the
         WaterSense Kids' site, www.epa.gov/watersense/docs/drop pledge508.pdf, and  see if their
          water-saving behaviors have resulted in daily savings.
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Lesson  2: Experiment in the Tank
To understand how a toilet works
To learn how to check toilets for leaks
Estimated Class Time:    45 minutes
Materials Needed:
Curriculum Focus:
Fix a Leak Week Student Worksheet
  •  Science: Students will gain greater understanding of science and
    technology by conducting an at-home experiment.
  •  Students will check a toilet for leaks using food coloring or dye tablets.
Before conducting this fun, at-home experiment, students will need to understand how a toilet works:
the bowl is the part that they normally see, where a small amount of water is kept. The tank is the area
behind the bowl that holds the water waiting to flush the toilet, and it has a lid over the top of it.

For this experiment, students will need either dissolvable food coloring or a dye tablet (these "potty
tabs" are often available at your local utility or on the Internet; www.culverco.com is one site that has
dye tabs available for purchase, but there are many other sources as well). They should remove the lid
from the toilet tank (parental assistance may be necessary, as lids are often heavy and awkward to move)
and drop a dye tablet or a few drops of food  coloring into the tank, then wait 15 minutes without flush-
ing the toilet. If color appears in the toilet bowl after 15 minutes without flushing, the toilet has a leak.

Note: Students should flush the toilet after  15 minutes have elapsed, to avoid staining the inside of
the tank. It may take several flushes to remove the coloring completely from the tank water. Have an
adult help replace the tank lid, and record findings. If this experiment is for a science fair project, the
student may want to conduct it again for accuracy and test every toilet in the house for leaks. Teachers
can also conduct this experiment at school, if any tank-type toilets are installed in the building; however,
most schoolchildren's restrooms use flushometer valve toilets, not tanks.

Lesson  3: Detecting Other Leaks Around the Home

Estimated Class Time:
Materials Needed:
Curriculum Focus:
To learn how little leaks can add up to a lot of water loss
To learn how to find leaks
30 minutes
Fix a Leak WeekStudent Worksheet, water dropper, stopwatch or clock
  •  Math: Students will develop greater understanding of multiplication and division by converting
    drips to gallons.
  •  Science: Students will search for potential water leaks in their homes and develop greater under-
    standing of scientific inquiry.
  •  Students will do a "drip scavenger hunt" at home.
  •  Students will solve drip-related math questions.
The easiest way to find leaks is simply to lookfor them. Students can use the Fix a Leak WeekStudent Worksheet
as a checklist to search for dripping faucets, showerheads, pipes, sprinklers, and hoses. If they find a drip, they
                                                                          Fix a Leak Week Teache

Estimated Class Time:
Materials Needed:
should time how often a drop of water comes out of the fixture by timing it for one minute, then multiplying
that rate by 60 minutes, 24 hours, and 365 days to get an annual water waste rate. A showerhead leaking at a rate
of just 10 drips per minute, for example, wastes more than 500 gallons per year—enough water to wash 60 loads
of dishes in your dishwasher. Students may find it helpful if you demonstrate how to measure the speed of a drip
in class by using a water dropper to simulate a drip and timing it with a stop watch or clock with a second hand.

WaterSense has prepared a Fix a Leak Week Student Worksheet to help walk children through all of the steps
described above, as well as calculate potential waste from leaks and savings from fixing them. Please review
the worksheet to determine whether the math knowledge required is level-appropriate for your students.
You can also reorganize the drip scavenger hunt as a scientific inquiry. Instruct students to formulate what
they predict the scavenger hunt's outcome will be (e.g., drips or no drips? or drips in the bathroom sink but
not the kitchen sink?), and then walk them through the scientific method to discover whether they guessed
correctly (question, background research, hypothesis, procedure, data, and conclusion).

Lesson  4: Students Share  What They Learned
                        To encourage students to share Fix a Leak Week with their families
                        30-45 minutes
                        Pledge to Filter out Bad Water Habits and Test Your WaterSense quiz
                        and interactive game (students can access these tools online or a
                        teacher can provide paper copies from the WaterSense Web site)
Curriculum Focus:
  •  Social Studies: Students will develop greater understanding of their roles as citizens.
  •  Students will sit down with their families to take the Pledge to Filter out Bad Water Habits.
  •  Students will play the Test Your WaterSense online quiz and interactive game.
For the final Fix a  Leak Week lesson, encourage students to take their learning home and reflect  on why
saving water matters. Encourage students to think and write about the connections between being a
responsible citizen and water use. Here are some questions to consider as a class:

  1. What do you think are our rights to drinking water? Do all citizens  have the  right to have water? Do
    citizens have the right to waste water? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think are our responsibilities regarding  drinking water? Are we responsible for protect-
    ing our water? Are we responsible for using it wisely?  Why or why not?
If families take the Pledge to Filter out Bad Water Habits and are interested in fixing leaks that students iden-
tify around the home, you can refer them to the WaterSense Fix a Leak Week Web pages at www.epa.
gov/watersense/fixaleak for links to resources on do-it-yourself repairs. EPA encourages consumers who
need to replace plumbing fixtures to look for WaterSense labeled models, which  use at least 20 percent
less water and have been independently tested to perform as well or better than standard fixtures. A
simple WaterSense labeled aerator, for example, can be screwed onto most bathroom faucets to reduce
water from the tap by 30 percent compared to standard models without a noticeable difference in flow.

Kids can also have fun learning about water waste and how to stop it by visiting  the Test Your WaterSense
quiz and interactive game found at www.epa.gov/watersense/kids/games.htm.

For more information and teaching resources on water efficiency, visit www.epa.gov/watersense or
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