Pollution Solutions

6, 7, 8

Learners recognize water as a scarce natural resource that is often polluted and made unusable. They research local water sources, describe issues that pollute water, and brainstorm solutions.

Focus Question: What is each person's responsibility for environmental stewardship?


PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define potable water as water that is suitable for drinking and explain that it is a limited natural resource.
  • describe how pollution increases water’s scarcity and limits its uses for consumers.
  • identify local water sources and determine if they are impaired waters.

Teacher Note: Students will need to have access to computers and the internet for this activity. If this is not available to students, the teacher can in advance of this lesson, access the web site on Handout One and print for the students information about several bodies of water in the local area.

  • Student copies or display of Handout One: Total Maximum Daily Load
  • Colored pencils
  • Chart paper and markers

Draw an outline of a person. By the head, write or draw what you think of your environmental action. By the heart, draw how you feel. By the hands, write what you did. By the feet, write your next steps.

  • Web site of the Environmental Protection Agency, water program “Total Maximum Daily Loads.”


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Hold up a glass of water that contains a tiny drop of yellow, green or brown food coloring, making the water appear to be slightly colored. Ask the learners if they would be willing to drink the water. Why not? List their concerns on the board.

  2. Take a sip of the water and explain that the glass contains tap water with a tiny bit of food coloring. In other words, it is potable water (suitable for drinking).

  3. Ask the following questions:

    • What makes potable water different from much of the water found in the natural environment? Where might they find water that is not potable (that they would not drink untreated and why) in their community?
    • Does it matter how consumers use water?
    • Does the way water is polluted by industries, consumers, farmers, governments and others have any affect on the supply of and demand for water needed for everyday use?
    • What about the effects of pollution on water? Would you be concerned about drinking water that was formerly polluted? Would you drink it? Why or why not?
    • Is tap water always safe to drink? (How do governments purify water to make it safe to drink?)
  4. Allow learners to make their own conclusions about the importance of water usage. Ask for volunteers to share their thoughts. This exchange should take no more than ten minutes. Write the answers/ conclusions on chart paper in a different color so that they make an impact.

  5. Introduce the word “stewardship.” Define it for the students as stewardship: the careful supervision of resources.

  6. Tell learners that they will investigate what has happened in the past, what is being done now, and what effect each will have on future needs.

  7. Explain that water is a natural resource, but it is not limitless. Water scarcity is a reality. Discuss the following concerns:

    • How many ways do we use water?
    • Is it a limited or unlimited resource?
    • What would you do if there were little or no water available?
    • Introduce the term scarcity (not enough of a product to meet the demand). How would your life be different with limited water?
  8. Tell learners that in most states there are impaired waters, that is, water that needs some restoration effort to make it usable. Distribute Total Handout One: Maximum Daily Load. Working in teams, have learners go online at https://www.epa.gov/tmdl/impaired-waters-and-tmdls-program-your-epa-region-state-or-tribal-land to obtain information about water problems today or distribute printed information from this site. Go over the directions on the sheet to get groups off to a good start. It is the responsibility of each group to gather information to determine an area of concern for the body of water they select.

  9. In a whole group format, let learners summarize what they have researched by naming the types of impairments they found for the bodies of water they researched. Ask them to reflect on their feelings about the information they learned.

  10. Have the learners brainstorm a list of acts of stewardship, advocacy or volunteerism, they could do to help correct the problems.


Handout One: Total Maximum Daily Load will serve as an assessment of learning.

Cross Curriculum 

Have the learners brainstorm a list of acts of stewardship, advocacy or volunteerism, they could do to help correct the problems.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.7 Identify women and minorities who are or have been leaders in the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.