Where Has All the Water Gone?

6, 7, 8

The purpose of this lesson is to raise awareness about the various ways we use water in our daily lives.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Sixty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify the many uses of water in our daily lives.
  • determine the amount of water that is used in various activities.
  • explain that our water supply is limited.
  • Common Water Uses and Amounts (handout)
  • Empty gallon jugs
  • Math-counting blocks
  • Student Recording Sheet for Water Usage (handout)
Home Connection 

Students will take the recording sheets home and record their water usage for the 24-hour period.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Begin class by asking students to estimate the amount of water they use each day. Have students write down their estimates and put them aside for future reference.

  2. In cooperative groups of three students, ask the class to brainstorm all the ways they can think of that they use water every day.

    Compile a class list of the answers the groups made. Ask the students to share the amounts they estimated at the beginning of class. (Note: you will get a very wide range.)

  3. Distribute statistics that show how much water various activities use (handout).

    Hold up an empty gallon jug, and explain that two-thirds of the people in the world use just thirteen gallons of water each day. Ask how this compares with their estimates.

    Explain that the average American uses approximately 100-105 gallons of water each day. Ask how that compares with their estimates.

    Provide the class with statistics that show the amount of water it takes to produce several common items we use every day such as tomatoes, a gallon of milk, energy to light a light bulb, production of newsprint, etc. (handout). Ask for reactions to these statistics.

  4. Set out for all to see or give each group of students 100 math-counting blocks to represent the total amount of water on the earth. 

    Ask student to guess how much of this total is available for use by humans and animals. Tell them to move aside that percentage of blocks from the 100. Listen to their estimates. After several estimates, explain that only three percent of the total amount of water is fresh water, and of that three percent, one percent is actually available for use. Ask them to show you that one percent of the blocks. Allow them time to react to the concept.

    The rest of the Earth's water is in the ocians, too deep underground or locked up in ice caps. Ask students to turn to their neighbor and make a generalization about the amount of water that is available. (Water is extremely limited for actual use.)

  5. Provide Student Recording Sheet for Water Usage (handout) for students to record the amount of water they use for the next 24 hours. This will be the homework assignment.

    If students are in Flint, Michigan, they may translate their usage into water bottle increments. During the crisis, Flint students and residents used donated water bottles for drinking, cooking, and even washing because their tap water was unusable.


Students will be assessed by teacher observation of the involvement of the students and by the completion of the recording sheets.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.