Water Quality Awareness

A Carolina Essentials™ Activity

Total Time: 15 minutes

Prep: 15 mins | Activity: 15 mins

Life Science | Environmental Science


Middle | High School


This demonstration is an engagement activity that increases students’ awareness of the current state of global water quality and availability. The United Nations releases annual reports on global water quality around a theme, with updated water quality statistics. The data can be turned into true/false or multiple choice questions and used as a friendly class competition. This activity uses the UN water quality poster from 2013.

Essential Question

What is the current state of the global water supply?

Activity Objectives

  1. Increase student awareness of global water quality.
  2. Increase student awareness of global water use.

Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

Crosscutting Concepts

Stability and Change



  1. Divide students into groups of 3 or 4.
  2. Give each student a cup or beaker that is 3/4 full of clean water.
  3. Give each group soil, green and yellow food coloring, and cocoa powder.
  4. Project (or ask) the water quality questions and allow students to answer them.
  5. Check answers with students. (Answers are in red.)
  6. If students miss a question, they will pollute their cup of water with the appropriate type and amount of pollution. (Amounts are in red.)

Student Procedures

  1. Answer each question below.
  2. For each question that is incorrect, you will “pollute” your cup of water as your teacher directs.
  3. Within your group, discuss the answers to the follow-up questions.

Teacher Preparation and Tips

  1. Students may complete the questions individually and then check answers together as a class or each question can be discussed and checked one-at-a-time.
  2. To save time, have all materials on student desks before the activity begins.
  3. Students can discuss questions as a group or write the answers in a notebook.
  4. Remember that this is an introductory activity to get students thinking about water on a global level.


Water Quality Awareness

  1. What percent of people worldwide do NOT have access to improved sources of drinking water?

  2. A. 11%    B. 33%    C. 55%    D. 77%

    (add a pinch of soil)

  3. What percent of people worldwide do NOT have access to improved sanitation?

    A. 11%   B. 33%    C. 55%    D. 77%

    (add 3 drops of yellow food coloring)

  4. In developing countries, _______ of sewage is discharged untreated directly into water bodies.

    A. 20%    B. 40%    C. 60%    D. 80%

    (add pinch of cocoa)

  5. Industry dumps about _________MT of polluted waste in water every year.

    A. 100–200 MT    B. 300–400 MT    C. 500–600 MT    D. 700–800 MT
    (add 3 drops of yellow food coloring)

  6. The most common agricultural chemical contaminant found in groundwater aquifers is _________.

    A. ammonia    B. nitrate    C. phosphate    D. sulfate
    (add 3 drops of green food coloring)

  7. About how many people die each year due to inadequate water supply, sanitation, and hygiene? A. 3,500    B. 35,000    C. 350,000    D. 3,500,000

    (add pinch of soil)

  8. Which ecosystem has suffered the greatest degradation in biodiversity?

    A. estuaries    B. fresh water    C. oceans    D. salt water marshes
    (add 3 drops of green food coloring)

Analysis & Discussion

Ask students the following questions:

1. Look inside your cup. If this represents global fresh water and water quality, what inferences can you make about human health?

The dirtier the water, the more health problems there will be.

2. What might be local contributions to fresh water pollution?

Answers will vary.

3. What can you do to reduce fresh water pollution?

Answers will vary but may include conservation techniques and pollution cleanup.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.

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