Testing the Water We Drink! (High School)


Subject: Science, Biology, Chemistry

Topic: Testing the water we drink!

Time Frame: Roughly 60 minutes

Objectives: To allow students to run tests on five different sources of water. Students are expected to collect three samples of water: Urban and Rural (includes Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities) treated waters, and a Raw Source Water. A Drinking Water Guideline sample will be provided with the OWD Kit. The guideline sample is for quality control purposes (was the test performed properly?). This will also be a reference to see what a sample would look like if it meets the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. The only exception to this will be the Ammonium test where Canada does not have a guideline, and in this case the comparison will be to the European Union Limit.

Methodology: 12 different tests will be conducted on water from the five different sources so that the students can compare the different drinking water qualities. The tests will include: precipitation, colourimetric, visual, bacteriological, and test strips. All procedures, instructions, and reference material are available online for easy reference and reporting. It is suggested you print out each test instruction sheet to give to respective students/groups to follow procedures carefully. It is also recommended that you carefully review the materials list included in your kit, to ensure you have all materials.

Materials: Each Operation Water Drop Test Kit contains 12 test supply bags with all requirements for testing five different samples; your community water sample, Drinking Water Guideline sample and three other water samples. We recommend you test rural (includes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities) water, urban water, and raw untreated source water. For each analyte tested all supplies required are packaged in one bag to be given to the responsible group. The following is a list of all materials sent in the OWD kit for High Schools. Please ensure all of the required materials are included in your kit.

Please check to make sure that you have received all of the material listed below.
All of the test materials will be packaged in separate bags for each test.
Materials List For High School Operation Water Drop Kit
Total # of Beakers, Glasses, and Water Sample Bottles
Drink Glasses, 16
10 mL Disposable Beakers, 23
5 – 500 mL Bottles: Deionized Water, Rural Treated Water, Urban Treated Water, Raw Untreated Water, Local Treated Water.
All of the materials are packaged in separate bags for each test.

High School Operation Water Drop Material List

Additional materials:
Although the kit is complete, there are a few things that will be needed to ensure analyses are performed with ease and accuracy.
Each group should have:

  • A permanent marker for test tube labeling
  • Masking tape for labeling pipettes
  • A 25 mL and a 50 mL measuring device (preferably a graduated cylinder)
  • A test tube rack
  • Fume hood or well ventilated area for arsenic test
  • Protective gloves, goggles, and apron for arsenic test

Space Requirements: Students should be in a room with sufficient bench or desk space to work comfortably in small groups to conduct their tests, the arsenic and alkalinity test should be done in either a fume hood or in a well ventilated area.


The students will be testing water for the following parameters:
Approximate Time for each test to be completed (minutes)
1. Alkalinity (20)
2. Ammonium (20)
3. Arsenic (40)
4. Colour (10)
5. Copper (10)
6. Total hardness (5)
7. Iron (5)
8. Manganese (5)
9. Nitrate (5)
10. pH (5)
11. Total Chlorine (5)
12. Sulphate (20)

The students should be divided into 4 separate groups; each group will be running tests on all five water samples including a Canadian Guideline Limit Sample that is supplied for all analytes.The following distribution of the tests among the
students will consume approximately 60 minutes:
Group 1: Will do Arsenic alone.
Group 2: Will do Alkalinity, Copper, Manganese, and Total Hardness.
Group 3: Will do Ammonium and Sulphate.
Group 4: Will do Colour, Nitrate, Total Chlorine, Iron, and pH.

The arsenic test is the biggest time consumer; these tests have been set up so that students can get exposure to doing laboratory work, testing their water, comparing different water qualities to the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines. The optimum size for Group 1 would probably be 4, and the other groups could be as large as 6-8.

It cannot be overstated how important it is to be clean and careful while doing all of these tests. Please remember that although the tests are designed to be safe for students to use, whenever working with any amount of chemicals lab safety precautions must be taken into consideration. For best safety practices, please ensure that your students wear lab coats, goggles and gloves when handling the kit materials and samples.

After the tests have all been completed, the teacher should lead a discussion on the results that were found.

Possible Presentation Questions/Topics:

  • Does it concern you that Canada has no national regulations (just guidelines) for drinking water?
  • Do you feel rural (including Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) people should be concerned about their drinking water?
  • Is your water treatment plant modernized?
  • Are your water treatment plant operators certified?
  • Are you comfortable/satisfied that your community water is safe?
  • For more questions and possible solutions please refer to the fact sheets that are attached to the methods.

After the tests have all been completed, the teacher should lead a discussion on the results that were found and enter in the water quality results online to “Put your community on the map” at www.safewater.org. The class and teacher are also encouraged to complete and submit the online Program Evaluation on the Safe Drinking Water Foundation website. The success of the Operation Water Drop program depends on this feedback and reporting. The Safe Drinking Water Foundation thanks everybody in advance for their cooperation in the reporting of their results.

High School Operation Water Drop Presentation Checklist

Visit the Safe Drinking Water Foundation Website www.safewater.org to learn more about issues affecting safe drinking water.
You will find links to many Educational Fact Sheets and various articles published pertaining to the different analyses which students conduct as part of Operation Water Drop.

For more information on health risks and possible contributors of all chemicals you can go to the following website: http://www.lenntech.com/who-eu-water-standards.htm you will also find the drinking water standards for the World Health Organization and the European Union at this site. Following student presentations on their test results, it is suggested that the class have a discussion and formulate a Community Action Plan.