Who Is Responsible For Our Drinking Water? (Grades 6-12)

Subject: Social Studies

Topic: Scarce resources, hierarchy of needs, and public vs. government responsibility.

Time Frame: 60 minutes if the reference material is provided to students, 90-120 minutes if the students are to complete the research themselves.

Objectives: The students will contemplate the implications of the reality of scarce resources for society. They will determine whether there is a hierarchy of needs as well as who should be responsible for ensuring that particular needs are met (i.e. the government, private companies, the public).

Methodology: Brainstorm, Discussion, Lecture, and Peer discussion groups


  • Reference handouts (Fact Sheets) or computers for research

Space Requirements: Classroom and other areas where students can break into small groups.

Background Information: The teacher should read through the Fact Sheets beforehand in order to be familiar with the Canadian statistics about resources.


  1. As a class, quickly brainstorm a list of things that most people take for granted in their daily lives. Organize the list into a few basic categories. For example: list things that they have that others in poor nations do not have.
    - Food
    - Shelter/clothing
    - Access to a clean environment and its resources
    - Education
    - Entertainment
    - Medical care

    Next, have students make a list individually of the 20 things they cannot live without, the 20 goods and services they would take with them on an island.
  2. Divide the class into groups of 3 where they will have to agree on 15 things they cannot live without. Next, have the groups pair up so that they are doubled in size. These new groups will make a list of the 10 things they could not live without. While remaining in these groups, the students will decide what kind of income would be necessary to support these essentials to their standard of living each year. They will need to allocate a certain amount to each category on the list.
  3. Provide the students with the following Fact Sheets or have them look it up themselves. They will then be able to compare the average Canadian’s income and expenses with the costs they have determined for their standard of living. The following questions could be used to direct discussion or as an assignment:
    - Is it possible for an individual Canadian to pay for all of his/her needs?
    - Should some basic needs be supplied or regulated by the government? If so, which ones and why?
    - Clean drinking water is one of the most important basic needs. Should people buy their water from private companies or should clean water be provided by the government? Alternatively is there a difference between corporations privatizing drinking water and/or governments privatizing drinking water by distributing through government pipelines? In either situation, how much power should the public have in the regulation of the water supply?

Evaluation: The groups of 6 students should create a 1 page report on what they discussed about the 10 basic needs and the affordability of these items. This should be handed and marked by the teacher. Another option is to have individual students write their opinions on what 5 basic needs should be provided by the government and the reasons for their opinion.

Related Link:

Fact Sheet A - Individual Income

Individuals by Total Income Level Canada

Fact Sheet B - Health Care

Health Care Costs in the U.S.

- The average family health insurance premium in the United States is currently $17,182.
- American’s average annual out-of-pocket health care expenses were $4,316 in 2016

Health Care Costs in Canada

Health and Social Service Institutions

Average household out-of-pocket expenditures on health care (2009 dollars), by household income quintile, Canada excluding territories, 1997 to 2009

Average Household Out-Of-Pocket Expenses on Healthcare

The average Canadian spends approximately 4.3% of their personal expenditure on medical care and health services. Health care is approximately 9% of all Gross Domestic Product expenditures.

Fact Sheet C - Household Expenses

Average Household Expenditure in Canada

Fact Sheet D - Water

  • Bottled water costs 1000 times more than high quality tap water i.e. 1000 litres of bottled water costs $1500, while 1000 litres of tap water is $1.50
  • In 2001, the average daily domestic use of water in Canada was 335 litres/person. In Italy it was 260 litres/person, in Sweden it was 200 litres/person, and in Israel it was 135 litres/person.
  • 10% of tap water used in homes is for kitchen use or drinking
  • Around 65% of water used in homes is in the bathroom, with toilets being the single greatest user of water
    Source: Water Works! https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/water-overview.html
Typical Municipal Water Prices in Canada and Other Countries

Fact Sheet E - Food

Average Household Food Expenditure