What Is Safe Drinking Water? (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12)

Subject: Science

Topic: To familiarize students with the issues surrounding drinking water quality. To increase students awareness that rural and native citizens of Canada do not have access to the same quality of drinking water as urban residents. A general overview of the subject matter is intended to stimulate the students’ thought processes which will enhance their ability to investigate their drinking water supply during the rest of the project.

Time Frame: 120-240 minutes (2-4 hours), dependent upon the activities the teacher chooses to do.

Objectives: The following questions should be addressed and answered within the lesson:

  1. Where does our drinking water supply come from? (Groundwater or Surface Water)
  2. Why is it important to treat drinking water?
  3. What impurities or contaminants may be found in our drinking water?
  4. What are the effects of poor water quality on human health?
  5. How can our water be made safe to drink?
  6. What is the difference between rural and urban drinking water?
  7. What is the difference between Canadian drinking water guidelines and the regulations for Drinking Water in Europe and USA?

Methodology: Concept mapping, demonstration, discussion, brainstorm


  • Handouts and quiz provided (by grade)
  • Container of drinking water for demonstration
  • Small potted plant
  • Clear plastic bag
  • Twist tie

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

Background Information:

A lot of information is available on Safe Drinking Water Foundation's website at www.safewater.org

For example, see the Comparison Chart of Drinking Water Standards From Around the World


  1. Day One
    a. The teacher introduces the lesson by presenting students with a container of drinking water and asking students about various ways in which water can be used.
    b. The students make a concept map of ways in which they are affected by drinking water at home, at school, at work, at play, and on a community level. They should also add to the map a way in which they might affect drinking water at all of these levels. This can be done individually or as a group. The map should be dated so that students can return to it at the end of the unit to see if their thoughts about drinking water have changed.
    c. Start a demonstration of a water cycle so that it can be used at the end of the period to show the students what a real water cycle looks like.
    Materials: small potted plant, clear plastic bag, twist tie
    Procedure: Put a plastic bag over a small potted plant or over one of its branches and secure the base of it with a twist tie around the stem. For quicker results, put the plant in a warm, preferably sunny location and observe throughout the period.
  2. Day Two
    a. Ask students what they think “drinking water” is and where it might come from. Explain what a water cycle is and does. Would there be life without water? What are the human impacts on water quality? How does water in the city differ from water in the country?
    b. Have students brainstorm for 5 minutes about “safe” drinking water (Make a list of student responses on the board).
    c. Explain what you observed on the inside of the plastic bag. Water from the plant diffused into the air and collected on the inside of the bag. The process of water diffusion from plants is called transpiration.
    d. The summary “What is Safe Drinking Water?” has been provided for students in grades 6-8 and for students in grades 9-12. Copy and give to students.
    e. After reviewing the handout with the students, you might want to administer the quiz for students in grades 6-8 or quiz for students in grades 9-12 to test their knowledge of the subject.
    Answer key for the quiz for students in grades 6-8
    Answer key for the quiz for students in grades 9-12
    f. Submit your teacher evaluation form and the students’ results and action plan
    g. Use the Safe Drinking Water Foundation website www.safewater.org to enable students to learn more about drinking water quality issues and solutions.

Additional/Optional activities

  • Have students research the water treatment process in their community. Have them focus on how the water is treated, what it is being treated for/against, etc. Students may use the internet, or other available resources to find this information.
  • Talk about bottled water and the problems associated with this type of treatment. For example, certain communities with a poorly treated water supply may not be able to afford bottled water for cooking and drinking, and could certainly not afford to bathe infants in bottled water. Explore the regulations, treatment options, and guidelines regulating this industry.

Evaluation: The concept map can be used to check for further understanding at the end of the lesson or unit. The quiz can be used to test for student comprehension. The addition/optional activities can be evaluated as well. These activities provide for more authentic assessment in that they require the students to experience the reality of drinking water conditions in different types of communities.