Lesson 8

Tracing Source and Destination



Students will research where the water they use comes from. After answering a series of questions about their water resources, students will construct a map of their community, noting their water sources. Then, they will look at the opposite side of the coin to learn where the water goes.


Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards


Reproducible: Our Natural Resources 

Natural resources like water are important. To find out more about natural resources and learn some fast facts about water, make copies of the reproducible. Assign as independent reading, or read aloud together.


Reproducible: FYI! Water Is Essential

For background information on water, make copies of the reproducible. Have students read the text and answer the Reflect and Review questions independently. Or read the text aloud and discuss the answers to the questions together.  



Using information from your local water department or its website, have students seek answers to the following questions. Arranging a field trip to tour your local water department's plant could expand the activity while students gather this information.

1. Where does your community obtain its water - rivers, wells, springs, other sources?

2. What is the main supply? What other sources are needed? What other water sources feed into it (tributaries, for example)?

3. How does the water have to be transported?

4. How is our water stored until we are ready to use it?

5. How is it treated to make it safe to drink? Why isn't it safe to drink straight from the source?

6. If our community has a river or lake, are the fish caught in these waters edible? If not, why?

7. How much water does our community use each year?

8. What other communities share our water sources?

9. What state laws exist to protect our waters? Federal laws?

10. What is water control costing our state each year?

11. What progress are we making in cleaning up our waters?​ ​

After answering these questions, have the students construct a map of their community noting its water sources.

Using a large sheet of art paper, have students pick a location (a town square, perhaps) to locate on the center of the map. Fill in the map with major roads and highways.

Next, have students place major streams and rivers on the map. Students in the class who obtain their water from a well may also choose to identify this as an underground water source.

Place the local water treatment plant on the map and the community's reservoir, if applicable. Finally, using a physical map, trace back to find as many upstream "feeders" of your water supply as possible. Some example: rivers, streams, creeks, wetlands. If something happens to the water "upstream," what happens to our water?



Where does water from our community go? When a drop of rain falls on our roof, where does it end up? Eventually, it will end up in a river and then the ocean. What route does it travel to the ocean? What happens to it along the way?

The river that the drop of water ends up in and all the land it drains is your "watershed." Waste water and treated water sewage also drain into the watershed. Understanding watersheds is key to understanding pollution and how to keep the waters clear for wildlife and human life.

Continue your investigation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Surf Your Watershed website. You can find out much more about your watershed, explore the water atlas and find ways to "Adopt Your Watershed" by protecting and restoring it. The EPA's Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids' Stuff site has many activities and experiments, and its Water Sourcebook for Grades 3-5 explores the role of water in the environment.​