Water is an essential part of life on earth. Our planet, bodies, and environment are made of and depend on water. Water comes in many forms, and it’s an interesting chemical compound that makes our lives possible.
Facts About and Properties of Water
The United States Geological Survey notes that water is unique because it is the only natural substance that can be found in all three physical states – liquid, gas, and solid. The Utah Division of Water Resources also states that water is considered the “universal solvent,” because it can dissolve a large number of other substances.
Water is the largest, by far, biome – or naturally occurring ecological area – on earth. The University of California Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley notes that the aquatic biome covers nearly 75% of the Earth’s surface. There are two main types of water biomes – freshwater, with less than 1% salt, and marine, with more, generally around 3% – according to George Mason University.
Included in this ecological area are also watersheds, or regions that are basin-like and channel water from higher places where rivers and streams originate to their ultimate destinations, according to Watershed Atlas. These areas can also serve as natural boundaries.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service states that water erosion is the removal of soil material by water. Water erosion can be problematic, as it impacts agriculture, can destroy animal habitats, and can cause dust, which is abrasive and can carry disease or harmful particles that are breathed in by humans and animals, according to The Soil Erosion Site.
Types of Water Erosion
There are four different types of water erosion, noted the Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These include sheet, which is the removal of a large, thin layer of soil; rill, which is a series of small channels; gully, which are large, wide channels; and splash, or direct movement of soil, like from a raindrop or water spray.
- The National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory: Water erosion control practices
- World Wildlife Fund: Soil erosion and degradation
Water pollution is a major threat to humanity, animals, and the planet. As water is not an unlimited resource, the National Resources Defense Center argues that it is crucial to keep it clean.
Types of Water Pollution
There are several causes of water pollution, according to Water Wise, most of which, like oil spills and leaks, garbage, and agricultural runoffs, are caused by humans. Environmental Pollution Centers also note that there are some natural causes of water pollution, like animal waste and some environmental occurrences, but those are far outnumbered by human causes.
Effects of Water Pollution
There are many effects of water pollution. For humans and animals, water pollution can be physically harmful due to nitrates and toxic algae, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, there are many things we can do to prevent water pollution. The Town of Simsbury, Connecticut, released a great list of everyday things anyone can do to prevent water pollution, and Penn State University also gives many ways to reduce water pollution, especially with lawn care.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
One major result of water pollution is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is a collection of debris in the north Pacific, which is mostly plastics in a soupy mass, according to National Geographic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that this is not a single, large mass, but rather it is constantly shifting. It is harmful to the plant and animal life, and is an almost impossible to truly measure amorphous mass of garbage.
- Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science: Oil spills: Severity and consequences and to our ecosystem
- Blacksmith Institute: Lead poisoning and car batteries
Water and Climate Change
As so much of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and water is a huge part of weather and climate, it stands to reason that water and climate change would impact each other. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that global warming is already having an impact on the constant movement of water through changes in precipitation and through increasing temperatures, which in turn creates more evaporation and melting of ice.
- National Climate Assessment: Water supply
- Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development: Water and climate change
Fresh Water Crisis
Fresh water is essential for humans, many plants, and animals. Currently there is a fresh water crisis happening – according to the World Water Council, this problem is not yet irreversible, but it is dire, especially considering that currently 1.1 billion people live without fresh, clean drinking water.
The fresh water crisis refers to the scarcity of clean, fresh drinking water for over 1 billion people on Earth today. Water must be clean, or it can carry disease, cause illness, and even kill, according to The Water Project. This is a crisis that overwhelmingly affects women, due to the high occurrence of bone disease and the lack of opportunity for education caused by the constant struggle to find clean water, a task that often falls to girls and women.
Causes of Fresh Water Crisis
Environment 911 notes that the fresh water crisis is due to climate change, pollution, and water waste, as well as rising populations. Some major consequences, according to The Nature Conservancy, are continued climate change and continued disease, famine, and drought.
Fresh Water Crisis Facts and Statistics
Water.org notes that 1 in 10 people in the world live without access to clean drinking water, and that women and girls, who are generally in charge of collecting water, spend an average of 6 hours a day finding and collecting, then returning with, fresh water – that’s a total of 266 million hours worldwide, per day.
- The Wilson Center: The upcoming freshwater crisis is already here
- The Freshwater Trust: Water crisis archives
Water conservation is crucial, and is very easy, with a few steps, to accomplish! The City of San Diego notes that there are easy ways to save water indoors and outdoors, including turning off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving, washing full loads of clothes, using drip irrigation systems, and using a pool cover to cut down on evaporation.
Science Experiments with Water
Water is so crucial to us, but it’s also an important element in science, and can be used to teach many concepts, ideas, and techniques. Science Buddies has an experiment about water density called Can Water Float on Water, and PBS has a water displacement experiment with Lego blocks and coins.
Resources for Teachers and Educators
There are also many resources for educators to teach about water and perform experiments with water. Teachers Try Science has many experiments, including water experiments. Saving H2O has resources and experiments for teachers, and the North American Association for Environmental Education has multiple resources, links, experiments, and activities for teachers and educators.
Kindergarten through 5th Grade Lesson Plans
6th through 8th Grade Lesson Plans
9th through 12th Grade Lesson Plans
For older students, in high school, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has many lesson plans for all ages and skill levels, and the American Water Works Association has a lesson plan focusing on water systems, water conservation, and careers in the water industry. All stress the importance of water and water education.