by Marsha Rakestraw

Many of us take for granted washing our hands, using flush toilets, getting a drink of clean water, and having water on demand for whatever we want.

But nearly 850 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 1.9 billion people “live in areas where water is already scarce.”

In 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, has been in the midst of drought and is running out of water. The approaching “Day Zero” means that water will be shut off and citizens will have to get limited water from emergency supply stations.

And as our human population grows and is stressed by the impacts of climate change, pollution, overdevelopment, extreme weather, conflict, and other factors, the availability of sufficient clean water becomes even more problematic.

World Water Day is a project of the United Nations and other organizations.

This year (March 22) focuses on “nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.”

As water is something all beings and the earth need, and none of us can live without, World Water Day offers an important opportunity to explore water in our lives and the challenges of everyone having access to sufficient, safe supplies of water.

As a solutionary teacher, here are a few ideas for exploring water issues with students:

  • Brainstorm a list of who and what needs water to survive (humans, nonhuman animals, plants, etc.).
  • Have students list everything they can think of that contains or uses water (soda, nuclear power plants, agriculture, canned food, T-shirts, etc.). Which of these uses are vital to our sustainability and survival (and to that of animals and the earth) and which are not
  • Have students list all the ways they use water every day, calculating how much water they use, and then comparing their use with how much water people in other countries use.
  • Have students carry around a gallon jug full of water and see how long it takes them to use it all up (drinking, hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.). Then repeat the exercise, seeing if they can reduce the amount they use (while still maintaining proper hygiene).
  • People (mainly women and children) in many countries have to carry large quantities of water long distances. Provide students with a safe opportunity to try this method of carrying water, and then have them explore current solutions for making hauling water easier; encourage them to develop their own solutions.
  • Brainstorm all the ways that people can conserve water and reduce their water footprint. Invite them to try some of their ideas at home and in their school community.
  • Use resources like those in our Water Issues Pinterest board to help students learn more and to spark discussion about water issues.
  • Have students explore bottled water use. Engage them in a blind “taste test” of bottled versus tap water. Help your students learn more about the community’s water supply, from source to tap.
  • Help students brainstorm all the systems that influence water problems (e.g., agricultural, political, fossil fuel, marketing, economic) and discuss how we as solutionaries can help address our water challenges in meaningful ways. (Here’s an example of a systems map brainstorm related to police violence.)
  • Learn about people taking positive action to help those who need clean water and encourage students to find ways to support these efforts.
  • Have students explore water challenges in their own community, discover what entities are already working on those challenges, and brainstorm how they can get involved in meaningful ways.
  • Use lesson plans from organizations such as The Water Project, Arizona’s Project Wet, and the Global Oneness Project to explore water issues.
  • Search IHE’s Resource Center for additional lesson plans and resources related to water issues.

Water is essential to our survival, so there are plenty of books, documentaries and other sources to help you and your students learn more. Check out our curated Pinterest board on Water Issues.

We also have Pinterest boards about Oceans and Ocean Preservation, and Overfishing and Industrial Fishing.


Be sure to forward this to at least ONE person who would benefit from these resources.

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