Caring for our water catchments

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(Verulamium park)

Everyone lives in a water catchment. Everything you do in your home, your school, or your business has the potential to affect your local waterway. Helping students understand how their local water catchment works is a great way of empowering them to make positive environmental changes as well as bringing science to life!

Over two thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, however only a tiny fraction (1%) of this is fresh water. This water is found in our waterways, (e.g. rivers), bodies of water (e.g. lakes) or deep underground in aquifers. We all rely on freshwater to survive, so it is vital that we work together to protect our water catchments.

A water catchment is an area of land through which water from precipitation (e.g. rain, snow, sleet, hail) is collected by the natural landscape; and then drains into a body of water (e.g. a river, lake, reservoir, underground water supply). Affinity Water collects and cleans water from rivers and aquifers in the catchment.

Here are some ideas of what you could do with your students to learn more about water catchments. The lesson ideas below are based on taking a group of students to a water source near to your school e.g. a local stream, lake or river. If it is not feasible to take the students out of school, photos could be taken by a member of staff to show the students in the classroom.

KS1 – Use different senses to experience what it is like at a water source near your school. For example: Who uses the water? What lives in the water? Would you want to drink the water? Is this water important? Try drawing pictures or writing descriptions of what you find out. You could also find out where this particular water source starts and ends to help students understand the water’s journey.

KS2 – Use different methods to record and measure the source of water. These could include estimating and measuring the size of the body of water, identifying and recording plant and animal species found or taking photographs or videos from a fixed point at regular intervals throughout the year. Consider who uses the water and who / what relies on this water source. What would the impacts be, if this water became polluted? Students could also investigate where this particular water source starts and ends to help understand the water’s journey within the water cycle. They could also use their findings to make charts and graphs or as inspiration for creative stories and poems.

KS3 – The above ideas could be built on to incorporate an understanding of the inter-relationships between the human and natural systems. Could the students think of ways to prevent pollution in their local water catchment? Which stakeholders would they need to involve? How would they involve them? How might the ‘pollution pressures’ change at different times of year?

KS4 – How does the local water catchment system work? For example, where is the source / mouth of the stream / river that they are investigating? Or how does a lake fill up (think about the local geology and rainfall)? Can they use GIS to identify how their local water source fits into a larger water system? What are the inter-relationships between the human and natural systems at a local, national or global level? How has this changed over time? How could water pollution be minimised in this area? What impacts could this have locally, nationally and internationally? Why is national and international co-operation necessary for water resource management?

KS5 – Students can plan and undertake their own investigation for a local water catchment system. Are there any links between the water catchment system, human use and seasonal variations? How and why do these links need to be considered in the context of flooding, drought and natural disasters? Does the local water catchment system affect any other water systems nationally or internationally? What can be concluded from the investigations?

Important Health and Safety Information:

Working with, in and near water can be dangerous. Please ensure that a comprehensive risk assessment has been carried out before any work by water is carried out. It is important to provide safety instructions to students and adults involved and ensure that students are appropriately supervised at all times.