Water Supply System for Kids: A Science Unit for Home

I never really gave storm drains much thought. Occasionally, I’d notice a sign that said drain empties directly to ocean but I didn’t put the garbage piece together with the storm drain pollution piece.

storm drain sign

As for my water supply at home, I’ve only wondered what the lead content was. I had no idea where the water came from. I just take this kind of stuff for granted.

Things changed when the MWRA came to visit our elementary school. The first question is what does MWRA stand for? I would have struggled with that: Metropolitan Water Resource Authority. They are the folks who worry about our water supply including drinking water, waste water and storm drains.

In this unit on Our Water Supply, I cover:

  • The history of the reservoir where I live
  • Waste Water
  • How to measure the pH of water
  • Free Printable eBook Dwayne the Storm Drain
  • Water Supply App for Kids
  • A list of relevant books for kids

Do you know where your water comes from? Read on to learn more!

 Water Supply System for Kids

I live about 9 miles west of Boston and here are some factoids about our water supply:

  • It’s from the Quabbin reservoir 65 miles away,
  • The reservoir holds 412 billion gallons of water.
  • It was created by forcing 4 towns to move. (Graves had to be dug up and there were 36 cemeteries!).
  • It was completed in 1939.
  • It took 7 years to full.
  • Our water is not filtered because it’s unusually clean but chlorine and  fluoride are added to our drinking water.
  • Plants for processing waste water are located in Marlborough and Southborough.


Waste Water and Sewage

I learned these facts about waste water, also known as sewage, that apply everywhere!

  • Waste water gets treated at waste sewage treatment plant, and then the water goes out to the ocean.
  • Affluent is clean water that gets treated and goes to the ocean. It’s clean waste water which is different from drinking water.
  • Once a year, the storm drains get cleaned by the city.
  • Storm water goes straight to ocean and not treatment center.
  • Water mains are under the streets.


Measuring the pH of Water

My 5th grader learned to measure the pH of water after first learning what pH means:

  • pH is a scale that starts at 0 and ends at 14
  • pH stands for “Power of hydrogen”
  • 7 is neutral. Below 7 is acid. Above 7 is called base.
  • pH measures the amount of  hydrogen in water
  • Water is made up of 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen: H2O

The experiment was to measure the pH of tap water, soda water and bottled water. Measuring the pH of vinegar was used to demonstrate how to use the pH hit.

measuring pH of water, pH experiment for kids, acidity of water

What did we learn from the experiment?

measuring pH of water, pH experiment for kids, acidity of water

Water starts off as neutral when it leaves plant but turns more acidic over time. To make sure the pH of water ends up neutral when you get water from the tap, the MWRA adds chemicals to raise ph to 9.

measuring pH of water, pH experiment for kids, acidity of water

Tap water base
Soda water acid
Bottled water neutral

(I found this kit on Amazon if you wanted to try measuring the pH at home. It’s similar to the kit provided by the MWRA for our experiment. Click on image to view.)


Free eColoring Book: Dwayne the Storm Drain

Download a free coloring book about storm drains: Dwayne The Storm Drain. It’s an award-winning coloring and activity book online. This book is appropriate for students from pre-school through upper elementary grades and introduces readers to storm sewer systems. Lessons include how to identify storm drains, how they work, and how they affect the environment.


Water Supply App for Kids

Where’s My Water game app.

Where's My Water app game for kids

This version is free but there are other paid versions and also a board game. My son loves this game where you have to figure out how to get clean water to the alligator so it can take a shower. Along the way, you’ll be learning about physics and water pollution too!

Where's My Water, water supply app for kids


Books for Kids About Our Water Supply

These books were culled from a list at NYC Environmental Protection.

Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen

A free verse picture book about Sally Jane’s experience of the drowning of Swift River towns to create the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. [picture book, ages 4-8]

The Magic School Bus At The Waterworks by Joanna Cole

A raindrop to faucet journey through the water supply system. [picture book, ages 4-8]

The Adventures of Munford series by Jamie Aramini

I am really excited to discover this early chapter series about Munford, a water drop, that combines history with science in — actually — a riveting easy chapter book series. When I read the premise, the main character is a drop of water, that floats around the world (and back in time) , I was dubious. I read Munford Meets Robert Fulton and loved how this story combines 1) the story of young Robert Fulton and his story of perseverance 2) Munford as part of the cumulus/cumulonimbus cloud systems (5th grade science!) 3) colonial America (more 5th grade social science!) including Ben Franklin, Napoleon and Robert Livingston. This series makes history and science come alive, all seen through Munford, a drop of water who can transform, naturally!, into rain, snow, sleet or steam. In this book, Munford becomes part of  snot, gunpowder, part of a cloud, rain, poop and more. [easy chapter book, grades 2nd-5th]

Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Arthur Dorros

A non fiction picture book that explains how water flows from brooks to rivers, over waterfalls, through dams and cities, to the ocean. [non-fiction picture book, ages 4-8]

The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet by Meredith Hooper

This is the story of a drop of water, told by a gifted science writer and illustrated with remarkable paintings. Where does this marvellous liquid come from? How does it behave?  [picture book, ages 9-12]

To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

water supply science unit for kids, storm drain science unit for kids,

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. What a neat lesson! There is a pretty cool Bob the Builder segment on water purification that is great for younger kids.
    maryanne recently posted…Seattle, Washington: World Culture for KidsMy Profile

  2. Love the Where’s my Water? app too! 😀
    Erik – This Kid Reviews Books recently posted…Doom & Gloom (Book 1) by M.J. ShaughnessyMy Profile

  3. Fascinating and fun activity for a wide age group. Perfect project for today as I look out my window and see the rain pouring down! LOL
    Barbara Mojica recently posted…OZETTE’S ODYSSEYMy Profile

  4. Giora

    Well, it’s not only Water Supply for Kids, bu also for Adults I had no idea that water become acid with time.
    Giora recently posted…New York CityMy Profile

    • Hi Giora,
      I know what you mean. Remember when we were younger and “Acid Rain” was the big thing everyone talked about as a threat to the environment? I assumed it got better but I guess not. Now, there are bigger threats like Global Warming so Acid Rain has fallen by the wayside as topic of interest but it’s still here affecting us! Just not a political topic anymore, I guess.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Water Supply System for Kids: A Science Unit for HomeMy Profile

  5. Thanks so much for the excellent ideas. Water drainage isn’t something that I would think of either – but what a wonderful idea for a homeschool science segment.

    Thanks so much for the fabulous ideas!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…Elizabeti’s School – A Tanzanian Tale of the First Day of SchoolMy Profile

  6. Ann

    Reminds me of a Richard Scarry type topic. Love learning about basic things like this. Interesting how they have to compensate for the acid level rising. I definitely want to check out the Jane Yolen book on the Quabin!
    Ann recently posted…5 FavesMy Profile

  7. This is a terrific unit! I love all the resources, and we quite enjoy Where Is My Water app. Pinning it at once 🙂
    Natalie recently posted…Week In Review–We Are Back!My Profile

  8. hello! Just wanted to say this is a great resource and share my educational books!

    Thank you!


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