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.
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.
What did we learn from the experiment?
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.
Tap water base
Soda water acid
Bottled water neutral
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.
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!
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]
Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource that Unites Us All by Angèle Delaunois, illustrated by Gerald Frischeteau, translated by Erin Woods
Twelve young children around the world describe what water means to them since water appears in different forms where they live. The descriptions are as varied as the landscapes the speakers inhabit, but each of them also expresses, in their own language, a universal truth: Water is life. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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