Water is something many people in Scotland take for granted. We use it for drinking and washing, for industry and agriculture and for making almost everything you could think of. Water is vital to the survival of life on our planet, but clean water is becoming an increasingly rare and valuable commodity.
These resources will get you started on the Water topic in your school:
BBC Terrific Scientific - Water Investigation
As part of the BBC science campaign Terrific Scientific, this investigation will help your pupils to think and work like a scientist, exploring the water that comes out of our taps and how it differs across the UK.
Schools Programme Resources - Volvo Ocean Race Education
The world's most extreme race is putting sustainability at its heart and is focusing on taking action to ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ – the rapidly growing and critical problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, highlighted by the United Nations Clean Seas campaign. Through this programme, pupils will discover the excitement of sailing through the Volvo Ocean Race, the importance of the ocean and how ocean plastic pollution is damaging our blue planet. Resources are FREE to download, and available in five languages.
Clean Water for All - The World's Largest Lesson
World’s Largest Lesson introduces the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action. Clean Water for All is a free downloadable lesson plan for Science and Geography that examines global inequality of access to clean water. Best for ages 8-14.
World's Largest Lesson - Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
World’s Largest Lesson introduces the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action. Download lesson plans, comics and other resources on food to use in your classroom.
The Facts About Plastic - Plastic Oceans
Plastic Oceans Foundation engages people of all ages, in all social situations, to understand the danger of continuing to perceive plastic to be disposable. Plastic Oceans tackles this issue through an awareness campaign using film and media – including the documentary feature film, A Plastic Ocean and accompanying resources including The Plastic Inside Us Toolkit and a high level science review for A Plastic Ocean.
Scottish Water - Education Resources
Early, First, Second, Third and Fourth level modules are available to download here to support learning and teaching for the school curriculum in Scotland. Find out lots of interesting things about water, learn more about the water cycle, saving water, and play Scottish Water's new education games: Pipeline Challenge, Clean it Up and Pumping Station.
Global Action Plan UK - Water Explorer
Encourages students aged 8-14 from 11 countries to take bold and powerful action to save our precious water through fun, interactive water saving Missions. Supported by our WESSA Eco-Schools friends in South Africa.
Toilet Twinning - Flush Away Poverty
In 47 countries, less than half the population has access to a proper toilet. By donating £60 to twin your toilet, you help those in desperate poverty to have access to a proper latrine, clean water and the information they need to be healthy. Learn about unequal access to sanitation and what must be done to make a difference.
All About Water
According to the United Nations, 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is contaminated and 2.4 billion people do not have basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. Water scarcity affects over 40% of our planet's population, affecting food security and health. Climate change will worsen water scarcity, with changing rainfall patterns and increasing temperatures putting pressure on fresh water supplies.
Not having access to running water at home means that people must travel long distances to carry dirty water from wells and streams. Usually, this is the job of women and young girls, who spend many hours a day ensuring their family has enough water. This leaves girls with very little time for other tasks like attending school, doing homework or playing. Similarly, no access to a toilet means people must use fields or woods, risking the spread of disease. Needing to find somewhere to relieve themselves at night puts women and girls at risk of violence.
UNICEF says children's access to safe clean water is a right not a privilege, and one of the targets of goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals is by 2030, to achieve universal and equal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. This is not an easy task, and will involve investment in sanitation and water treatment in developing countries, protecting freshwater habitats, and protecting access to water.
These are tasks for governments rather than any one person, and given Scotland's wet climate, you might not think there is anything we can do in Scotland about water issues. However, the more we waste water unnecessarily, and the more polluted natural supplies get, the more money it costs and the more energy it takes to make sure we continue to have access to clean water.
At home and at school, we can conserve water, and make better use of water. Even simple measures like ensuring taps do not drip can make a difference. Scottish Water says that a dripping tap uses at least 5,500 litres a year - enough to fill a paddling pool every week for the whole summer.
How Marine Litter Affects Water Quality
Flushing items down the toilet which should be thrown into a bin, like sanitary products, plasters, razors and cotton buds, clogs filters in water treatment plants which means these items end up on our beaches as Sewage Related Debris, affecting water quality and posing a health hazard.
Similarly, litter dropped on land frequently makes its way onto our waterways and beaches. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 80% of marine and coastal litter comes from land based activities. Once discarded, plastics are weathered and eroded into very small fragments known as microplastics. These, together with plastic pellets called nurdles are already found in most beaches around the world.
Cigarette ends are one of the most common types of litter in Scotland and are particularly problematic. Dropped cigarette ends can end up in storm drains and travel from there to our streams and waterways. They're full of plastic, so they don't biodegrade, and remain in the environment for up to 12 years releasing toxins into the water. Disposing of waste properly is another way people in Scotland can protect clean water.
Water Quality and Climate Change
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has identified climate change as a serious threat to Scotland’s environment citing observed changes in temperature, rainfall and snow cover which are causing significant shifts in the growing, breeding and migration seasons, as well as species abundance and diversity. Higher river flows are leading to flood risks and sea level rise risks coastal flooding. Learn more about flooding in your area from SEPA, including how flood risk is managed and how to get involved in community groups or projects. You might also find SEPA's education resources on flooding helpful.
SEPA are the hydrometric authority for Scotland, measuring rainfall and river flow across the country. According to their figures, Scotland has become much wetter since 1961, with the average annual precipitation rate up by 27%. The sea level is also rising all around the UK, with the longest individual record at Aberdeen indicating a rise in sea level of 60mm since 1920.
Case Study - Linnvale Primary School
The Eco-Committee at Linnvale Primary School chose Water as one of their topics and planned lots of activities including a whole school focus week. They also made good ties to Litter and their other chosen topic, Health and Well-being. Read more.