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Water Quality Testing in your Local Water Cycle

This page authored by Jennifer Anderson, Winona State University

Author Profile

This activity has benefited from input from a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process as a part of an activity development workshop. Workshop participants were provided with a set of criteria against which they evaluated each others' activities. For information about the criteria used for this review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/teacherprep/workshops/workshop07/activityreview.html.

This page first made public: May 7, 2007


This activity is designed to get students thinking about where they find water in their local environment, where that water came from, and what part of the water cycle that water represents. Students identify a number of sources of water that are available to them locally. They collect samples of that water to bring back to class and perform simple chemical tests including pH, Hardness, Phosphates, Alkalinity, Nitrates and Nitrites. Water samples can also be analyzed for microscopic (and macroscopic) biology. Prior to completing the chemical analyses, students are asked to describe the water visually and decide whether or not they would drink it and why/why not.

Learn more about the course for which this activity was developed.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This activity is used after an introduction to the water cycle in the "Water in the Environment" section of a science content course for pre-service elementary education majors at a four-year state college although it is easily adaptable to other types and sizes of classes. Class sections are in a lab room with access to sinks and class sizes are 28-30 students working in groups of 3-4. One class period is devoted to learning about the water cycle, another to learning about different water tests, and a third to actually doing the water tests. This activity is preparing students for water sampling that they will do on a one-day field trip to a cave system where students will sample surface water before it enters the cave and water from a standing pool inside of the cave. During this follow-up activity, students are asked to synthesize their knowledge about the chemistry of their local water cycle to predict the chemistry that they will measure while at the cave.

Teaching Notes and Tips

If you think about it during the winter, take a sample of snow and store it in your freezer or refrigerator until class time.

Teaching Materials


Students are assessed on their water testing results as part of their final field trip report.

Rubric for assessing metacognitive reflections (Acrobat (PDF) 146kB May7 07)

References and Resources

Hach Water Quality Test Strips can be ordered from their online website at www.hach.com.

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Hydrology:Ground Water:Water cycle/groundwater-surface water interface
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Project
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Earth System Topics: Hydrology, Ground Water
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology

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