title: supporting environmental education in Victorian schools
Title: LandLearn
title: newsletter
title: newsletter search

ISSN 1447-428X
Volume 9, Issue 2
Term 2 2004
»In this issue
» Premier's Awards for students of Agriculture / Horticulture Studies
» A drop in the bucket
» Recycled - a water poem
» International Year of Rice

New LandLearn Education Officer and other news

» e-newsletter subscription
» past issues
Logo: LandLearn

A drop in the bucket
What is abundant and rare at the same time?

  Link: print version

Curriculum Connections:
By investigating (estimating and / or calculating) the percentage of available fresh water on Earth then discussing and exploring the implications of their findings, students understand that this resource is limited so must be conserved and managed sustainably, on personal, local and global scales.

This activity can be used with students across all levels, varying the discussion accordingly and across Domains, although it is most applicable in Science and Geography.

Use this activity with "Comparing Apples and Earth" (see LandLearn Newsletter Term 1 2004) to introduce or stimulate discussion about the themes of sustainable resource management.

» water
» globe and /or world map
» 1000 ml beaker / cylinder
» 100 ml graduated beaker
» small dish or beaker
» dropper or glass stirring rod
» food dye
» salt
» small bucket
» copies of Water Availability table

Note: Discussion points in italics

Fill a 1000ml container with water. If demonstrating to a class, colour the water with a few drops of food dye so it is easier to see.

This represents all the water on Earth.
Ask where most of this water is located - refer to globe or map. Ask students to estimate the amount of salt water on the Earth's surface.


Pour 30 ml from the 1000 ml into the graduated beaker - this represents the 3% of the Earth's water that is fresh. Put salt into the remaining 97% to simulate the water in the oceans, unsuitable for human consumption.

Consider the 30ml remaining. In what state is that remaining 3%? What is found at the Earth's poles? Again ask for an estimate of how much water is frozen at the Poles.


Pour 6ml of the fresh water into the small dish or beaker. The remaining 24ml can be placed in a freezer or frig if one is nearby, or otherwise simulate ice, eg. pour into an ice cube tray.

Almost 80% of the Earth's fresh water is frozen in ice caps and glaciers. The amount of water in the small container (approximately 0.6% of the original amount) represents non-frozen fresh water. Only about one quarter of this is surface water; the rest is underground.


Use a dropper or stirring rod to take a single drop of water. Release this into a small container, eg a small metal bucket so students can listen for the "drop".

This represents clean, fresh water that is not polluted or otherwise unavailable for use - about 0.003% of the total. This precious drop must be managed with care.

5. Discuss the conclusions students have drawn from the demonstration. Many will have concluded that there is only a very small amount of water available for humans. In fact, on a global scale the single drop actually represents a large volume of water - but … See suggestions for further discussion and activities.
6. Use the Water Availability table to calculate the actual amount of fresh water available per person.
7. Have some fun with the poem "Recycled" later in this newsletter.

Water Availability Table:

Quantity to be divided among people on Earth Amount Available litres per person % of total water
All the water on Earth 222 billion 100%
Only the fresh water(calculate 3% of the amount available   3%
Only the non-frozen fresh water(calculate 20% of the remaining amount available)   0.6%
Available fresh water that is not polluted, trapped in soil, too far below the ground, etc.(calculate 0.5% of the remaining amount available)   0.003%
1. Is this enough? Devise a means to estimate how much water you use per year. Compare the estimate to the calculation above. What do you conclude?
2. List the other uses of water that affect you, but are not a direct result of your actions.
Does this alter your conclusion? Why?

» Discuss global distribution of water. Why does more than one-third of the world's population not have access to clean water?
» Investigate the factors affecting water distribution on Earth (land forms, vegetation, proximity to large areas of water, role of oceans, etc). Have class work in small groups and report back to share their findings.
» Explore other environmental and natural influences on the availability of water (droughts, floods, pollution, etc). Research current events, conditions and activities affecting the availability of water, - locally, in Australia and elsewhere in the world.
» Discuss long term events, activities and behaviours which will reduce the amount of fresh, potable water available for human consumption. Consider at a local and global scale. Consider other users of water, apart from humans.

SaveWater website is a good place to start, providing links to other resources and some great ideas for discussion and action.


See LandLearn Newsletter Winter 2003 Volume 8 Issue 3 for The Water Cycle activity and other resources available on our website:
» http://www.landlearn.net.au/newsletter/winter2003/page2.htm

Acknowledgment: This activity is adapted from Project Wet Curriculum & Activity Guide 1995 Montana State University.

Answer Key:

Water Availability table based on a global population of 6.3 billion

Quantity to be divided among people on Earth Amount Available litres per person % of total water
All the water on Earth 222 billion 100%
Only the fresh water 6.6 billion 3%
Only the non-frozen fresh water 1.3 billion 0.6%
Available fresh water that is not polluted, trapped in soil, too far below the ground, etc. 6.5 million 0.003%

next» Recycled - a water poem

  Link: print version  
link: page top

Image: bucket

Image: bucket

Image: bucket

For more information please contact the LandLearn Team: landlearn.program@dpi.vic.gov.au - Ph. (03) 5482 0453
This document was reviewed 4 January, 2007