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Fostering Students’ Water Wisdom

Originally appears in the Spring 2012 issue

Imagine waking up in the morning to prepare for a busy day. You hop in the shower, but there is no running water. Disappointed, you go downstairs for your morning coffee. You turn on the tap, but the water runs murky and brown. Although you’re upset, you know that this is only a temporary crisis, to be quickly resolved by your local water utility. Unfortunately, for many in the developing world, lack of access to clean, safe drinking water is not a temporary situation; it is their everyday reality.

Nearly 1 billion people, a seventh of the world’s population, do not have access to safe drinking water. A further 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation, like toilets and latrines. Lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness. At any one time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients needlessly suffering from water and sanitation-related diseases. It also accounts for the second largest cause of childhood mortality worldwide. For example, every year 1.5 million children under the age of five die from diarrhea, caused primarily by dirty water and poor sanitation. This is the equivalent of 16 airliners full of children under the age of five crashing each day.

We all know that besides the air we breathe, nothing is more fundamental to our existence than clean, safe drinking water. Whether we live in Canada, Bangladesh, the United States, Ethiopia or Australia, access to clean water doesn’t just keep us personally healthy, it also contributes to vibrant and productive communities. Water unites us all and is a valuable resource that we all need to steward through conservation and equitable distribution.

Teachers play a vital role in helping foster an early appreciation of this most precious resource. For this reason, WaterCan developed curriculum resources in both English and French which can be freely downloaded from our “Water Wisdom Portal” at

There are many engaging and informative ways to bring water education into your classroom, and help students understand the the importance of water in their daily lives, and the lives of others around the world. All subject areas have the potential to include water-based activities. Here are a few of our favourite lesson plans.

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