Strand V
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Earth and Space Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand V
Content Standard 2
All students will describe the characteristics of water and demonstrate where water is found on Earth; describe how water moves; and analyze the interaction of human activities with the hydrosphere. (Hydrosphere)


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2
High School


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School
Benchmark 2
Describe how human activities affect the quality of water in the hydrosphere.

Benchmark Clarification

Students will identify the activities (waste disposal, use of pesticides, herbicides, thermal pollution that often negatively affect groundwater, lakes, and streams. Using their awareness of water movement, students will:

  • Predict how human activities at one location often have adverse affects on other locations
  • Compare, contrast, and evaluate various methods of purifying water

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School/Benchmark 2
Key Concept
Human activities:

  • agriculture
  • fishing
  • manufacturing
  • energy production

Limits to natural resources

Quantity of water:

  • rate of use
  • urbanization


  • oil spills
  • garbage
  • ocean life
  • global warming
  • marine life

Fresh water:

  • industrial waste disposal
  • agricultural run-off
  • herbicides
  • pesticides
  • pollution
  • sewage
  • acid rain
  • nutrient levels

Ground water:

  • landfills
  • leaching
  • disposal of toxic wastes

Purification technology:

  • filtering
  • chlorination


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School/Benchmark 2
Real World Context
Examples of local and regional human activities that have measurable effects on water:

  • farming
  • industry
  • sewage disposal
  • toxic waste disposal


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School/Benchmark 2
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How does water quality change as a stream flows from its headwaters through its watershed?

Focus Question: How does the water quality at the source of a stream compare to the water quality at the mouth of the stream?

The teacher will review with students the standard techniques of water quality sampling and the meaning of each test. The teacher will choose a local stream that can be easily sampled in two or more places as far apart as possible.

Students will collect water samples and analyze them using standard water sampling techniques (water quality testing kits are commonly available).

Students will compare and contrast water quality data between sampling sites and develop reasonable hypotheses to account for their differences.

Note: Students need to know the difference between point and non point pollution (point pollution is a discernable source of water pollution like a pipe versus non point pollution which is a diffuse source of pollution where contaminants enter water bodies from thousands of different points. Examples of non-point pollution would be agricultural fields, building sites, and aerial deposition of contaminants) Environmental clean up efforts have been more successful with point sources of pollution because these sources are easily identified. It is more of a challenge to control agricultural runoff or stop an adjacent state from creating air pollution that will fall as acid rain.

Acid deposition includes rain as well as snow, sleet, dust, and hail, which are significant sources of acids in the environment

Extension: Students could also identify the human activities on the stream located between the sampling sites that could affect water quality changes.

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.HS.1).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.HS.1).


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School/Benchmark 2
Assessment Example

The teacher will provide each small group with a map of an unfamiliar watershed that notes industries, farms, and any other point sources of pollution. The students will be given the following scenario:

Imagine that a large concentration of a single pollutant (e.g., DDT, mercury, liquid agricultural waste, etc.) is released into the environment at a single point in the watershed.

What effects will the pollutant have?

Each group will trace the flow of pollutants, predict concentration levels, and describe the impact the pollutant might have on living things at different locations in the watershed. Each group will present this information to the class.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Completeness of presentation

Explains all components, but all are incomplete: downstream flow, pollutant concentration downstream, and impact on living organisms downstream.

Explains one component, leaving two incomplete: downstream flow, pollutant concentration downstream, and impact on living organisms downstream.

Explains two components, leaving one incomplete: downstream flow, pollutant concentration downstream, and impact on living organisms downstream.

Explains all components: downstream flow, pollutant concentration downstream, and impact on living organisms downstream.


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 2/High School/Benchmark 2


Locate Your Watershed: discover watershed boundaries and water quality indicators for all of the United States.

National Water Quality Information Project: a summary of local water-quality issues and findings on nutrients, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, radon, and suspended sediment in ground water and surface water; and semivolatile organic compounds, organochlorine compounds, and trace elements in bed sediment and aquatic biota.

Water Quality Conditions in the U.S.: 1998 Report to Congress: how much progress has the nation made in cleaning up its waters? Find out here. Fact sheets for individual states are also available.

Lake Michigan Management Plan: from the EPA, how to preserve the integrity of the Lake Michigan ecosystem (Adobe Acrobat format).

Amount and location of water, water use . MESTA, 2000.1.

Everyone Is against Water Pollution.

Stapp, William. Field Guide to Water Quality Testing. Thomson-Shore Printers, 1990.

Surf Your Watershed.