Episode 2205: The Cost of Drinking Water – Great Lakes Now


Based on an independent project by the Great Lakes News Collaborative to better understand the real cost of water, this lesson will explore the costs associated with providing drinking water to communities in the Great Lakes and across the U.S. Students will learn how water infrastructure systems naturally age and need to be maintained, upgraded, fixed, or replaced, and how that life cycle of the infrastructure affects water quality and cost to communities who depend on fresh, clean water.

Lesson Objectives

  • Know about the factors that affect the cost of water
  • Understand how water filtration takes place
  • Be able to model the cost of water over time from a particular set of data

View the entire lesson plan including teacher background information, worksheets and more below or download for free here.

Activity 1

This activity is a video discussion of a Great Lakes Now episode segment discussing the rising cost of drinking water and how water crises — like the one they will learn about in Benton Harbor, MI — affect water costs. During the video students need to jot down four things they took away from it.

Watch a Great Lakes Now Segment

Activity 2

This activity introduces students to the basic process of water filtration — using gravity filtration — to help them develop a model for what happens at the municipal level with water treatment. They will construct a simple filter in a plastic water bottle and use it to filter two kinds of “polluted” water: water with insoluble “pollutants” and water with soluble “pollutants.” A discussion of soluble/insoluble may be of benefit prior to beginning this lab, especially if those terms are unfamiliar.

Build a Water Filter

Activity 3

This activity is a video discussion of a Great Lakes Now episode segment discussing the way that water bills have affected communities, especially during the COVID-19 global pandemic. During the video students need to jot down four things they took away from it.

Watch a Great Lakes Now Segment

Activity 4

The issue of water quality and affordability is so vast and complex that it can be helpful to focus in on a few key aspects of the problem to facilitate learning. This activity intends to help students more fully grasp the impact that high water bills have on citizens.

Read About Water Affordability

Activity 5

If the cost of water has been increasing over the years, will it continue to increase into the future? What kind of utility costs can students in classrooms today expect when they get to be adults with their own households in the future? By engaging students in mathematical modeling, this activity aims to provide students further understanding of the costs of water and how to estimate the impact of cost increases for water on citizens, like themselves as future adults.

Modeling the Cost of Water

Check out Great Lakes Now’s segments on the cost of water and other segments featured in Episode 2205: Water’s True Cost on this month’s landing page.


If you use this lesson or any of its activities with your learners, we’d love to hear about it! Contact us with any feedback or questions at: GreatLakesNow@DPTV.org

Find all the Great Lakes Now educational materials HERE.





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