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How Do We Use Water?

How Do We Use Water?

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  • Grades:
  • Length: Variable


Life Science

To raise awareness of the different ways we use water, students keep a personal "Water Use Journal" for one day. Student sheets are provided in English and in Spanish.

This activity is from The Science of Water Teacher's Guide. Although it is most appropriate for use with students in grades 3-5, the lessons are easily adaptable for other grade levels. The guide also is available in print format.

Teacher Background

Water is essential for life, and each of us uses water in many ways. For example, each person needs to have about eight cups of water each day to stay healthy. The water we need can come from liquids we drink and the foods we eat. We also use water to wash dishes and food items, to remove microorganisms that can cause illnesses. We prevent other kinds of diseases when we use water for bathing and for brushing teeth.

However, many daily uses of water are non-essential. We use water to wash our cars or driveways, because they look better when they are clean. We sprinkle our flower gardens and lawns with water, even though we don’t use those plants for food. In addition, we often use more water than necessary to carry out essential tasks. Examples include leaving the water running while brushing teeth, taking long showers or filling the bathtub to the brim before bathing.

This activity will make students aware of the ways they use water each day. Each student will keep a personal Water Use Journal for 24 hours. If desired, students can keep journals over the course of the entire unit, saving all of their worksheets and observations, writings, drawings, magazine clippings, etc., related to water and human health. Such a journal is useful for review and reinforcement. It also can serve as an assessment tool during and at the end of the unit.

Objectives and Standards


  • We use water in many ways each day.

  • Some ways in which we use water are not essential for life.

Science, Health and Math Skills

  • Making and recording observations

  • Collecting data

  • Drawing conclusions

Materials and Setup

Materials per Student

  • Copy of the student sheet


This activity will take place over at least two class periods. On Day 1, students will take their journal sheets home to record their uses of water. Classroom activities on Day 2 may be conducted with the whole class or with students in smaller groups.

Procedure and Extensions


Two 30-minute sessions on successive days

Day 1: How do you use water?

  1. Open a short discussion by asking students to list ways that people use water every day. Some uses might include: washing, drinking, cooking, watering plants, etc.

  2. Pass out one copy of the “Water Use Journal” sheet to each student. Explain that students will be investigating how they use water for the next 24 hours. Stress that each student should record only his or her own uses of water.

  3. Have students take their sheets home. Specify the period of time during which they should record their water use (for example, from the moment they leave the classroom until the moment they return; from the time they arrive home until the time they leave home in the morning; etc.).

Day 2: What are essential uses of water?

  1. Divide classes of older students into groups of 3 to 4. Have each group discuss and compile a list of the uses of water that they reported in their journals. With younger students, conduct this session as a full class activity. Ask each student to contribute one of the uses of water that he or she recorded. List the uses on the board.

  2. Ask, How many uses of water on your list (or on the list on the board) help you stay healthy? Have each group divide the water uses on its list into two categories: “Uses Important for Health,” and “Other Uses.” With younger students, create the same categories and lists on the board.

  3. Have each group share its list of uses with the rest of the class. Encourage discussion of the students’ ideas. Now, present each group with a new challenge. Ask, In how many of these uses could you save water without affecting your health? Have each group revisit its list and create a new list of “Ideas for Saving Water.” Let each group share its ideas.

  4. Display the “Ideas for Saving Water” in a central place in the classroom. If desired, have each group create a colorful poster illustrating one of its ideas.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932