Michigan Geographic Alliance
Environmental Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lesson Plan
Middle School
  • Envrionment
  • Envrionmental
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    Education Standards

    Water Quality Lesson 5 : Why Care About Groundwater?


    Building upon their prior knowledge of the water cycle,
    students explore how groundwater moves and how
    it interacts with surface water in a watershed.

    Lesson Overview

    Building upon their prior knowledge of the water cycle,
    students explore how groundwater moves and how
    it interacts with surface water in a watershed. Using
    Michigan groundwater water quality data, students
    consider how groundwater can be contaminated
    and whether groundwater cleanup is feasible. The
    importance of groundwater to Michigan and how
    groundwater is used in Michigan are also discussed.

    Focus Questions
    Students answer these essential questions: How is
    groundwater connected to surface water? How does
    groundwater move? How can groundwater become
    polluted? Is there enough groundwater for all
    Michigan uses?

    Subject/Target Grade
    Science and Social Studies/
    Middle School (6-8)
    50 minutes – Classroom setting
    per teacher
    Groundwater Model in a Cup (answer key)
    • Non-edible or edible groundwater model for
    per class
    • self-adhesive notes
    • computer projector
    • overhead projector
    Groundwater: Michigan’s Hidden Resource
    PowerPoint presentation (on MEECS Water
    Quality CD) or make transparency masters
    What Do You Know About Michigan’s Hidden
    (answer key)
    • pollutants with plastic spoons
    – fertilizer = green drink powder
    – oil and gas contaminants = blue drink powder
    or soy sauce
    – pesticide = red drink powder
    – Superfund hazardous wastes = orange drink
    – leaking underground storage tanks = maple/
    chocolate syrup or molasses
    – leaking landfill leachate = yellow drink
    Porosity and Permeability of Earth Materials
    (transparency master)
    • map of Michigan’s 83 Counties (transparency
    • 6 Michigan Groundwater Contamination maps
    (transparency masters) OR on MEECS Water
    Quality CD: (1) Contaminated Landfills,
    (2) Leaking Underground Storage Tanks,
    (3) Nitrate Contamination in Michigan Drinking
    Water Wells, (4) Sites Contaminated by Oil and
    Gas Drilling, (5) Superfund Sites in Michigan,
    (6) Contaminated Pesticide and Herbicide
    Storage Facility Sites
    Michigan Groundwater Use in 2004
    (transparency master)
    per student
    What Do You Know About Michigan’s Hidden
    (student activity)
    Groundwater Model in A Cup (student activity)

    Materials (continued)
    per student
    Choose one:
    • Non-edible Groundwater Model
    – 4-oz. water (1 c.)
    – 8-oz. clear plastic cup
    – 3-oz. paper cup
    – 1 straw OR dropper
    – 2” x 2” screen
    – 4 oz. gravel (1/2 c.)
    • Edible Groundwater Model
    – 4-oz. milk
    – 8-oz. clear plastic cup
    – 3-oz. paper cup
    – 1 plastic spoon – 1 straw
    – 1⁄4 cup each of 3 kinds of
    (unsweetened) cereal:
    • clay (Rice Krispies or Grape Nuts)
    • sand (Kix)
    • gravel (Chex)
    Note: If you make the edible groundwater
    model, inquire about possible food allergies
    (peanuts, lactose intolerance, etc.).


    Students will be able to:
    1. Define and apply the following terms: permeability,
    porosity, aquifer, aquiclude, recharge, saturated,
    unsaturated, and water table.

    2. Describe how groundwater is connected to surface
    3. Explain how groundwater is used in Michigan.
    4. Describe how various land use activities can
    contaminate groundwater or reduce groundwater
    availability, how groundwater contamination can
    be prevented, and ways that groundwater can be
    cleaned up.

    Michigan Grade Level Content

    Science Gr. 6-7:
    • Explain how human activities change the surface
    of the earth and affect the survival of organisms.
    • Describe the origins of pollution in the
    atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere (car
    exhaust, industrial emissions, acid rain and
    • natural sources) and how pollution impacts
    habitats, climatic change, threatens or endangers
    • Explain the water cycle and describe how
    evaporation, transpiration, condensation, cloud
    formation, precipitation, infiltration, surface
    runoff, ground water, and absorption occur within
    the cycle. E.ES.07.81

    Social Studies Gr. 6-8:
    • Explain that communities are affected positively
    or negatively by changes in technology. 6 - G2.2.2
    • Describe the environmental effects of human
    action on the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere
    and hydrosphere. 6 - G5.1.1
    • Contemporary investigations – Conduct research
    on contemporary global topics and issues,
    compose persuasive essays, and develop a plan
    for action. SS 6 - G6.1.1
    • Describe the environmental effects of human
    action on the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere
    and hydrosphere. 7 - G5.1.1
    • Describe how variations in technology affect
    human modifications of the landscape. 7 - G5.1.2
    • Identify the ways in which human-induced
    changes in the physical environment in one place
    can cause changes in other places (e.g. cutting
    forests upstream can cause flooding downstream).
    7 - G5.1.3
    • Describe the effects that a change in the physical
    environment could have on human activities
    and the choices people would have to make in
    adjusting to the change. 7 - G5.2.1
    • Participate in projects to help or inform others
    (e.g. service learning projects). 8 - P4.2.3

    HS Earth Science:
    • Compare and contrast surface water systems and
    groundwater . E4.1A
    • Explain the features and processes of groundwater
    systems and how the sustainability of No.
    American aquifers has changed. E4.1B.
    • Explain how water quality in both groundwater
    and surface systems is impacted by land use
    decisions. E4.1C

    Advance Preparation

    1. Label container of pollutants (see labels
    on MEECS Water Quality CD): fertilizer,
    pesticides, hazardous wastes, landfill leachate,
    leaking underground storage tanks, oil and gas
    drilling contaminants.

    2. Choose whether to have students make the
    Non-edible Groundwater Model or the Edible
    Groundwater Model, and make a sample for
    demonstrations during the lesson.

    3. Make copies of What Do You Know About
    Michigan’s Hidden Resource? and Groundwater
    Model in a Cup (student activity).

    4. Make an overhead transparency of Michigan’s
    83 Counties map.

    5. Make overhead transparencies of these Michigan
    Groundwater Contamination Maps or use
    PowerPoint on MEECS Water Quality CD.
    • Contaminated Landfills
    • Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
    • Nitrate Contamination in Michigan Drinking
    Water Wells
    • Sites Contaminated by Oil and Gas Drilling
    • Superfund Sites in Michigan
    • Contaminated Pesticide and Herbicide Storage
    Facility Sites

    6. Post a 2 x 2 table on the board (print from Lesson
    5 folder on CD) and post this question: Where
    does your drinking water come from: surface
    water or groundwater? City
    (public) water or a
    private water well?
    Label the rows surface water
    and groundwater,
    and label the columns city/
    public water system and private water system.

    Background Information (Optional Student Reading)

    Groundwater is one of the nation’s most valuable
    natural resources. It is the source of about
    40 percent of the water used for all purposes
    in the United States, exclusive of hydropower
    generation and electric powerplant cooling. There
    is approximately 40 times more groundwater than
    surface water. Groundwater occupies the pore
    spaces between soil or rock earth particles. The
    saturated zone is where all of the pore spaces are
    filled with water. In contrast, the unsaturated
    zone, which lies above the saturated zone, does not
    have all of the pore spaces filled with water. The
    imaginary line separating the unsaturated upper
    layer from the saturated lower layer is called the
    water table. Rain, snowmelt, and surface waters (lakes and streams) seep downward from the ground surface to replenish or recharge groundwater
    supplies. Porosity is a measure of the water-bearing
    capacity of subsurface rock, due to the number and
    size of pore spaces, similar to the tiny spaces in
    a sponge. Porosity may be up to 40 percent of an
    earth material’s volume, as in beach sand, or less
    than 10 percent in bedrock composed of basalt.
    Permeability is how quickly water moves through
    the interconnected pore spaces between the particles
    of earth materials. (See Porosity and Permeability
    of Earth Materials
    transparency.) Groundwater flow
    is very slow compared to surface water movement.
    An approximate average rate used for natural flow
    in an aquifer is one foot per day. This rate of flow is
    thousands of times slower than river flow (typically
    measured in feet per second). This means that a “parcel” of groundwater takes over a decade to
    move a mile and about a century to cross beneath
    a township. Aquifers are large underground
    water-bearing formations capable of storing (high
    porosity) and transmitting (high permeability)
    sufficient quantities of water to meet people’s needs.
    Sand, gravel, and sandstone make the best aquifers
    because of their moderate to high porosity and

    An aquiclude is composed of rock or sediment that
    acts as a barrier to groundwater flow. An aquiclude
    is a solid, impermeable area underlying or overlying
    an aquifer. If the impermeable area overlies the
    aquifer, pressure could cause it to become a confined
    aquifer and create an artesian well at the ground
    surface. Aquicludes may be shale or clay.

    Groundwater Quantity in Michigan
    53% of U.S. residents and 45% of Michigan’s
    residents get their drinking water from groundwater;
    the remainder get their drinking water from
    surface water sources—lakes and rivers. All
    Michigan counties, except Wayne and Bay, have
    one or more communities supplied by municipal
    (city) groundwater wells. Of the approximately
    12,000 public and private water supply systems
    in Michigan, more than two-thirds draw from
    groundwater sources. (MDEQ 2003)

    Urbanization can alter groundwater recharge.
    A 2002 report, titled Paving Our Way to Water
    Shortages: How Sprawl Aggravates the Effects of
    by American Rivers, Natural Resources
    Defense Council, and Smart Growth America, found
    that our groundwater supplies are being impacted
    as lands that had served as groundwater recharge
    areas—wetlands, meadows, and forests—are
    paved for development. Impervious surfaces do not
    allow rain and snowmelt to seep into the ground
    to replenish (recharge) aquifers that supply public
    and private drinking water systems and other uses.
    Instead, rainwater runs off into surface water bodies,

    carrying pollutants. In Michigan, land is being
    paved at a greater rate than population growth. The
    Michigan Land Resource Project, a 2001 study that
    projected the future of agriculture, forestry, tourism,
    and mining if present land use trends continue,
    found that Michigan’s land is being developed at a
    rate eight times faster than Michigan’s population
    is increasing. From 1978 to 1995, the state’s
    population rose 2.6% while the built environment
    increased 25%. The American Rivers report found
    that, in Detroit, the potential amount of water not
    to groundwater increased annually from
    7.8 billion gallons in 1982, to 18.2 billion gallons in

    In Michigan (and other parts of the United
    States), groundwater pumping from one well can
    affect the water available from a nearby well. As
    groundwater is removed by a pumping well, a “cone
    of depression” forms around the well. As the rate and
    duration of pumping increases, the cone of depression
    extends deeper, and its outer boundary moves farther
    away from the well. A high capacity well has a larger
    cone of depression than a small capacity well of the
    same depth and withdraws groundwater from a larger
    area of the aquifer. When the cones of depression of
    two or more wells overlap, the result is called “well
    interference.” If the well interference is significant,
    the well users no longer have a sufficient supply of
    water to satisfy their needs.

    Groundwater can seep upward to replenish
    rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Likewise, surface
    water can move downward into the groundwater.
    Surface water is almost always connected to
    groundwater, and vice versa. An example in which
    an understanding of this interconnection is critical
    is the nature of stream flow during drier times of
    the year. When precipitation is low or absent, the
    majority of flows in many streams come from
    groundwater seeping into the bed of the stream.
    Thus, if significant quantities of groundwater are
    removed by pumping near the stream, the flow in the
    stream can be reduced to the point of impacting the
    stream’s ecosystem.

    2. Explore Michigan’s groundwater quantity
    and quality.

    To assess prior knowledge, ask students: What
    do you know about Michigan’s groundwater?

    Distribute What Do You Know About Michigan’s
    Hidden Resource?
    student activity PowerPoint
    study guide to each student to complete as you
    show the 15-minute PowerPoint presentation,
    Groundwater: Michigan’s Hidden Resource.
    Discuss students’ responses.

    Optional (in a computer lab or as
    homework): Introduce students to
    groundwater quantity and quality using
    the online web modules on groundwater
    supply and groundwater contamination
    developed by Michigan Technological
    University for this lesson:

    3. Make a groundwater model in a cup.
    Each student will make a ground water model
    using cereals (edible version) or earth materials
    (non-edible version) to show how groundwater
    is recharged and how it can be
    pumped and removed for a variety
    of uses. Students will record
    their observations on the
    Groundwater Model in A Cup
    student activity page.

    a. Explain how to assemble the non-edible or
    edible groundwater model.
    Non-edible groundwater model:
    • Give each student an 8-oz. clear plastic
    cup, 4-oz. gravel, 2”x 2” window screen,
    dropper, and 3-oz. cup.
    • Have students roll the screen around the
    dropper and hold upright in the center
    of the cup, so that the screen touches the
    bottom of the cup.
    • Pour the gravel around the screen and
    dropper so that they become stable and
    self-supporting. Leave the screen in place.
    This is your well. The dropper will be
    used to “pump” your well.

    Edible groundwater model:
    • Give each student an 8-oz. clear plastic
    cup, 2-oz.each of three different cereals,
    plastic spoon, 3-oz. cup (optional), and
    a straw or dropper. (If students are not
    going to sip the milk during the activity,
    then they will need a 3 oz. cup in which
    to place their ‘groundwater’ when they
    “pump” with their dropper or straw.)
    • Have students place the cereal in layers in
    their cup (order does not matter as long as
    there are layers).
    • Discuss what type of earth material each
    cereal represents. Ask students to draw a
    diagram of the model on the Groundwater
    Model in A Cup
    student activity page.
    • Drill a well using a straw or dropper by
    pushing it down through the cereal layers
    (earth materials).

    Teacher Tip: Efficient distribution of
    materials is key to making this activity
    run smoothly. If students are seated 4-6 to
    a table, the teacher could place resealable
    bags of each cereal type, each with a small 3
    oz. cup, at each table. Label the bags Clay, Sand, Gravel. Alternatively, place each
    type of cereal into 3 large plastic labeled
    containers on a side table. Have students
    take turns getting their 2 oz. of each type
    of cereal and placing it into their clear
    cup. Students can work individually, or
    in pairs to reduce amount of materials
    needed. Providing each student or pair of
    students with a carton of milk from the
    school cafeteria makes the “recharge”
    go smoothly. Or provide each table of
    students with a quart of milk to share and
    pour as needed. You will need about 4 oz.
    of milk per student.

    b. Tell students to “make it rain’” by pouring
    milk/water over the earth materials/cereal
    in the cup. Students should observe how the
    rainwater percolates downward until all of
    the pore spaces between the particles are
    filled with water. What does this simulate?
    [Groundwater recharge.] What do we call the
    zone where all of the pore spaces between
    the particles are filled with water?
    zone.] What do we call the zone above
    where the pore spaces are not all filled with
    [Unsaturated zone.] What do we
    call the “line” between the saturated and
    unsaturated zones?
    [Water table.]

    c. Tell students to “pump their wells” by
    placing their finger over the end of the straw,
    using the dropper, or sipping on the straw
    (edible models only!) to remove the milk/
    water. Place the milk/water into the 3-oz. cup
    to observe its color. Notice the water table
    (the top of the milk/water) going down.
    How does the groundwater look and taste?
    [No change in color; no taste.] Remind
    students that groundwater can move
    up, down, and sideways (vertically and
    horizontally) at a rate determined by the size
    of the spaces between the particles of clay,
    sand, gravel, or bedrock, and the amount of recharge. Have students complete Parts
    I-III of Groundwater Model in A Cup student
    activity page.

    4. How can groundwater become polluted?
    We know from the groundwater PowerPoint
    presentation that some land use activities
    have the potential to pollute groundwater. Ask
    students to list examples of pollutants that could
    result from different activities. (See Table of
    Maximum Contaminant Levels in Lesson 6)
    • Fertilizers applied to lawns, golf courses and
    cropland may cause nitrate pollution, which
    can be fatal for infants.
    • Herbicides and pesticides applied to lawns,
    golf courses, and cropland may contaminate
    groundwater and are toxic to humans.
    (chlordane, toxaphene)
    • Used motor oil poured on the ground may
    contaminate groundwater and is toxic to
    humans. (benzene)
    • Gasoline leaking from underground storage
    tanks at gas stations may contaminate
    groundwater and is toxic to humans.
    • Human wastes from septic systems too close
    to groundwater, or improperly sized or poorly
    maintained may contaminate groundwater
    with bacteria and nitrate pollution.
    • Superfund sites containing hazardous wastes
    could contaminate groundwater and are toxic
    to humans.

    The teacher should first demonstrate how
    groundwater pollution may occur by sprinkling
    one of the following “pollutants” on the surface of
    the earth materials/cereal in a demonstration cup.
    • “fertilizer” = green drink powder
    • “nitrates” = blue drink powder
    • “pesticide” = red drink powder
    • “Superfund hazardous wastes” = orange
    drink powder
    • “used motor oil or leaking underground
    storage tanks” = maple/chocolate syrup or
    • “landfill leachate” = yellow drink powder

    Make it rain again by pouring milk/water over
    the earth materials/cereal in the cup. Teacher
    pumps the well by sipping on the straw or using
    the dropper and emptying into a 3-oz. cup.

    Now sprinkle one of the contaminants on each
    student’s earth materials (you may want to
    assign a student to assist you with sprinkling
    each contaminant on all of the students’ cups).
    Have students pour the milk/water on their
    model. How does their groundwater look and
    taste now?
    [Color changes, taste changes.
    Remember real pollution may be toxic.]

    5. Is groundwater pollution a problem in

    Display the overhead transparency of Michigan’s
    83 Counties
    map and let each student choose a
    different county that will represent the location
    of their groundwater well (Hint: its great to have
    counties selected from all parts of the state).

    Next, display one at a time, the overhead
    transparencies or PowerPoint slide of each
    groundwater contaminant listed below.
    (Note: teachers may use all of the groundwater
    contamination maps, or select the ones most
    relevant to their students):
    (i) Landfills may leak a variety of pollutants into
    the groundwater.
    (ii) Leaking underground storage tanks from gas
    stations. Contaminants include benzene, toluene,
    and xylenes.
    (iii) Groundwater contaminated by oil and
    gas drilling activities. Contamination may
    include heavy metals (barium, chromium, lead,
    zinc), sodium, salinity, pH, and/or petroleum
    (iv) Superfund sites contain hazardous wastes.
    Superfund sites are designated by the U.S.
    Environmental Protection Agency. As of 2012,
    there are 86 Superfund sites in Michigan.

    (v) The map of pesticide and herbicide
    contamination sites only shows contaminated
    storage or distribution sites. These are related
    to applications for agricultural purposes, golf
    courses, or lawns.
    (vi) Drinking water wells with nitrate
    contamination. Nitrates can come from fertilizer
    applications on crops, golf courses, or lawns,
    or from human and animal wastes from septic
    systems, wastewater overflows, or feedlots.

    Each time a new map is displayed, students
    whose selected counties are shown to have
    contaminated groundwater should sprinkle that
    pollutant on the surface of their groundwater
    models. All students will recharge the
    groundwater with milk or water after each
    contaminant is applied, followed by pumping
    their wells either by using their straw or a dropper
    to remove the groundwater. Each time, ask: How
    is your groundwater quality? Can you see the
    contamination? Can you taste the contamination?

    For each map, discuss why some counties have
    contaminated groundwater sites and others do
    not. It’s fine to simply brainstorm explanations.
    If you want to know definitively, then encourage
    students to conduct independent research
    online or call the Michigan Department of
    Environmental Quality to inquire.

    Did anyone have a well that was not affected by
    any of the contaminant sources?

    Why is there more nitrate contamination in
    southwest Michigan?
    [More farming and greater
    use of fertilizers occurs in southwest Michigan.]

    Why does Wayne County have more leaking
    underground storage tanks?
    [Larger population,
    more gas stations, especially older stations with
    outdated underground storage tanks.]

    What other patterns of contamination do
    students observe?

    6. How can future groundwater contamination
    be prevented?

    Landfills – New landfills are required to be lined
    on top and bottom using impermeable plastic
    liners overlying two feet of clay to prevent water
    from passing through the landfill and reaching
    the groundwater. Monitoring wells must be
    placed around landfills to sample for potential
    off-site contamination.

    Pesticides – Best management practices
    recommend the correct amounts and timing for
    application of pesticides and herbicides to reduce
    surface and groundwater contamination. Never
    apply when it is windy or rain is predicted.

    Underground Storage Tanks – As of 1999,
    all gas stations are required to follow Michigan
    Department of Environmental Quality
    (MDEQ) guidelines and install a double-walled
    underground storage tank to prevent leakage.
    Gas stations must also monitor for leakage so it
    can be caught quickly. As of 1998, the MDEQ
    requires monthly monitoring for leak detection.

    Hazardous Wastes – Water quality regulations
    are designed to prevent or greatly reduce the
    chance of hazardous materials entering the
    environment. However, illegal dumping, human
    error, and negligence still result in soil and
    water contamination occurring (see Kalamazoo
    River oil spill in 2010 described in Lesson 7

    7. How can contaminated groundwater be
    cleaned up?

    How much rain will it take to wash away the
    Have students make it rain
    again by pouring milk/water into their cups.
    Is it possible to remove all of the contamination?
    [It will take many recharges and pumping to
    remove the contamination, and it will never be
    possible to remove all of the contaminant.]

    Environmental engineers have designed a
    variety of clean-up methods:

    • Pump out and treat contaminated
    groundwater and soil.
    • Use bioremediation, in which the growth
    of naturally-occurring microorganisms that
    break down organic matter is enhanced with
    nutrients, oxygen, and other conditions, or
    specialized microbes are added to degrade
    the contaminants. Bioremediation is used
    to help clean up oil and other toxic spills.
    Bioremediation does not work if chemicals
    toxic to the microorganisms are present.
    Bioremediation has the advantage of treating
    the contamination in place so that large
    quantities of soil, sediment, or water do
    not have to be dug up or pumped out of the
    ground for treatment.
    • Add oxygen to cause a chemical reaction that
    will make the contaminant no longer harmful.
    • Add air to change the contamination from a
    liquid into a gas (volatilization).

    Remember, it is not possible to fully remove all
    contaminants from groundwater
    . Groundwater
    contamination is very difficult to clean up
    because you cannot see the geology beneath
    the Earth’s surface, the contaminant, or the
    groundwater. Groundwater cleanup is usually
    done by environmental engineers who are
    trained in hydrology (water movement), geology
    (the underground rock formations), chemistry
    (toxicity of the contaminant), biology (effect of
    the contaminant on plants, animals, humans),
    and public health (potential for the contaminant
    to harm the public). Research is still needed to
    design effective groundwater cleanup methods.



    1. Have students access the interactive web
    modules on Groundwater Supply and
    Groundwater Contamination
    produced by
    Michigan Technological University for this

    2. Demonstrate groundwater movement and
    contamination using a groundwater model
    available from your intermediate school district,
    county extension office, or a Michigan
    Department of Environmental Quality office.
    Groundwater models can be purchased from or

    3. Have students debate: Should groundwater
    withdrawals be regulated by the State of

    4. Students who get their water from private wells
    and who know their township, range, and section
    can download their well log at http:// This website
    will provide the scanned well log for every well
    drilled in the past 30-40 years in Michigan. Well
    logs state the depth of the well, the depth to the
    water table, and the geology along the length of
    the well.

    5. Engage students in creating a “well log” in “Get
    the Groundwater Picture” from Project WET
    (Water Education for Teachers) Curriculum &
    Activity Guide. (See Additional Resources)

    6. Visit a local well driller to watch a well being

    7. Install a shallow groundwater monitoring well at
    your school to monitor water table fluctuations.

    8. Dig into septic system education, especially if
    your students live in rural areas with their own
    wells, with the Michigan 4-H Septic Educational
    Program to Instill Conservation
    curriculum available online at: http://4h.msue. or on MEECS
    Water Quality CD.

    9. Conduct a porosity demonstration. Using two
    1000-ml beakers, fill one beaker with 1000-ml
    of sand and the other beaker with 500 ml of
    water. Pour water into the sand-filled beaker
    until the sand is saturated and the water is at
    the surface of the sand. If the water level in the
    water-filled beaker declined from 500 ml to 150 ml, then the difference (350 ml) is in the sand-
    filled beaker. This 350 ml of water is filling the pore spaces between sand grains. Therefore, the
    porosity of the sand is 350 ml/1000 ml or 35%
    of the total volume of sand (including the pore
    space and solid material). Repeat using gravel,
    clay, and other earth materials. See Porosity and
    overhead transparency.

    10. Demonstrate permeability. Poke holes in the
    bottom of three 12-oz. clear plastic cups. Place
    a piece of coffee filter paper cut to size on
    the bottom of each cup. Place one-half cup of
    gravel, sand, and clay into one cup each. Place
    these cups inside of a larger clear plastic cup and
    use a binder clip to attach the two cups together
    at the top. Pour 1⁄2 cup of water into each cup
    simultaneously and time how long it takes until
    the water comes through the bottom of each
    cup. Through which earth material did the water
    travel most quickly? The slowest? See Porosity
    and Permeability
    overhead transparency.


    Additional Resources

    Geology in Michigan, a website, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Land Division, provides a wide array of maps, posters, lessons and other resources including the Rock Cycle in Michigan CD. Search using “Geology in Michigan” ( Retrieved July 22, 2011.

    Groundwater and Drinking Water, a U.S. EPA site, describes where drinking water comes from, potential contaminants, how it is treated, who is responsible for drinking water quality, and how to protect drinking water. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from A map of major aquifers in the United States is available at

    Groundwater Contamination: Trouble in Fruitvale module contains a series of 12 activities taught
    over 2-3 weeks for grades 6–12 students that investigate groundwater contamination in the fictional city of Fruitvale. Students design and carry out a plan for testing water from different parts of the city to determine the contamination’s source, severity, extent, rate of movement, and risk to Fruitvale’s water supply. Part of the Lawrence Hall of Science, Science Education for Public Understanding Series. Retrieved July 10, 2018,

    The Groundwater Foundation website, contains diagrams, lessons, publications, models, resources for educators, games about groundwater including Dripial Pursuit Trivia Game, and two books that describe how to put on a water festival, Making Waves and Making More Waves, for your school or community. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from

    Magnificent Groundwater Connection, from the U.S. EPA: Region 1 New England, contains many
    lessons for teaching elementary, middle, and high school students about groundwater. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Michigan Groundwater Mapping Project website, provided by the Michigan Department of
    Environmental Quality, contains an interactive map that can be queried, along with reports specific to the Great Lakes basin and excellent background materials and links. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Michigan’s Drinking Water website, from the Institute for Water Research, Michigan State University, provides a wealth of useful materials, including a groundwater tutorial, groundwater data for Michigan, classroom lessons, information for local officials. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Not a Drop to Drink, America’s Water Crisis discusses the current condition of major groundwater
    supplies, privatization, agricultural production issues and effect of global climate change on future water supplies. Midkiff, Ken (2007). California: New World Library.

    Paving Our Way to Water Shortages: How Sprawl Aggravates the Effects of Drought looks at what happens to water supplies when natural areas are developed. Otto, Betsy. (2002). Washington, DC: American Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Smart Growth America. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from

    Petroleum Brownfields Program is a U.S. EPA grant program that allows abandoned gas stations
    with leaking underground storage tanks to go from blighted eyesores to successful businesses.
    See descriptions and photos of reclaimed Michigan sites. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Septic Educational Program to Instill Conservation (SEPTIC) contains fun, educational activities
    created by young people aged 13 to 19 who worked in partnership with teachers and environmental
    professionals. Youth will learn what septic systems are, how they function, why septic systems fail, how periodic maintenance can prevent septic system failures, and what effect failing septic systems have on groundwater. Retrieved July 26, 2011, from

    University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point American Water Resources Association (AWRA) sells
    groundwater flow models. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Water Science for Schools, from the U.S. Geological Survey, provides outstanding diagrams and
    explanations of groundwater porosity, permeability, use, quality, wells, and more. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from

    Curriculum Connections

    The Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide 2.0 contains 64 water education activities for K-12 students described on 590 pages. Activities are organized into seven broad categories about water including its unique physical and chemical characteristics, how it is how it integrates all earth systems, its limited availability, water resources management, and social and cultural values. Helpful cross reference and planning charts help educators to quickly find the “right” activity for an age group, setting, concept, etc. In addition, WET educators may access a new companion Portal that contains searchable databases, discussion groups, state education correlations, and so much more. The Guide can only be obtained by attending a workshop (contact the Michigan Project essential for all life, WET coordinator for information). Project WET Foundation (2011) Bozeman, MT.

    Literature Connections

    Where Does Your Water Come From helps students discover the source of their drinking water, Colorful photographs describe the water cycle, watersheds, surface water, ground water, sources of pollution and ways to prevent degradation of water supplies.

    One Well: The Story of Water on Earth tells how water is a necessity of life on Earth. The reader will learn ways to protect it while learning water’s story. Strauss, Rochelle (2007). Kids Can Press.


    Multi-Media Connections

    “The Story of Groundwater” (4 minute video) is a musical animation about the importance of
    groundwater to living things, including people, and how to help protect this hidden resource.
    The Groundwater Story is designed for kids and adults who like watching funny cartoons while
    learning. Flash animation required. The Groundwater Foundation. Retrieved July 10, 2018,