Dive into Fresh Water Solutions

by Kim Moldofsky, The Maker Mom

On cold, windy Chicago winter days, I question why I live here. After all, I could move near my cousins in sunny Arizona or relocate to San Diego, where the perfect weather is the stuff of Midwestern dreams. But I know why I live in northern Illinois: water. We have access to fresh water and lots of it.

The Great Lakes region is my home. In fact, HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior) holds roughly 20% of the world’s fresh surface water supply and an estimated 95 percent of the United States’ supply of the same.  I took this bounty for granted until I read Written in Water, which wet my whistle to issues of fresh water management and conversations around the world. 

Make a Splash with Science

We need water to maintain life—human life and the life of plants and animals around us. Lack of water causes people, typically girls or women, to miss out on education or employment opportunities because it is their job to fetch water, which can be miles from home.

Here in the United States it’s easy to take the simple act of washing up before a meal for granted. But the inability to clean with soap and water is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, water, sanitation and hygiene-related disease kills nearly one million people each year. 

But water quality isn’t just a problem for in developing countries. If you and your students have followed the Flint, Michigan water crisis it’s clear that fresh water treatment and access are domestic concerns, too. Southwest of Michigan, the California drought drives home the importance of fresh water conservation and use.

Challenges to the availability of freshwater include climate change, agricultural, industrial and household overuse and misuse, as well as the impact of dams, aquifer depletion, and accidental or negligent pollution of public.

After students have a grasp of some of the pressing concerns related to fresh water access, treatment, and preservation, they can start brainstorming potential solutions. In fact, water is what led Deepika Kurup to earn the title of America’s Top Young Scientist in 2012. With an understanding of the critical need for affordable and sustainable access to clean drinking water, she developed a process to harness solar energy to purify water.  

What are your students waiting for? The deadline for this year’s Young Scientist Challenge is right around the corner. Encourage your students to dive in!