When it's raining out, all that wet stuff can look pretty plentiful. Because water seems to be falling free from the skies, taking a few extra minutes to watch a sparkling rivulet of water splash and swirl down the drain may not seem like a major transgression to your precocious son or daughter. The facts are in, and regardless of how the skies may look during a downpour, clean, abundant water is becoming an increasingly rare, valuable and expensive commodity in the U.S. States are fighting over water rights, and many aging water utilities are being tasked with providing expanded services while attempting to operate their facilities with outdated equipment.
Teaching children good water management can be a challenge, no doubt, but it's an important lesson. On the next few pages, let's explore some dynamic and fun ways you can help teach your children that a drop of water is a terrible thing to waste.
If you're getting tired of shouting at your kids every evening because they forget to turn the water off while they brush their teeth, we can recommend some interactive Web sites that will help you make your point without raising your voice. The key is to make the topic of water conservation interesting (and important) to younger kids without letting the discussion get too complicated.
For younger kids -- If your younger children are having trouble learning that water waste is bad news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's kid friendly "Know Your Water Wasters" game can help. It's an interactive arcade-style game and quiz combo that pits Flo, the friendly water drop, against monsters like Drainiac and Sogosauras. Your youngsters will enjoy the fun and learn something while they play. Give it a try: Test Your Water Sense.
For tweens -- The Water Family is another interactive game that uses a self-directed format to help kids identify important potential water wasters in a virtual home and garden. This one is great for tweens (plus or minus a year or two). After visiting this site, don't be surprised if your daughter suggests you start taking more showers instead of water intensive (but relaxing) baths. Just a heads up.
For teens -- The Water Education Foundation has put together the Water Cycle, a fact sheet that explains how and why water is important in language tweens and young teenagers can easily understand. It's all text and graphics, but the information is interesting and easy to grasp.
For teens and adults -- Designed for older children, the H20 House water saver home is a virtual home tour designed with water conservation in mind. Select a room and then click on an appliance or fixture to discover how to conserve water when using it. This is a great site for term paper research or for parents looking for fast facts to share.
Kids learn by doing, and nothing helps make them aware of water-wise practices better than asking them to tag along while you look for toilet, faucet and showerhead leaks. Another good option is to perform a home water audit with them. A water efficiency checklist can help you assess problems in your home and show your kids you mean business when it comes to good water management. You can find a basic checklist on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPAs) Green Building site: Water Use Checklist. If that's not detailed enough, you might want to consider contacting your local water utility company. It may have a checklist or even an audit kit available for the asking.
Contacting your utility company is a good idea for another reason. Some public water utilities conduct regular facility tours at no charge to the public. You may be able to schedule a visit for the whole family and let the pros teach your kids how a drop of rain water travels from a storm cloud to your kitchen sink. These tours are very informative and fun, too. If your water utility doesn't conduct tours, the Environmental Protection Agency offers a virtual online tour of a drinking water plant that may be worth a few minutes. It's too complex for younger kids, but can still help give you the general idea if you plan on explaining the process to them: Drinking Water Plant Virtual Tour.
Nothing teaches the water as a life lesson better than a garden. Take a year-old seed that's been sitting in an envelope, add some water, and you have a pretty spectacular lesson about the power of H2O. Planting a garden may not teach your kids to count the seconds they run the tap when they brush their teeth, but it still has value. After growing their own sunflowers, they'll value moisture more -- and differently. The concept of water won't be limited to its function as a means of getting clean or, say, making ice cubes.
There's another garden lesson you can show them, too. It's about the way nature protects water resources when they're scarce. Plant a cactus garden to illustrate how plants fight to survive by defending water reserves. Show them the needles and spines on those chubby water hoarders -- desert survivors. Cactus plants are a dramatic symbol of the value and power of water in nature.
Rain can be pretty amazing, but after it stops, where does all the water go? You know it washes into storm drains or soaks through the soil to accumulate in underground aquifers. As a grownup, you understand that water resources are limited and dependent on seasonal rainfall. One way to bring that lesson home to your kids is with a rain barrel. A couple of generations ago, rain barrels were on every farm and in many residential neighborhoods across America. Families harvested rainwater for practical use the way they harvested potatoes or apples.
Installing a rain barrel under one of the downspouts from your roof will teach your kids firsthand that the notion of an endless supply of water is really an illusion. An empty rain barrel will be a stark reminder to your kids that nature can be capricious. Streams dry up, droughts happen, and the seasonal cycles which produce adequate rainfall are fragile. Actually, a rain barrel in your garden can be a learning tool as well as a pretty nifty way to harvest some extra water for landscape maintenance.
With a sequel out now, what did Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' get right? Learn more in this HowStuffWorks Now article.
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