The Cost of Drinking Water – Great Lakes Now

Based on an independent Great Lakes News Collaborative project to better understand the true cost of water, this lesson will explore the costs associated with providing clean water to Great Lakes communities and the United States. Students will learn how water infrastructure systems naturally age. and need to be maintained, upgraded, repaired or replaced, and how this infrastructure lifecycle affects water quality and cost to communities that depend on clean, fresh water.

Lesson Objectives

  • To know on the factors that affect the cost of water
  • To understand how does water filtration work
  • To be able to model the cost of water over time from a particular set of data

View the full lesson plan, including general teacher 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 clean water and how water crises – like the one they will learn about in Benton Harbor, MI – affect water costs. During the video, students should write down four things they learned from it.

Watch a segment of the Great Lakes now

Activity 2

This activity introduces students to the basic process of water filtration – using gravity filtration – to help them develop a model of what is happening at the municipal level with water treatment. They will build a simple filter in a plastic water bottle and use it to filter two types of “polluted” water: water with insoluble “pollutants” and water with soluble “pollutants”. A discussion of soluble/insoluble may be helpful before starting this lab, especially if these terms are unfamiliar.

build a water filter

Activity 3

This activity is a video discussion of a Great Lakes Now episode segment discussing how water bills have affected communities, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic. During the video, students should write down four things they learned from it.

Watch a segment of the Great Lakes now

Activity 4

The issue of water quality and affordability is so large and complex that it may be useful to focus on a few key aspects of the problem to facilitate learning. This activity aims to help students better understand the impact that high water bills have on citizens.

Learn more about water affordability

Activity 5

If the cost of water has increased over the years, will it continue to increase in the future? What kind of utility costs can students in today’s classrooms expect when they become adults with their own households in the future? By engaging students in mathematical modelling, this activity aims to provide students with a better understanding of water costs and how to estimate the impact of water cost increases on citizens, such as themselves as future adults.

Modeling the cost of water

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


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

Find all Great Lakes Now teaching materials HERE.

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