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Water Pathway

water iconWater covers about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. But the vast majority of Earth’s water is found in the oceans, too salty to drink and unfit for many other applications. Of the freshwater on Earth, about two‚Äźthirds is frozen in the ice caps and glaciers, which leaves less than one percent accessible for human use.

student filling up water bottle with eco-friendly fountainFresh, clean water is one of the basic necessities of life. But in the United States and throughout the world, it is becoming a scarce resource. As weather patterns shift and temperatures rise due to climate change, water security—including its cleanliness and conservation—will only become more crucial.

Basic water efficiency programs can reduce a school's water use by 30 percent or more. Using systems thinking, students can investigate and propose strategies to improve irrigation methods, reduce surface runoff, consume fresh water more efficiently, and design or install water reuse technologies. Students can also investigate the interdependent relationships between water use, water quality, wildlife biodiversity, and community health.

Fast Facts

Following the Framework

Utilize the Seven Step Framework to complete your pathway.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit

6-8 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Water pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

The Eco-Action Team is the driving force behind Eco-Schools USA. Ideally, your Eco-Action Team should be representative of the whole school community—including people beyond the school walls, such as facilities staff, board members, and members of the greater community. Eco-Schools USA has developed a worksheet to help guide the development of this team.

Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

The Environmental Checklist is an essential tool for understanding the current environmental situation in your school. It provides the basis for your Eco-Action Plan. Eco-Schools USA has developed an activity to get your students started.

In addition to the optional Environmental Checklist, pathway-specific audits allow teams to utilize a pathway-specific lens to dive deeper into problems and solutions, and provide the basis for the team’s Eco-Action Plan.

K-2 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | K-2 Baseline Audit | K-2 Post-Action Audit

3-5 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 3-5 Baseline Audit

6-8 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 6-8 Baseline Audit | 6-8 Post-Action Audit

9-12 Conducting a Water Conservation Audit | 9-12 Baseline Audit | 9-12 Post-Action Audit

Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

The action plan follows as the result of analysis and conclusions drawn from the Environmental Audit and sets forth a series of goals, actions, and a timeline for achieving environmental improvements.

1. To get started, preview the sample action plan for the Water pathway. This example is designed to be a springboard to developing the team’s own action plan.

2. Use the blank action plan to develop the team’s vision.

Sample Action Plan (K-5) | Blank Action Plan (K-5)
Sample Action Plan (6-12) | Blank Action Plan (6-12)

Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

Monitoring and evaluation are intrinsic elements of the action plan, helping to check progress toward goals, make adjustments for greater success, and validate that actions are making an impact.

Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

Enrich your classroom curriculum with Eco-Schools projects and activities.

Step 6: Involve the Community

Communities are made up of diverse perspectives. When students consistently and authentically work to include community members from all walks of life, not just the school community, they are gaining access to dynamic networks whose end goals are the same, making their place in this world happier and healthier.

Step 7: Create an Eco-Code

The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement and should demonstrate—in a positive, inclusive, and imaginative way—the whole school’s commitment to improving their environmental performance.

Sustainable Development Goals

goal 4 - quality education
goal 6 - clean water and sanitation
Goal 10 - reduced inequalities
Goal 11 - Sustainable cities and communities
goal 12 - responsible consumption and production
goal 13 - climate action
goal 16 - peace, justice, and strong institutions
goal 17 - partnerships for the goals

Top 10 Tips to Conserve Water

  • Find out the source of your school's water.
  • Learn how your utility measures water use.
  • If accessible, read meters monthly. Analyze water use over a school year, over a calendar year, and from season to season.
  • Discuss how your school can conserve water and how to set realistic goals.
  • Bring in guest speakers, host activities or events, and communicate your actions through the school's digital communications.

  • Install an automatic rain shut-off device on sprinkler systems.
  • Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal changes.
  • Be sure all hoses have shut-off nozzles.
  • Use drip irrigation systems instead of sprinklers.
  • Shut off the water supply to equipment or areas not in use.

  • Set up a water catchment system to gather rain for watering plants and other non-potable uses.
  • Install bioretention areas or constructed wetlands to support runoff and local wildlife.

  • Shut off water cooling systems when not in use.
  • Reduce cooling needs by setting the air conditioner's thermostat 2-3 degrees higher.
  • Adjust ice machines to make less ice if there is a surplus.

  • Install low-flow water aerators in restrooms, kitchens, and locker rooms.
  • Add water displacement devices such as bags or weighted bottles in toilet tanks.
  • Retrofit flushometer or tankless toilets with water-saving diaphragms to save one gallon per flush.
  • Replace old toilets with new low-volume models. Old toilets use as much as 4.5 gallons per flush, while low-volume toilets use only 1.6 gallons.
  • Replace old shower heads and faucets with low-volume models, which use only 2 gallons per minute versus 3 gallons for old models.

  • One leaking toilet can waste more than 50 gallons of water each day. Monitor the toilets and faucets regularly.
  • A dripping faucet or shower head can waste up to 1,000 gallons per week! Check for leaks and set dates for reporting and repair.

  • Replace standard pre-rinse sprayers with low-flow models.
  • When possible, sweep floors and walkways instead of using water.
  • Turn down hot water temperatures for dishwashing or cleaning.

  • Mulch around plants and trees to reduce evaporation.
  • Preserve existing plants that provide shade, moisture retention, and wildlife habitat.
  • Plant native, drought-resistant trees, plants, and shrubs, especially on hillsides or banks.

  • Look for areas around the school that have eroded due to storm water runoff.
  • Add vegetation or water retention areas to prevent further erosion.
  • Use permeable surfaces for parking lots and other areas.

  • Post colorful stickers and signs to promote water conservation.
  • Compare water use over time, starting before the water conservation initiative begins.
  • Display your progress on bulletin boards and displays around the school.
  • Hold school or community events focusing on water conservation actions and wastewater issues.