We take baths with clean water. We drink clean water. We wash our clothes and food with clean water. Water we use every day comes from streams, ponds, rivers, and other natural sources. These water sources can become polluted. Mother Nature does her part to clean the water through the water cycle. But the water cycle can’t keep up with the pollution that people and animals create.
In the United States, we treat drinking water before it comes to our tap so that we don’t get sick from using polluted water. We also treat water after we use it and before returning it to the environment. We do this to remove pollutants so that they don’t harm our waterways and the plants and animals that live there. All used water goes through wastewater treatment, whether it was used in homes, on farms, or in industry.
Did you know ?
Wastewater spends anywhere from 8 to 16 hours in a water treatment plant before it’s ready to be returned to the environment.
Explore the links below to learn about your water’s long journey from its source to the faucet at your kitchen sink.
A Visit to the Water Treatment Plant (U.S. Geological Survey) - A step-by-step PDF guide describing the water treatment process.
USGS Waste Water Treatment (U.S. Geological Survey) - Describes what waste water is, the importance of cleaning it, its effects, and waste water treatment options.
Water Treatment (Mindfuel) - Game about water purification.
Build Your Own Aquifer (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) - Interactive web activity to learn what aquifers are, how they work, their importance, and how to build one.
Desalination: A Solution for Our Water Needs (National Library of Medicine) - Animated video on the desalination process.
Thirstin's Water Filtration Lesson (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) - Interactive website to learn about the water filtration process.
Water Purification by Evaporation and Condensation (PDF, 16.40 KB)(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) - PDF lesson activity for grades 4-7 on how the water cycles help to purify water.