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Database Provider


New York DEP


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Project

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New York, New York City



Discovering NYC Water Supply

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  • This lesson plan includes three small-group activities designed to help students understand the features of the New York City water supply system, from upstate watersheds to the pipes in dwellings.
  • Students will create visual representations of the various elements of the system, model how these elements connect as a system, consider urban planning challenges along the way, evaluate how human activity influences the system. and discuss how climate change impacts the water supply.
Teaching Tips


  • The lesson is thorough and includes the objectives, a materials list, the methodology, a vocabulary list, discussion questions, and extension activities.
  • The small-group activities in this lesson plan allow students to work together as a team.
  • Students are encouraged to consider how the water system and climate change are interconnected so this learning project can smoothly fit with a larger unit about the effects of climate change on our systems.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers must use a color printer to print the included picture cards.
  • Students may need more vocabulary words defined than are provided in the vocabulary list.
  • Before discussing how climate change impacts the water system, students should understand how climate change affects the water cycle.
  • Although presented as optional, teachers may wish to connect this lesson with a previous lesson titled Navigating NYC's Wastewater System.


  • Math teachers may wish to have students read the embedded Background Information article and then break into small groups to create word problems based on the article's data.
  • Geography and science teachers can work together to have students construct maps of New York City and the surrounding areas, then create the visual depiction from Part 1 of the lesson, displaying the water supply system and labeling the parts on the map.
  • English teachers can also provide an extension to the activity by having students write paragraphs about being good stewards of the water supply system.
Scientist Notes
In this lesson, students learn about the water supply system. The activity also encourages students to think about how humans interact with these systems and brainstorm how these systems will be affected by climate change. Students need to have a basic understanding of climate change before engaging in this activity, as part III assumes they already have some knowledge about climate change impacts. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.10.9-12 Evaluate how changes in the environmental and cultural characteristics of a place or region influence spatial patterns of trade and land use.
      • D2.Geo.9.9-12 Evaluate the influence of long-term climate variability on human migration and settlement patterns, resource use, and land uses at local-to-global scales.
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