Overview

We know that all living things need water to grow and survive – people, poodles, plants, potatoes, pike, pelicans, polar bears, pollinators… okay, you get the point. Not all living things need oxygen, but they all need H2O. So despite the price of gold or the world’s quest for uranium or oil, water clearly sits on the throne of precious resources on this “Blue Planet” of ours.

Even though we “share” the planet with millions of other species, it’s only us humans that make decisions that can affect the quality of the natural world  with environmental impacts. We make those decisions to benefit or hinder the quality of life for particular people and/or communities (social impacts), and/or to provide monetary advantages or disadvantages to specific communities, businesses, and/or people (economic impact). As if that’s not challenging enough, many decisions humans make fail to fully consider all the other “citizen lifeforms” that share Planet Earth that are now facing extinction rates thousands of times greater than in prehistoric times. So in the end, humans rarely intentionally “share” with other species the environments that they alter because in the end, “sharing” implies equal rights to available resources.

Many regions in the United States currently face the question of how to sustain profitable agriculture along with water quality and quantity, and Wisconsin is no different. In the Central Sands, farmers and agribusinesses grow crops, some that require irrigation to maintain and to maximize profitability. And many of the agribusinesses there irrigate crops by pumping water from the ground using high capacity wells. High capacity wells can pump 70 or more gallons per minute (DNR 2017).

Humans use these crops for their own consumption, to feed animals, and to produce ethanol. Humans and wildlife also depend on that same water, which supports the numerous streams and lakes in the area. Pumping water decreases the flow of water in streams and the water in lakes, which affects waterfront property owners, fish and wildlife, real estate and property tax values, and tourism. With many different stakeholders depending on this water environmentally, socially, and economically, what decisions can humans make to sustain both agriculture and water? And who establishes the “yardstick” of how to measure who gets how much water and for what?

To really dig into the science and solutions of water resource use, have your teacher download the free Lesson Guide below for hours of peer-driven learning in your classroom with your peeps. You can also learn lots more by reading the advanced information in the Learn More section below by clicking on the icon.

If you’re interested in truly becoming a more knowledgeable “sustainable steward” of the Planet, discover the greater sustainable story by watching all 17 parts of the documentary, Searching for Sustainability. You or your teacher can also get the full 68-minute DVD on that website.

Also discover information on the websites of our educational partners in this program by clicking on their logos below.

Available Lessons

Middle School Lessons

High School Lessons