Skip to main content
Curriculum Level: 9-12

By Maggie LeGrand from North Gaston High School 

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: As students investigate water scarcity in the United States, China and other regions of the world they will analyze how water scarcity impacts marginalized communities and identify how stakeholders can reduce water consumption to improve water access. This lesson addresses Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.   


SUBJECTS: World History, American History African-American Studies 


WH.C&G.1.4: Compare ways racial, ethnic, and religious groups around the world have demonstrated resistance and resilience to inequities, injustice, and restriction of freedoms, now and in the past. 

AH.G.1.4: Explain how slavery, forced migration, immigration, reconcentration and other discriminatory practices have changed population distributions and regional culture. 

NCES.AAS.G.1.3: Analyze how environmental changes have impacted African American communities in terms of land use, settlement patterns and urban development.


  • What is water scarcity and whom does it affect? 
  • How can I reduce water consumption?


  1. Students will be able to identify regions of water scarcity around the world. 
  2. Students will be able to describe the effects of water scarcity on marginalized communities.
  3. Students will be able to research solutions to water scarcity in their local area, targeting how to reduce water consumption.


Home – United Nations Sustainable Development


Warm-up: Start a conversation with students by asking: How much of the world’s water is drinkable? Where is water most scarce? How often do you use water in a day and how much do you use? Does everyone in the United States have access to safe drinking water? 

As part of the warm-up have students watch video on SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation and answer the following questions. 

  1. Why do we need a goal on water and sanitation? 
  2. Is infrastructure the only challenge? 
  3. Does it only affect people in developing regions?
  4. What can I do to make a difference?

Discuss warm-up with students and tell them that only 2.5 percent of the world is freshwater. 

Show students the image of a man filling jugs of water. Image can be found here: 202002africa_zimbabwe_environment_water.jpg (1200×800) ( 

Have students look at the image for one minute and write down what they see. Discuss. Students will learn that many people do not have access to water in their homes and have to walk miles to access water. Many regions and countries in Africa and Asia are stressed because of scarcity of water. Other countries and regions are water rich, but cannot provide water to citizens. 

Making Statistics Relevant:  Discuss with students that 2 billion people lack proper sanitation and access to clean water. Discuss with students that the percent of 2 billion is 25% of the world’s population that lacks clean water and proper sanitation. Take this a step further and compare with your town/city population. How many people live in our city? What is 25% of that number? How many students are in our class? What is 25% of that number? 

For Further Investigation: Classrooms unfamiliar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may use the link here to learn more. Have students look at the facts and figures about the world’s access to clean water and sanitation. Students can write down what they find most interesting or concerning. As students report back to the class, ask them to compare and contrast their findings.

Global Watch: Have students watch the 60 Minutes Australia video on China’s Other Great Wall: World’s biggest dam: China’s engineering masterpiece or environment disaster? | 60 Minutes Australia.
Have students answer the following questions:

  1. Why is China building the dam?
  2. Why is China destroying cities along the Yangtze?
  3. What impact is the dam having on the people and the environment?
  4. Who are the marginalized communities in the story?

Analyze: Have students learn more about water issues and scarcity by analyzing how countries around the world use their water resources. Students will use a webquest to complete the Countries Water Resource Webquest worksheet found here. Students will work with partners to respond to questions while exploring country profiles on AQUASTAT, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation and website for SDG 6. 

National Focus: Students will choose between two news articles about two U.S. communities that lack access to clean water to analyze the impact of water scarcity. The first article is about the Navajo community of To’hajiilee and the second article is about the largely African-American community of Jackson, Mississippi. Both communities have outdated water infrastructures that are not being fixed.
Link to news article 1: Many tribal homes don’t have clean water, and the road to getting it is lined with hurdles | KUNC
Link to news article 2: Jackson water crisis: Mississippi accused of ‘intolerable’ racial discrimination | Mississippi | The Guardian
Have students read the article of their choice with a partner or by themselves. As students read the article, have them write a response to the questions on the Water Scarcity Articles worksheet. Discuss with students how water scarcity affects marginalized communities in the U.S. and beyond.

ASSESSMENT: Students will participate in a Socratic seminar on water scarcity. For guidelines on running a Socratic Seminar and assessing student participation see the Socratic Seminar Guidelines and Rubric handout.  

To prepare for the Socratic seminar: Ask students to bring their worksheets and the articles distributed in class as well as 5 questions of their own for the good of the group discussion. 

The day of the Socratic Seminar: Organize the students’ chairs in a circle. Explain that the purpose of a Socratic seminar is a discussion, not a debate. The facilitator, the teacher, will ask probing questions, but they are also free to ask their questions too. Go over the expectations and desired behaviors. 

Questions for the Seminar: 

  • Why is water more accessible in some countries than others? (Keep asking to get a full range of answers)
  • How can countries improve water access and quality?
  • How are marginalized communities impacted by the lack of access to clean water in the United States? 
  • What about other countries especially those in Africa?  
  • Are these communities marginalized because of a lack of access to water, or were they forced to move to areas where there is a lack of resources? 
  • What are ways governments can work together to improve this?  
  • The universal question: What do you think needs to happen before these marginalized communities have access to clean water?  Why do you think so?
  • What can you do in your community to help? 

LEARNING EXTENSION: Students will explore and learn how they can reduce the use of water at Students will work in groups of four to make a poster on how marginalized communities are affected by water scarcity and how they can reduce their water consumption. Students can use Canva to produce posters digitally. 

Differentiation Strategy: Students who are intellectually curious high flyers could research marginalized communities in the United States such as Indigenous, African-American, and Hispanic communities. Students could also research marginalized communities from around the world. They could report to their findings to the class or share them during the Socratic seminar. 


Countries Water Resource Webquest worksheet 

Water Scarcity Articles worksheet


60 Minutes Australia (September 2020). World’s Biggest Dam: China’s Engineering Masterpiece or Environmental Disaster.60 Minutes. 

Hager, Alex. (Dec 8, 2021). Many tribal homes don’t have clean water and the road getting it is lined with hurdles.KUNC. Many tribal homes don’t have clean water, and the road to getting it is lined with hurdles | KUNC

Petit, Marisa. (Aug 24. 2022). Save Water: Reduce your Water Footprint.

UNESCO (2018). SDG Resources for Educators – Clean Water and Sanitation. UNESCO.

United Nations (n.d) Water and Sanitation – United Nations Sustainable Development.

Rios, Edwin. (Sept 29, 2022) Jackson Water crisis: Mississippi accused of “intolerable” racial discrimination. The Jackson water crisis: Mississippi accused of ‘intolerable’ racial discrimination | Mississippi | The Guardian

Zimbabwe Environment Water. (2022). Zimbabwe Environment Water. 202002africa_zimbabwe_environment_water.jpg (1200×800) (