ELRC Presentations

Middle School Students' Perceptions of the Distribution and Availability of Safe Drinking Water in the U.S.


Association of American Geographers 2008 Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.


The availability of safe drinking water is a critical global issue and is becoming an increasing limited resource. As such, it is important to begin water resources education at an early age to increase awareness of water resource issues and to encourage responsible environmental stewardship. The purpose of this study was to assess middle school students' perceptions of the availability of safe drinking water in the U.S., particularly as it relates to local environmental issues. As a component of a larger unit on water resources, middle school students at two schools completed pre/post-evaluations to assess their knowledge of water resources in the U. S. Preliminary results from this study indicate that students do not have a consistent perception of the availability and distribution of safe drinking water in the U.S. Many students believed that the government was responsible for and able to provide adequate drinking water to its citizens; however, there was a common perception that unsafe drinking water exists in both rural and urban regions of the country, although not necessarily in local areas. Another common theme was contamination of drinking water in the U.S. is limited to disaster areas, such as hurricane-stricken regions, and that contamination is only a temporary phenomenon. Since these ideas were prevalent among the students even after completion of the water resources unit, it may be important to relate water resources and environmental awareness to students on a more personal and local level to better develop student understanding of water issues.


middle school education, water resources, drinking water

Date of this Version

April 2008

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