The Contamination of Surface and Groundwater in Springfield, USA

Learning Objectives

Determine the direction water is flowing underground based on topography
Identify sources of pollution in ground/surface water
Select new sites for wells based on geological evidence

Standards Addressed

PA Science Standards

3.3.7.A4 - Differentiate among Earth’s water systems.
3.3.7.A6. MODELS/SCALES - Locate significant geological structures using various mapping representations.
3.3.8.A6 MODELS - Explain how satellite images, models, and maps are used to identify Earth’s resources
3.3.12A CONSTANCY/CHANGE - Infer how human activities may impact the natural course of Earth’s cycles
4.2.8.A - Describe factors that affect the quality of ground and surface waters
4.2.10.A - Examine the interactions between abiotic and biotic factors within a watershed

  • Describe how topography influences the flow of water in a watershed
  • Investigate and analyze the effects of land use on the quality of water in a watershed

NGSS Performance Expectations

MS-ESS3-3 - Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing human impact on the environment
HS-ESS3-4 - Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems

Supplies/Materials/Articles Needed

Copies of worksheets for students
Copies of tables for students or groups
Markers (red, black and blue), and pencils for each student or group

Preparation Time Needed

Prep time will be determined by the individual teacher.  Teachers should read all activities thoroughly before attempting to impliment the activity.

Class Time Required

1-2 (45 minute) class periods, depending on background knowledge needed by students before starting the activity.  Students should have a working knowledge of rock types, permeability and the skill of contouring.  Contouring can be taught as a mini lesson prior to the activity.

Activity Description

Student Description

"You and your colleagues have been called in to examine part of a watershed of Springfield, USA.  Contamination has recently been discovered in their water system.  The local scientists have measured levels of contamination at various well and stream sites, in addition to gathering the existing information on the geology of the area.  You will have access to 2D and 3D maps of the area and the stratigraphic column of the region.  The city has requested your help in using the scientists’ data to determine the source of the pollution is in Springfield’s water.  

During the activity you will label the water table level at sampling sites in the area and use that information to create contour maps.  This will allow you to better see the topography of the sampling site.  Then, you will label the contamination sites on a map of Springfield and use the information to determine where the contamination originated.  Finally, using your knowledge of the area, you will determine what is the best place for Springfield to drill new wells to avoid contamination problems in the future."

***This exercise was adapted from "Who Polluted Surface and Groundwater in this Place?" on the SERC website.