The Urban Water Cycle

The Urban Water Cycle

Watch this brief, video picture of practice that captures everyday classroom life and provides real-life examples of how students learn and think about freshwater topics.


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Earth Science

When students hear the words "water cycle," many immediately think about the traditional water-cycle concepts taught in schools—evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. However, the water cycle also includes two important concepts often overlooked: infiltration and runoff. More importantly, given the development in human communities, our water cycle has been altered in numerous ways, but most especially in infiltration and runoff. In urban communities, rain hits concrete and pavement and is collected into storm wastewater systems. The rain no longer soaks into the ground to recharge groundwater reservoirs. Water may be brought to communities via aqueducts, and leave communities through sewage or storm-water systems. The water cycle looks quite different in these communities, and it is important for students to be aware of those key differences.

Watch this video of 6th grade students in San Diego, California—an urban, coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to hear student ideas about the urban water cycle and to think about key concepts you would teach to your students.

For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "The Urban Water Cycle" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 52.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Ari J. Posner, M.S. Urban Planning
Beth A. Covitt, Ph.D. Environmental Education and Conservation Psychology
Tania T. Hinojosa, M.Ed. Educational Technology
Jose Marcos-Iga, Ph.D. Natural Resources
Marcia S. Matz, M.A. Design
Tara G. Treiber, B.A. Natural Sciences: Ecology
Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow
Abraham Miller-Rushing, Ph.D. Biology
Anica Miller-Rushing, M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D. Educational Psychology and Technology
Cindy Olson
Kristen Dell, National Geographic Society
Lindsey Mohan, Ph.D.
Chelsea Zillmer
Educator Reviewers
Catie Boarts, Heal the Bay
Beth A. Covitt, University of Montana
Jenny D. Ingber
Meghan E. Marrero, New York State Marine Education
Marcia S. Matz
Sandra Postel, National Geographic Fellow
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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