Lesson plans

The St. Johns River Water Management District has collected or written the following kindergarten through 12th-grade lesson plans to assist educators in teaching various aspects of water resources. The lessons are correlated to the Florida Standards and may be adapted to suit your particular teaching environment.

Prescribed fire: A versatile land management tool

Fire has always been a part of nature in Florida, and most species depend on it for survival. District land managers conduct periodic “prescribed fires” as a safe way to apply a natural process to ensure ecosystem health to meet the needs of many plants and animals while also reducing the threat of wildfires.

2 minutes, 17 seconds

Rough fish harvest at Lake George, Florida

This teaching tool for Florida educators describes the science behind harvesting gizzard shad to directly remove thousands of pounds of nutrient pollution from Lake George, which helps improve water quality and reduce the severity of algal blooms in the lower St. Johns River.

7 minutes, 21 seconds

Critters in the water and what they tell us

The creatures that live in stormwater ponds and natural waterways give scientists insight into water quality. This video provides an overview of those creatures.

1 minute, 28 seconds


Studying macroinvertebrates is one indicator used by scientists to determine water quality in stormwater ponds and natural waterways. Educators and others who work with students can use this hands-on exercise to expand learning outside the classroom by following the simple steps outlined in this video.

2 minutes, 59 seconds

Watersheds: Our neighborhoods and beyond

Video is an overview of pollutants that impact our waterways and how individuals can reduce their impacts. A presenter works with students using a hands-on model to illustrate concepts.

10 minute, 40 seconds

Florida’s Aquifer: The Treasure Below

Explains how Florida’s aquifer system formed.

5 minutes, 31 seconds

Water Pollution: The Dirty Details

Explains about the kinds of water pollution and how the district and others are working to reduce the amount of pollutants going into our waterways. Gives tips for individuals to reduce their harmful impacts on surface waters.

7 minutes, 21 seconds

General book list

Aardema, Verna. 1992. Bringing Rain to Kapiti Plain. New York: Puffin.
A cumulative rhyme relating how Ki-pat brought rain to the drought-stricken Kapiti Plain.

Arnosky, Jim. 2002. Watching Water Birds. Des Moines, Iowa: National Geographic Children’s Books.
This book contains full-color artwork showing water birds, their features and habitat, with fun facts and information to reinforce natural science learning.

Bailey, Donna. 1991. Wasting Water. London: Franklin Watts.
Bailey discusses how water is wasted and how it can be conserved and used more effectively.

Berkes, Marianne, and illustrator Jeanette Canyon. 2004. Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications.
Here’s a playful counting book that introduces children to creatures of the coral reef as they clap to the rhythm of “Over in the Meadow.”

Blair, Eric. 2004. The Crow and the Pitcher: A Retelling of Aesop’s Fable. Minneapolis, Minn.: Picture Window Books.
When a thirsty crow cannot drink from a pitcher because the water level is too low, she uses her ingenuity to solve the problem.

Borman, Susan, Robert Korth, Jo Temte, Carol Watkins. 1997. Through the Looking Glass. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
This is a large-format field guide to aquatic plants in North America and is appealing to the general reader but detailed enough for the botanist and natural resource professional.

Bowden, Rob. 2003. Water Supply: Our Impact on the Planet. San Jose, Calif.: Raintree.
Bowden explains how a planet made up of more than 70 percent water can face a water shortage.

Cast, Vance C., and Sue Wilkinson. 1992. Where Does Water Come From? New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
This book shows how much water there is on Earth, how wells are dug to bring it out of the ground, and how water treatment plants work.

Chambers, Catherine. 2002. Drought. (A Wild Weather series book.) Portsmouth: Heinemann/Raintree.
Drought describes what causes droughts, the conditions that exist during a drought, the harmful and beneficial effects of dry periods, and their impact on humans, plants, and animals.

Cowley, Joy. 1997. Singing Down the Rain. New York: Harper Collins.
In the midst of a severe drought, a mysterious woman drives into town claiming she specializes in rain songs.

DeMott, Robert. 1990. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath. New York, Penguin Books.
While writing his greatest novel — The Grapes of Wrath — in 1938, Steinbeck kept a journal that chronicled his torments, self-doubts, late and false starts, reversals and other struggles to achieve his goal.

Douglas, Marjory Stoneman. 1990. Nine Florida Stories. Jacksonville: University of North Florida Press.
The nine stories in this first collection by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas take place in a scattering of South Florida settings — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Tamiami Trail, the Keys, the Everglades — and reveal the drama of hurricanes and plane crashes, of kidnappers, escaped convicts, and smugglers.

Dresen, M.D., and R.M.Korth. 1994. Life on the Edge…Owning Waterfront Property. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Practical and easily understood, this publication provides information to homeowners for protecting and enhancing lakes near their residences.

Ellis, Brian, and illustrator Michael S. Maydak. 2006. The Web at Dragonfly Pond. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications.
Each of nature’s creatures passes energy along in a unique way. All things on Earth, from the anchovy to the zooplankton, depend on the green plant, which is the hero of this story. The book has a wonderful teacher’s guide.

Fredericks, Anthony D., and illustrator Jennifer Dirubbio. 2005. Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs and Leaping Frogs. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications.
Learn about what creatures live in soggy-boggy places — from dragonflies to frogs, a medley of creatures that swim, soar or crawl in a wetland home.

Galatis, Alex. 1995. Dudley’s Tea Party. Scholastic.
Dudley uses too much water in the morning and cannot find enough water to make tea for his party.

Green, Jen. 2005. Why Should I Save Water? New York: Barron’s Educational Series.
Children learn that water is one of our most precious natural resources. The text discusses ways families can avoid wasting water.

Grobler, Piet. 2002. Hey, Frog! Ashville, N.C.: Front Street/Lemniscaat.
On a very hot day, the animals are roaring mad when a frog drinks up all the water on the savannah, but each animal has an idea of how to get the water back.

Guthrie, Donna. 1993. Nobiah’s Well: A Modern African Folk Tale. Nashville, Tenn.: Ideals Children’s Books.
An African boy carrying home precious water for his family shares it with a succession of animals and eventually has his kindness repaid in an unexpected way.

Hemingway, Ernest. 1952. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner.
The Old Man and the Sea recounts an epic battle between an old, experienced fisherman and a giant marlin said to be the largest catch of his life. It is a novella (just over 100 pages in length) by Ernest Hemingway written in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952. It was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime.

Keams, Geri. 1998. Small Girl Bring Water: A Navajo Story. Flagstaff, Ariz: Rising Moon.
This retelling of a traditional Navajo creation myth explains how water came to the Earth.

Kessler, Cristina. 2000. My Great-Grandmother’s Gourd. New York: Orchard Books.
Residents of a Sudanese village rejoice when a traditional water storage method is replaced by modern technology, but Fatima’s grandmother knows there is no substitute for the reliability of the baobab tree.

Nelson, Robin. 2003. We Use Water. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications.
Uses simple text and pictures to give examples of the ways we use water.

Pratt, Kristen Joy. 1994. Swim Through the Sea. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications.
Children will take an alphabetical tour of ocean animals led by Seamore the seahorse. Each animal has a simplified alliterative description.

Rinehart, Susie Caldwell, and illustrator Anisa Claire Hovemann. 2004. Eliza and the Dragonfly. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications.
After a dragonfly lands on Eliza’s toothbrush, she visits a nearby pond with her bug-loving aunt. There she sees a dragonfly and is introduced to the fascinating characteristics and world of the dragonfly. Before long, Eliza changes her tune. The book includes information about the life cycle of dragonflies and a resource section.

Rodgers, Alan, and Angella Streluk. 2002. Precipitation. Chicago: Heinemann Educational Books.
This book for elementary children focuses on meteorology and climatology and gives them an in-depth view of weather forecasting.

Stanley, Jerry. 1993. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. New York: Crown Books.
Stanley describes the plight of the migrant workers who traveled from the Dust Bowl to California during the Depression and were forced to live in a federal labor camp; he also discusses the school that was built for migrant children.

Steinbeck, John. 1939. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking Press.
The Grapes of Wrath is a classic novel published in 1939. This novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry.

Wheeler, Jill C. 1993. Every Drop Counts: A Book About Water. Rockbottom Books.
The author discusses water conservation and suggests ways to safeguard this precious resource.

Other resources

Sanders, Scott Russell. 1999. Crawdad creek. National Geographic Society. ISBN 0792270975. Grades K-4.
Based upon the author’s own childhood experiences, this book tells of two children who find fossils, frogs, crawdads, deer track, and many other treasures when they visit the creek behind their house.

Pratt-Serafini, Kristin Joy. 2000. Salamander Rain: A Lake and Pond Journal Dawn Publications. ISBN 1584690178. Grades K-4.
A boy named Klint joins the wetland patrol in which each member becomes and expert on a wetland habitat. This realistic, kid-friendly journal features paintings of lake and pond organisms, handwritten notes, clipped articles, and interesting facts about each creature. It provides a vibrant example that students can refer to when creating their own nature journals.

Albert Einstein writing on a chalk board

Science fair zone

Water can be a great subject area for your science fair project. The physical, chemical, biological or social aspect of water in your life can be considered. The surface tension of water that is different temperatures, the capacity of household products to absorb water, the survival rate of plants being irrigated by different types of water and the ability of younger versus older family members to conserve water are just a few ideas worth investigating. If you are looking for a science fair idea, consider the role of water in your everyday life and you’re sure to come up with a fun and interesting topic.

Read the science fair tips below to help you on your way. There are many websites that can provide additional assistance. Listed below are some sites you might want to explore.

Super science fair project tips

Follow the guidelines or instructions you receive from your teacher. If a parent or other adult is going to help you with your project,share your teacher’s guidelines and instructions before you do anything else.

  1. Allow yourself enough time, don’t wait until the last minute to start your project.
  2. Take care to include enough content in your display, flashy displays without valid information will not impress many science fair judges.
  3. Select a project that is not too complex.
  4. Don’t change the project results to fit a hypothesis.
  5. Do the work yourself with only limited help from an adult.
  6. Be creative.
  7. Select a project suitable for your age, skills and knowledge.
  8. Have fun and learn something new.
  9. Use the scientific method.

The scientific method

Roger Bacon, (1214-1294) an English philosopher, is thought to be one of the earliest advocates of the scientific method, which simply stated is an orderly approach to acquiring knowledge in the natural sciences. The scientific method involves several steps:

  • Identifying a problem
  • Developing a hypothesis (an assumption made to be tested)
  • Deciding on a procedure to test the hypothesis
  • Collecting and analyzing the data
  • Formulating a conclusion

Additional information:

Sites about science fair projects

Florida State Science and Engineering Fair will give you information on official science fair requirements, competition dates and resources that can be used by students and educators.

Science Buddies provides science fair project ideas, information on how to do a science project, including a timeline, and other science fair resources. Resources and information are provided for the student and educator.

Scifair.org is an extensive resource on science fair projects, science fair ideas, tips on carrying out science experiments, and winning your science fair.

This U.S. Department of Education website provides resources for parents to help their children learn science. This site will provide resources, including books and websites that can be used with a child’s science fair project or to learn about science.

For background information for water projects, consider visiting the following sites:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency in state government for environmental management and stewardship. This site includes diverse information about protecting Florida’s air, water and land, including restoring the Florida Everglades.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency site offers an array of information for students, teachers, the public and research students about all aspects of protecting the environment.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information and water. The USGS website provides a wealth of education resources for students, teachers and adults.

Virtual science fair archive compiles award-winning projects exhibited at the Canada Virtual Science Fair since 1999. It features the use of the computer and technology by K-12 students. The site gives tips and ideas to incorporate the computer and technology into science fair projects.

More science fair ideas with water

  • Are there differences in water quality between a local stream and pond/lake, and why?
  • What do the macroinvertebrates found in a local river tell me about its water quality?
  • Which type of water treatment/filter works best for removing different contaminants?
  • How can I design a simple water treatment system for my home/cattle/fish tank?
  • What type of contaminants are found in runoff from local parks, neighborhoods or highways?
  • What is the best method for keeping eroding sediments out of a stream?
  • Why does dissolved oxygen content differ between water bodies, seasonally, and at different times of the day? How does this affect aquatic organisms?
  • How does the pH of soil differ between sites that are under pine trees and those that are not, and why?
  • How does sediment enter a waterway and what effect does it have on the temperature and the dissolved oxygen of the water?
  • What ecological and water quality changes occur when different restoration practices are conducted for a lake or stream?

Water facts

Person holding a glassWater is the only common substance on the earth that appears in all three of its natural states within the normal range of its climatic conditions, sometimes at the same time. The three states include liquid, solid, and gas or — water, ice, and water vapor.

Most liquids contract steadily as they freeze. Water, however, contracts only a certain amount, but begins to expand as it reaches its freezing point of 0°C (32°F). This expansion can fracture rocks.

An unusual characteristic of water is its heat capacity, that is, its ability to absorb heat without becoming extremely hot itself. Think of a swimming pool on a hot day— does the water ever get as hot as the air temperature?

Water has a high surface tension, that is, the ability of a substance to stick to itself. Certain light items can float on water and small insects can walk on water. It is estimated that it would take a force of 210,000 pounds to pull apart a column of water 1 inch in diameter.

Water has a tremendous ability to stick to surfaces; this is called adhesion. In a very narrow column such as a plant root or stem, the combination of surface tension and adhesion pulls water upward. This movement is known as capillarity.

A remarkable property of water is its ability, given enough time, to erode or, wear away, the hardest of rocks.

The human body is 66% water.

Of the world’s total freshwater supply, over two-thirds is found underground.

About 82% of our blood is water. Water helps digest our food, take in oxygen, transport body wastes, and control body temperature.

Only 3% of the water found on the earth is freshwater; 97% is salt water, found in the oceans and salty lakes.

Only 1% of the earth’s water supply is in a form that is usable by animals, plants, and humans.

Water data are often measured in millions of gallons per day (mgd). A million gallons is roughly equal to 20,000 full bathtubs.


acid (AS – id) — any compound that can react with a base to form a salt; term applied to water with a pH of less than 7.0 on a scale of 0 to 14

aeration (er-a-Shen) — a process used during water treatment that exposes water to moving air, allowing trapped gases to escape and oxygen to enter the water

agriculture (agre-kul-CHer) — the cultivation of land for the purposes of growing crops, raising livestock, or producing renewable raw materials for industry

alkaline (AL – ka – line) — the condition of water or soil that contains an amount of alkali substances (various soluble salts) to raise the pH above 7.0

Apalachee — extinct tribe of native North Americans, once centered around Apalachee Bay, in northwest Florida

aquaculture (a KWA-kul- CHer) — the cultivation of fish or shellfish

aquatic vegetation (aKWA-tik veg-eh-tay Shun) — plants that live in water

aquifer (OCK – wuh – fer) — a layer of underground rock or sand that stores and carries water

artesian (are – TEE – shun) pressure — the force created when pressure in an aquifer causes the water level in wells to rise above the top of the aquifer

artesian [flowing] well — a well that is drilled into an aquifer, relieving pressure and causing water to rise above the water table

artifacts (ar-tee-facts)— objects, produced by humans, that remain and have historical interest (usually a tool or an ornament)


barrier islands — long, narrow strips of sand that form islands which protect inland areas from ocean waves, storms, and tidal surges

best management practices (BMPs) — generally accepted practices for some aspect of natural resource management, such as water conservation measures, drainage management, or erosion control. BMPs can help in preventing or reducing pollution.

biodegradable (bio-dee-gra-de-ble) — capable of being broken down by living things, like microorganisms and bacteria

Biscayne aquifer (bis-cay-ene OCK-wuh-fer) — a source of drinking water in South Florida

brackish (BRAK – ish) water — a mixture of freshwater and salt water


Calusa — originally called “Calos,” which means “fierce people,” these were descendants of the Paleo-Indians who inhabited southwest Florida from the 1500s until the early 1800s. They were also known as the “shell people” because they used seashells as foundations for their villages.

canals (ka-nals) — man-made waterways that are used for draining and irrigating land and for navigation

capillary action (ka-pill-aREE ak-SHun) — the means by which liquid moves through the porous spaces in a solid, such as soil and plant roots, due to the forces of adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension. Capillary action is essential in carrying substances and nutrients from one place to another in plants and animals.

Chlorination (klor-a-nay-SHun) — the process of adding chlorine to water to kill any harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria

Coagulation (co-AG-U-lay-SHun) — a process that uses chemicals in water treatment to make suspended solids gather or group together; the clumping of particles that results in the settling of impurities

coastal plains — broad, flat areas near coastlines that are characterized by low rolling hills, swamps, and marshes; also called lowlands

compass rose — the symbol used to show cardinal directions on a map (N, S, E, W)

compost (kom-post) — fertilizing material that consists of organic, decaying matter

composting (kom-post-ing) — the mixing of various decaying organic substances, such as dead leaves and manure for fertilizing land

condensation (CON – den – SAY – shun) — moisture formed when warm vapor mixes with cooler air in the atmosphere

confining (con – FINE – ing) layer — a layer of clay or rock that acts as a shield to keep water from escaping from an aquifer or zone

confluence (kon-flu-ence) — the place where two rivers join together

conservation (kon-ser-vay-SHun) — the process of using or managing a natural resource to prevent its waste, harm, or destruction

conserve (con – SIRV) — to use only what is needed

consumers (con – SOOM – ers) — those who eat food

consumptive use (kon-sump-tive) — use of water on a daily basis, which reduces the supply

contaminate (cun – tammy – NATE) — to make impure (not pure) by contact or addition of something; to pollute or soil

contamination (kon-tam-e-nay-SHun) — an impurity in air, soil, or water that can cause harm to human health or the environment

crop rotation — a method of planting crops in succession to build and replenish the nutrients in the soil

cultivation (kul-tee-vay-SHun) — the act of preparing soil to raise crops


dam — a man-made barrier built to hold back or control flowing water in a river or lake

decompose (DEE – kum – POZE) — to decay

dehydration (DEE – hi – DRAY – shun) — the process of losing or removing water

density (den-city) — how close molecules are to each other within a given space: the closer together they are, the more dense the matter

depletion(dee-plee-SHun) — occurs when water is used faster than it is replaced; can cause a shortage

desalination (dee – SAL – ah – NAY – shun) — any of numerous processes that remove the salt from salty water

detritus (de – TRITE – us) — decaying leaves and plants

dew point — the temperature at which condensation begins

dike — a bank, usually of earth, built to control or confine water

discharge — to expel; water that naturally moves from an aquifer to a surface stream or lake

disinfect — to get rid of bacteria and contaminants

domestic self-supplied — water withdrawn by the user for household use, usually from individual wells

drain field — underground area, consisting of perforated (having small holes) pipes, where the small solids remaining from a septic tank are filtered out

drainage (DRAIN – ij) basin — the area from which water drains off the land into a specific body of water (lake, stream)

dredging — removing sand, silt, mud, and other sediments from the bottom of a body of water to deepen or widen the area

drip irrigation — a process in which water is directly applied to the roots of a plant through the use of a drip, trickle, or microspray

drought (drout) — a long period of time with little or no rain


ecosystem (EE – koh – SIS – tem) — a natural community of animals and plants that interrelate, or depend on each other, and their environment

effluent (EFF – lew – ent) — something that flows out or forth; a waste liquid discharge from a manufacturing or treatment process, in it’s natural state or partially or completely treated, that discharges into the environment

endangered species (en – DANE – jurd SPEE – sheez) — any plant or animal in immediate danger of becoming extinct as identified in accordance with the 1973 Endangered Species Act

erode (eh – RODE) — to wear away or dissolve

erosion (ee – RO – zhun) — the process of wearing away, as when erosion of land is caused by water flowing over it

estuary (ES – chew – air – ee) — a body of water where freshwater and salt water meet and mix

evaporation (ee – VAP – oh – RAY – shun) — the process of water changing from a liquid to a gas or vapor

exotic (eg – ZOT – ic) — not native to the place where found


fertilize (fert-eh-lie-zer) — adding a chemical substance to enrich the soil for better plant growth

filter(fill-ter) — a porous article or mass (such as cloth, paper, or sand) for separating particles from a liquid or gas passed through it

filtration(fill-tray-SHun) — the process that helps remove particles from water

first-magnitude (MAG – nih – tood) spring — a spring that discharges an average of at least 64.6 million gallons of water per day

flood (FLUHD) — the overflow of too much water onto an area that is normally dry

floodplain (FLUHD – plane) — an area of flat land along a river which periodically floods

Floridan aquifer (floor-eh-dan OCK-wuh-fer) — a source of drinking water in most of Florida; one of the largest aquifers in the United States

food web — interrelated food chains of an ecosystem whereby energy, in the form of food, is passed from one living thing to another

forested swamp (FOR – res – tid – swomp) — wetlands with trees usually found along the floodplains of rivers

freshwater marsh — an area of shallow freshwater covered with saw grass, cattails, maidencane and other grasses

freshwater wetland — a broad, flat piece of land covered with freshwater most of the time and containing freshwater grasses and plants

freshwater — water that has a low amount of salt and minerals

frost — a covering of tiny white crystals on a cold surface that is formed by the condensation of water vapor when the temperature is below freezing, 32° Fahrenheit (0° Celsius)


gas — a property of matter in which the atoms are far apart and move at a rapid speed

glacier (glay-sher) — a huge mass of ice that moves slowly over land

groundwater — water found below the earth’s surface

groundwater flow — the movement of groundwater beneath the earth’s surface

gulf — a large area of sea or ocean partially enclosed by land

Gulf Stream — a warm ocean current that flows north out of the Gulf of Mexico along the East Coast of the United States, toward Newfoundland, and then eastward toward the British Isles


habitat (HAB – i – tat) — the place where a plant or animal normally grows or lives; a native environment

hazard — something that is dangerous or unsafe

hazardous wastes (HAZ – er – dis) — products that can be dangerous or harmful if not disposed of properly (such as insect repellents, paint products, gas or oil)

headwaters — the source or starting point of a river

holding tank — part of a septic system where the wastewater is held before being separated into solids and liquids

hydrate (high-dray-te) — to add moisture or water to a substance

hydrologic cycle — another term for the water cycle

hydrology (high-drol-ogee) — the study of water

hydrosphere — the part of the earth that includes all bodies of water and water vapor in the atmosphere


impermeable (im – PURR – me – uh – bull) — the ability of a material to prevent liquids from passing through it

impurities — outside materials that contaminate

incinerate (in – SIN – er – ate) — to burn something until it turns to ashes

indigenous (in – DIJ – ah – ness) — existing, growing or produced naturally in a particular region

interdependent (EN-ter-dee-PEN-dent) — things that depend on each other for their survival

intermediate aquifer — layers of sand, clay, or gravel that hold water above the Floridan aquifer

invertebrates — animals without backbones, such as worms and snails

irrigate (EAR – ah – gate) — to apply water to an area using a hose, sprinkler or other method

irrigation (ear – ah – GAY – shun) — the application of water to an area using a hose, sprinkler or other method

island — a body of land completely surrounded by water


lake — a large body of water completely surrounded by land

landfill — a place where garbage is collected, stored and buried

landlocked — surrounded completely or almost completely by land

landscape — an area where lawns, shrubs, or other items have been placed in order to make an area more attractive

landscaping — improving or changing a piece of land by planting or altering the ground area

levee (LEV – ee) — a high earthern ridge built to keep nearby land from flooding (similar to a dike)

limestone — highly porous rock formed millions of years ago from shells and bones of sea animals

liquid — a property of matter in which the atoms are close together with little movement

littoral (LI – ter – ull) zone — the shallow area at or near the shore of a non-flowing body of water that may have attached or rooted plants


macroinvertebrates (mack-ro-in-vert-eh-bray-tes) — animals without backbones that can be seen with your eyes

macroscopic invertebrates — invertebrates that can be seen without a microscope

marsh — an area of shallow water covered with grasses

matter — anything that you can see, feel, touch, taste, or hear; made of small particles called atoms

molecule(mol-eh-Qule) — two or more atoms together

mouth of a river — the place where the river empties into another body of water

mulch (mul-CH) — material used to help hold moisture in the soil, reduce weed growth, and slow erosion


ordinance (or-dan-in-ce) — a law made by a government or authority, specifically made by a city or municipality

organic — a specific method of growing, processing, and storing foods without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or irradiation

organic farming — the practice of raising plants (especially fruits and vegetables, but ornamentals as well) and animals or livestock without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or other chemicals and without the use of antibiotics and hormones

overuse — using more than necessary; wasteful


nonpoint source pollution (pah – LEW – shun) — pollution that cannot be traced to a particular source or point of entry

nonporous (POUR – us) — does not allow water to move through it


peninsular (pen-nin-soo-lAr) — land surrounded by water on three sides

percolation (purr – koh – LAY – shun) — the act of water working its way into the ground

permeable (PURR – me – uh – bull) — the ability of a material to allow liquids to pass through it

permit — a legal document that allows the holder to do certain restricted activities

pesticides (pest-eh-sides) — a chemical preparation for the control of specific organisms

pH — measure of acidity and alkalinity

phosphate (foss-fate) — a mineral used to make fertilizers

photic (FOH- tik) zone — the area of a lake or water body where there is enough light for photosynthesis to take place

photosynthesis (FOH – toh – SIN – tha – sis) — a process by which plants use energy from the sun to make food and oxygen

phytoplankton (FI – toe – PLANK – ton) — microscopic aquatic plants

point source pollution (pah – LEW – shun) — pollution that can be traced to a particular source or point of entry

pollution (pah – LEW – shun) — contamination of water or air by harmful chemicals or waste materials

porous (POUR – us) — allows water to move through it

potable (POH – tuh – bull) — drinkable; safe to drink

precipitation (pre – sih – puh – TAY – shun) — moisture that falls back to earth as rain, hail, sleet or snow

precipitation (pre-sip-eh-tay-SHun) — the moisture that falls back to the earth in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail

primary consumer (con – SOOM – er) — first class of animals in the food chain, which eat plants or detritus

producers — those who make or become food for others to eat

public water supply — a water system that serves more than 400 people or that uses more than 10,000 gallons of water each day

public water system — water that is pumped from a central source through underground pipes into homes, schools, and businesses; used mostly in or near cities and heavily populated areas


rain gauge — a measuring device to keep track of how much rain has fallen

recharge — the process of water seeping into the ground and refilling the aquifer

recharge area — a place where water is able to seep into the ground and refill an aquifer because no confining layer is present

reclaimed water — water that has been used and then treated or cleansed so that it is safe to be used again

recycle — to use more than once

reduce — to lessen in amount, to use less

reservoir (REZ – er – VWAR) — a natural or man-made basin where water is collected and stored

restoration (rest-or-ay-SHun) — work that restores or attempts to return something to its natural state

restore — to return something to its original condition

retention (ree – TIN – shun) ponds — man-made ponds designed to slow storm water runoff. The ponds allow many stormwater pollutants to settle out, preventing them from flowing into nearby surface water bodies

reuse — the act of using something after it has already been used

reverse osmosis (oz – MOW – sis) — the process of turning salt water into freshwater. The salt water is forced under pressure against a membrane that filters out the salt, allowing only freshwater to flow through

river — a large, flowing body of water that empties into an ocean, a sea, a lake, or another body of water

rookery (rook-er-ee) — a place where many birds nest and raise their young

runoff — water from rain or irrigation that doesn’t soak into the ground, but flows into the nearest body of water


salt-tolerant — able to survive in salty areas

saltwater intrusion (in – TRUE – zhun) — a process in which salty water is drawn into the freshwater zone of an aquifer, making that source not fit for drinking

saltwater marsh — area of shallow salt water, usually found along the coast, covered with salt-tolerant grasses, spartina and other non-woody plants

saltwater wetland — a flat piece of land covered with brackish (slightly salty) or salt water and containing saltwater plants; usually found along the coast

saturation (sat-er-ray-SHun) — the condition of having absorbed all the liquid that is possible

saturation zone — the area where water fills the underground spaces between soil, sand, and rock

scavengers — living things that will eat refuse, other decaying organic matter, or material left over by other organisms

sea grass — a type of submersed aquatic vegetation found in salty water

secondary consumer (con – SOOM – er) — second class of animals in the food chain; animals that prey on plant-eating primary consumers

sedimentation (sed-eh-men-tay-SHun) — the water treatment process after coagulation in which heavy solids settle to the bottom of the tank, where they are removed; the process in which sediments or solids settle out or sink to the bottom of a liquid

septic tank — an underground receptacle for wastewater in which the bacteria contained in sewage decomposes; the organic wastes and sludge settle to the bottom of the tank while the remaining liquid flows out of the tank and into the drain field

sewer system — an underground system of pipes that carries wastewater to a treatment plant

sinkhole — a hole or depression in the ground caused by erosion of underground limestone

sludge (sluj) — the gooey, muddy solids that remain after wastewater is treated

solid — a property of matter where the atoms are tightly packed together with no movement

spring — a natural flow of water at the earth’s surface, caused by pressure on groundwater

steward (STOO – ard) — an individual charged with the responsibility for management

storage tank — a tank where water is contained until it is needed in your home; a large container used for holding, transporting, or storing liquids or gases

stormwater runoff — rainwater that runs off a hard surface into the nearest body of water

stormwater runoff — rainwater that runs off a hard surface into the nearest body of water

sublimation (sub-lim-eh-nay-SHun) — the point where water vapor turns to frost when the temperature and dew point fall below 32° Fahrenheit (0° Celsius)

submersed aquatic vegetation — aquatic plants such as sea grasses that live completely under water

surface water — water found on the surface of the ground (rivers, lakes, streams, ponds)

surficial aquifer — layers of sand, clay, or gravel that hold water above the Floridan aquifer and close to the surface

swamp (swomp) — a flat, low-lying freshwater wetland with trees and other vegetation


Tequestas — a tribe of Native Americans, primarily hunters and gathers, that lived in Miami and the southwest Florida area

tertiary (TUR – she – air – ee) consumers — third class of animals in the food chain; animals that eat other animals; the top predators; the biggest or fastest animals in the food chain

threatened species — any plant or animal whose population is decreasing to critical levels as identified in the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

Timucuas — a Native American peoples, formerly inhabiting much of northern Florida, extinct since the early 18th century

top predators (PRED – ah – ter) — animals at the top of the food chain

tourism — an industry that provides services such as shelter, food, and entertainment for visitors from outside areas

toxic waste — garbage or waste that contains harmful materials

toxic wastes — garbage or wastes containing harmful materials

transpiration (TRANS – pah – RAY – shun) — the process of giving off moisture through the surface of leaves

treaty — agreement between two groups

tributaries (TRIB – you – tair – ees) — small streams or rivers that flow into larger streams or rivers


undeveloped uplands — uplands that are still in their natural state

uplands — higher parts of the landscape surrounding wetland areas


vapor — the invisible gaseous state of water that occurs when water is energized by heat, causing it to rise into the atmosphere; water that is in the air

vegetation (VEJ – ah – TAY – shun) — grasses and plants that grow in a specific area

vertebrates — animals with a backbone or spinal column such as mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles and amphibians


wastewater — water that has been used and is no longer clean

water conservation (con – sir – VAY – shun) — the act of using only as much water as is needed; the protection and wise use of water

water cycle — the process of water moving from the earth into the atmosphere and back to earth again

water molecule — known as H²O, it consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen

water restrictions — rules limiting the times and ways in which people can use water

water table — the highest level where underground water is found

water treatment plant — the location to which water from sewer systems is brought in order to clean and treat it before it is reused or returned to the environment

watershed — an area of land that drains surface water runoff into a water body

well water — drinkable water that is pumped from the ground

well — a hole or a shaft drilled into the earth where water, other liquids, and gases are pumped to the surface

wetlands — land where the soil is very wet or soaked with water most of the time; marshes or swamps


Xeriscape™ (ZEER – eh – skape) — a type of landscape designed to use water efficiently*


zones — underground layers of freshwater or salt water

zooplankton (ZO – o – PLANK – ton) — microscopic aquatic animals

The word Xeriscape is a registered trademark of Denver Water in Denver, Colo. Before using the word Xeriscape, be certain to obtain written permission from this authority. Write to Denver Water, 1600 West 12th Ave., Denver, CO 80254 or call 303-628-6329.