Jump to Content or Main Navigation

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Improving Access to Clean Water and Basic Sanitation

Africa, Asia, Central America and Mexico, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Pacific Islands, South America, The Caribbean, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Environment, Health, Science, Service Learning, Social Studies & Geography

In this WebQuest, students explore the global issue of access to clean water and basic sanitation. They will begin by considering freshwater as a shared and finite global resource. They will then analyze trends in water and sanitation access around the world. Students will consider the relationships between water and sanitation and other global issues such as poverty, health, food security, and gender equality. They will review examples of Peace Corps Volunteer projects addressing water and sanitation issues in communities around the world. Finally, they will plan a World Water Day event in their own community to raise awareness about water and sanitation as a global concern.

More about water and sanitation in the world:

More about water issues in the United States:

More about service-learning:


  • Identify clean water and basic sanitation as necessary resources that are not equally accessible in all communities of the world
  • Discuss global trends in water and sanitation access
  • Relate water and sanitation to other global issues such as health, poverty, food security, and gender equality
  • Describe community-based solutions to water access issues
  • Develop a World Water Day event to increase local awareness of global water and sanitation issues. 


  • Student access to computers with Internet and audio 


  1. Begin by talking about students' own water use and where their water supply comes from. Explain that nearly a billion people in the world lack regular access to clean water, and nearly twice that lack access to basic sanitation facilities, such as toilets or latrines. Discuss the possible challenges related to the inaccessibility of these resources.
  2. Explain to students that they will be engaging in a WebQuest, in which they will investigate water and sanitation around the world, how it relates to issues like health, poverty, food security, and agriculture, and what can be done to address water and sanitation challenges. They will learn about examples of Peace Corps Volunteers' water and sanitation projects, then will plan a service event of their own in honor of World Water Day. If students are unfamiliar with Peace Corps, visit the Peace Corps website to learn more about what Peace Corps Volunteers do.
  3. In the computer lab, direct students to the Improving Access to Clean Water and Basic Sanitation WebQuest . On the Student Page, read the Introduction and Task sections together, demonstrating how to navigate through the WebQuest and collect information requested on the data collection sheet.
  4. Allow time for students to work on the WebQuest independently, in pairs, or in small groups. Provide assistance to students as needed during their work time. Within the section What are the Consequences of Lack of Water and Sanitation Access , use questioning (as needed) to prompt students' thought about the connections water and sanitation have with other global issues. For example,
    • (Health) What types of diseases are caused by contaminated water?
    • (Agriculture/Food Security) How might access to irrigation influence crop yields?
    • (Gender Equality) How might spending hours each day collecting water influence a girl's ability to go to school?
    • (Poverty) How might living with debilitating waterborne illnesses influence a family's ability to earn an income?
  5. Once students have worked their way through the WebQuest and arrived at the section What Can You Do to Increase Awareness of Water and Sanitation Issues within Process , they may choose to work together to brainstorm ideas for a local World Water Day event.
  6. As a group, decide which issue related to global water and sanitation would be most important to highlight in your community. Think about the key information, goals, and format for the event. If possible, carry out the event to engage other students or community members in learning about the issue.
  7. Use the questions in the Conclusion section of the WebQuest to guide a class discussion, or ask for students' verbal or written reflections.
  8. To engage students in further interdisciplinary exploration, see the teaching suggestions listed in Investigating Water and Sanitation

Frameworks & Standards

Enduring understandings
  • Water is a shared global resource, but is not equally accessible to all.
  • Clean water and basic sanitation are essential for health and wellbeing.
  • Water and sanitation are connected to a number of key global issues, such as health, poverty, agriculture, environment, and gender equality.
Essential Questions
  • Why should we use water sustainably?
  • How does a lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation affect people’s lives?
  • What can we do to improve access to clean water and basic sanitation around the world?


National Science Education Standards

  • Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    • Personal and community health

National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

  • Thematic Strand IX: Global Connections
    • Use maps, charts, and databases to explore patterns and predict trends regarding global connections at the community, state, or national level
    • Explore the causes, consequences, and possible solutions related to persistent, current, and emerging global issues 
Browse More Lesson Plans