Clean Water, Knowledge

How To Talk About Rainwater With A Child?

The text below shows how you can talk to preschool children about water that exists in nature, including rainwater. Besides the text, we have prepared annexes to games and activities that will present the discussed content, in an interesting way. 

Today I want to tell you about a train carrying water. It is heading to the Neptune. I will also tell you about an enormous elephant filled with water. There are also castaways and a colorful map of the world in this story. Is it a mistake? Not at all. I would like to talk with you about water, mainly about ways of saving it, but in a slightly unusual way. Has anyone already told you that we need to save water? If so, do you know why we should do it? You probably know that you must turn off the tap, remember to use a cup when brushing your teeth, take short, quick showers, and also collect rainwater in a bucket or other container. Why? Let’s start from the beginning. 


  • text  „Why do we collect rainwater”

How much water is there on Earth?

Before we answer the question as to why it is so important to save water, you need to understand how much water there is on Earth. What do you think, is there a lot of water on Earth? You probably want to say: “Yes”. There are hectoliters, millions of hectoliters of water in seas, lakes, rivers. And you are right. The estimated amount of water on Earth is 1.4 billion km3. Imagine what would happen if this amount of water was loaded onto freight wagons (18 meters each, weighing 50 tons) and placed on railroad tracks. The wagons would reach the Sun 3 million 368 thousand times or make 116 thousand railroad paths to the farthest planet of our solar system which is Neptune. Wow! That’s  impressive. 

On Earth water flows in closed circulation. Water from lakes and ponds evaporates, it forms clouds and then falls again as rainwater. High layers of atmosphere don’t let the water evaporate into the cosmos. It won’t fly away to the Neptune by itself. At the same time, impermeable layers of ground do not allow the water to soak deeply into it. There are underground springs and aquifers, but only up to a certain depth. Below several dozen kilometers they are gone. As a result, water remains constant on Earth. 

Let’s assume that we could fit all the water on Earth, the 116 thousand railroad paths from Earth to Neptune, into one huge, gigantic elephant. Can you imagine such a big elephant? An enormous elephant with big ears and a long trunk? I hope so. Assuming all the water from Earth would fill his tail, legs, belly, ears and trunk, then… then unfortunately, only the water in the middle of his trunk would be drinkable. What? What do you mean? That’s right. 98% of Earth’s water are in seas and oceans and is formed from salt water. 98% of salt water is exactly how much would fill the belly, legs, ears and the tail of our giant elephant. Salt water is a habitat for fish, crustaceans and marine mammals, but it is not suitable for drinking or watering our gardens. The fresh water from Earth would only fill an elephant’s trunk half full.

Let’s move forward. 2/3 of the water in the middle of the elephant trunk, is frozen. That is because 2/3 of drinkable water comes in the form of glaciers (in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the high mountains). What do we have left? The tip of the elephant’s trunk. That’s how much water humans and animals can use to drink, and plants can use to grow. Comparing it to the whole elephant, that’s very, very little.

Castaway on the sea – why sea water is not suitable for drinking?

So why can’t we drink salt water instead of saving the small amount that is in the elephant’s trunk? Unfortunately, for humans, excess salt is unhealthy and can be deadly. All the salt a person eats, must be flushed out of the body, in simple words – excreted in urine. If we drank salt water (for example from the sea), we would have to get rid of the salt in a short time, in our urine. All the water, we drank, would serve to flush the salt out of the body. No water would be left for the vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and other important internal parts of the body. Without water, humans will die. Our organs need pure water to function well. The above implies one thing: if someone becomes a castaway and drifted down the sea on a raft, despite having hectoliters of sea water all around, within few days they would die of thirst. At sea, it is easier to hunt fish and satisfy hunger than to quench thirst. 

Is there enough fresh water for everyone?

Since we have as little fresh water as the tip of a great elephant’s trunk, is there enough for everyone? Let’s look at the world map that shows how much water there is in each region. The map shows all the countries of the world, located on 5 continents: Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australia. The darker the color of the country, the more difficult it is for people to access fresh water. The lighter – the easier the access and enough water for people, animals and plants.

Many countries, which have desserts in their territories, are marked with a dark brown color. There is so little water in Egypt, Tunisia and Israel, that wells are beginning to run out. People living in the cities have access to water only during designated hours. This means that water runs in the tap e.g., from 7 am to 9 am, and then it is turned off. There is not enough of water for everyone. Looking at Poland on the map, we can see that our country is marked with an orange color. This means that we don’t have as much fresh water as we thought.

What can we do not to run out of water in Poland?

As I mentioned at the beginning, the amount of water on Earth does not change. It’s not disappearing. It sometimes changes its physical state: it evaporates and falls somewhere else. You will understand the whole mechanism better when you read the fairy tale: “I love my city – I save water” or run an experiment: “Water cycle”. Essentially, the smaller the hollows, marshes, ponds, lakes (all the places where the water collects) in Poland – the more places will be for the water to evaporate on dry days. And the evaporated water will later fall in our country as raindrops. 

You can’t dig big ditches for water, since digging a small one is a challenge. However, you can still do a lot to protect fresh water, that is stored in the tip of elephant’s truck. First, you can reduce your daily freshwater consumption with simple steps. You can save water when brushing your teeth by using a cup instead of running tap water. You can limit taking baths and replace them with short showers. You can also teach adults that garden plants should be watered in the evening, not during the day, as we waste less water this way.

Something I highly encourage you to do, is to retain rainwater in your balconies and gardens. You can collect rainwater in containers and barrels on rainy days. Then you can use it in your home and garden on dry days. This way you, yourself, will be like a mini cloud, producing rain on sunny days and helping the giant elephant keep fresh water for all of us.

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The post was created as part of the project “I love Warsaw – I save water”, financed by the Veolia Foundation.