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Human impact on wastewater

About this lesson

Students research the human impact on wastewater and create, edit and publish a persuasive report.

Year level: 10

Theme: Wastewater

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • explain what wastewater is
  • describe how humans impact upon wastewater
  • research and create a persuasive text explaining how we can reduce human impacts upon wastewater.

Curriculum links


  • Global systems including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere ACSSU189


  • Create sustained texts including texts that combine specific digital or media content, for imaginative, informative, or persuasive purposes that reflect upon challenging and complex issues ACELY1756
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user ACELY1776

Things you will need

Lesson description


  • What is wastewater?
  • How is wastewater treated?
  • How do we impact upon wastewater?


  • Have students research then create, edit and publish a word processed persuasive report explaining how to reduce human impact on wastewater. This could be achieved through community education to reduce inappropriate use of the current wastewater system, or by investigating alternative technologies, systems and ideas to reduce production or reuse wastewater (e.g. low water or no water sanitary systems, greywater systems)
  • View the video Putting domestic wastewater to productive use in India (5:33).

Reflect & summarise

  • Discuss the implications of various products that are disposed of in our wastewater.
  • Discuss how we could reduce our overall impact upon wastewater?
  • When reports have been completed selected students are asked to present their persuasive report. Their findings/ideas are discussed in class. Ideas are critiqued for their ability to reduce human impact on wastewater.

Extension activities

Teacher background information

What makes up wastewater?

Wastewater comprises of 99.97% water by mass. The remaining 0.03% is organic and inorganic matter either dissolved or suspended in the water. The concentrations of these other components are very small – measured in milligrams per litre of water (mg/L) or parts per million.

How is wastewater treated?

Wastewater is collected every day from households, commercial businesses and industries and is directed to treatment plants. Here the wastewater is treated to an environmentally acceptable standard before being reused or safely discharged back to the environment.

Wastewater treatment is a series of processes that remove the pollutant materials from wastewater such as solids, oil and greases, detergents, nutrients, heavy metals and bacteria. It can be a mix of sewerage and other used water.

The collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater are an integral part of the water cycle that maintains the balance of water in nature.

Wastewater treatment plants

In WA, Water Corporation is responsible for the treatment and disposal of wastewater. Water Corporation operates more than 110 wastewater treatment facilities around the state. The four large metropolitan plants at Beenyup, Subiaco, Woodman Point and Alkimos treat about 80% of our wastewater.

Preventing damage to our wastewater system

There are many household and industrial items that should not enter the wastewater system.

Children’s toys, golf balls, jewellery, scissors, cotton buds and toothbrushes are some of the items that find their way into toilets and inside drains. Disposing of this waste correctly prevents damage to the wastewater system and helps protect the environment.

Many liquids should also not be poured into drains as they can kill the essential bacteria that break down wastewater at the treatment plant. Chemicals such as paints and pesticides, engine oils, solvents, poisons and swimming pool water are harmful to the environment and should be disposed of properly through a licensed hazardous waste contractor or your local council recycling centre.

How to dispose of common household products:

  • Cooking fats and oils: pour into a container and place in the bin.
  • Chemicals (e.g. paint, pesticides): give to a licensed hazardous wastes contractor or contact your local council.
  • Food scraps: place in the bin or compost.
  • Newspaper and plastics: recycle – contact your local council for more information.
  • Engine oils: take to a local garage or oil recycling centre.
  • Unused medicines: return to the pharmacy.
  • Nappies, razors, cotton buds, syringes: Wrap and place in the bin.

Did you know?

In Perth around 450 million litres of wastewater is collected every day for treatment.

Key vocabulary

  • Groundwater: Water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations
  • Hazardous: Involving or exposing one to risk
  • Inorganic: Being composed of matter that is not from plants or animals
  • Organic: Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms
  • Replenishment: To make complete again
  • Wastewater: Water that has been used inside a home, business or industry that travels to a wastewater treatment plant