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The water cycle and human impacts

About this lesson

In this lesson students investigate where our water comes from and where it goes.

Year level: 7

Theme: Water and the natural environment

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • explain the elements of the water cycle and how they are linked
  • explain the human impacts on the water cycle and how they are linked.

Curriculum links


  • Water is an important resource that cycles through the environment ACSSU222
  • Some of Earth’s resources are renewable, but others are non-renewable ACSSU116
  • Summarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions ACSIS130

Lesson description


  • What is the water cycle?
  • What are the different stages of the water cycle?
    • Where do the rain clouds come from? (condensation)
    • Why does rain fall? (precipitation)
    • How does water evaporation happen?
    • How does transpiration happen?
  • Explain to students that the earth is almost a closed system. Very little of the earth’s water is gained or lost from our planet. Water moves around the earth in its various forms—liquid water, solid ice and water vapour. The same water you brushed your teeth with this morning could have been in a lake when dinosaurs were on earth. The water cycle is the reason water is a renewable resource. Ask students what other resources they can name? Are they renewable or non-renewable?
  • Watch the video How the water cycle works (1:23) and discuss the formation of clouds as a result of evaporation from water bodies, such as oceans and lakes.


Part 1 – The water cycle

Choose one of the following 2 ways to look at the water cycle:

  • Display the diagram and students suggest the correct placement of words.
  • As a class create your own drawing on the board of the water cycle using arrows and descriptions

Part 2 – Human impacts

  • Ask students to consider the human impact on the water cycle. What elements could we add to the diagram to represent human activity? Add labels for each impact, using arrows to show how they may interrupt or link back to the water cycle.
  • Use the activity sheet to generate more discussion if needed.
  • Give the students two minutes in pairs to list some suggestions. Share these with the whole class and record the ideas on the class diagram.
  • Now divide the class into small groups. Have students develop a comic strip or news story describing the water cycle and the human impacts.

Reflect & summarise

  • Have a representative of each group present their comic strip or news story to the rest of the class.
  • Ask the rest of the class to provide feedback on whether they agree or disagree with the choices. Correct any misconceptions.

Extension activities

Teacher background information

The water cycle

The water cycle is the simplest natural cycle on Earth. Solar energy evaporates water from the ocean, lakes and rivers. Millions of litres of water rise into the atmosphere as an invisible gas – water vapour. This process is called evaporation.

As water vapour is pushed over the land by winds and rises over mountains, it cools and turns back into tiny water droplets, forming clouds. These droplets fall to earth as rain, also known as precipitation. This rain then runs into streams and rivers, which eventually flow into lakes or the sea and the cycle begins all over again.

Did you know?

Acid rain carries the chemicals sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Key vocabulary

  • Condensation: The process of a substance in a gaseous state transforming into a liquid state.
  • Cycle: Any complete round or series of occurrences that repeats or is repeated.
  • Evaporation: The conversion of a liquid into a vapour due to an increase in temperature and/or pressure.
  • Pollution: The act of contaminating or polluting the environment with unwanted substances or items (either intentionally or accidentally).
  • Precipitation: The falling to Earth of water in any form: rain, snow, hail, sleet or mist.
  • Run Off: Excess matter that moves quickly and falls off an apparatus.