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Would you drink recycled water?

About this lesson

Students construct a survey on the school community’s attitudes to drinking treated wastewater.

Year level: 4

Theme: Wastewater

Learning objectives

Students can:
  • understand what wastewater is
  • understand what groundwater replenishment is
  • construct and trial a survey
  • collect and record data, and interpret data to draw conclusions.

Curriculum links

Humanities and social sciences (geography)

  • The use and management of natural resources and waste, and the different views on how to do this sustainably ACHASSK090
  • Locate and collect information and data from different sources, including observations ACHASSI074
  • Interpret data and information displayed in different formats to identify and describe distributions and simple patterns ACHASSI078


  • Select and trial methods for data collection, including survey questions and recording sheets ACMSP095
  • Construct suitable data displays, with and without the use of digital technologies, from given or collected data. Include tables, column graphs and picture graphs where one picture can represent many data values ACMSP096

Things you will need

Lesson description


Part 1 – Understanding wastewater and water recycling

  • Talk through the diagram on the activity sheet showing how water is recycled.
  • Break students into groups and allocate the following topics to research:
    • What is wastewater?
    • How is wastewater treated?
    • Ways recycled water is used: ocean outfall, evaporation ponds (country), woodlots, industry, ovals/parks (including schools), groundwater replenishment and agricultural use (for crops).
    • What other countries in the world use recycled water?
  • Each group presents its findings to the class.
  • Discuss as a class how students feel about the different ways we use recycled water.
  • Watch the video Groundwater replenishment (4:33).
  • Discuss how students feel about drinking recycled water in the future (groundwater replenishment). 

Part 2 – Students survey the school community

  • Do the class' feelings match that of the school community? As a class, formulate a survey including questions and answers to find out what the school community knows about wastewater and their feelings about drinking recycled water
  • Questions could include:
    • What is wastewater?
    • What is treated wastewater?
    • Would you drink wastewater treated to a standard that is acceptable to the Department of Health?
    • What would a water utility need to do to make treated wastewater acceptable for you to drink?
    • Do you think recycled water is used in other parts of the world for drinking?
  • Students trial their survey and come back to the class to discuss issues and make amendments to the survey. They will then develop the final survey and once all results are gathered they will graph the data and draw their conclusions.

Reflect & summarise

  • Discuss the data from the survey - were students surprised by some of the results?
  • How do students feel about drinking recycled water in the future (groundwater replenishment)?
  • Reiterate the benefits of groundwater replenishment.

Extension activities

  • Plan a marketing campaign to educate the school community about climate resilient water sources and the benefits of groundwater replenishment.

Teacher background information

Wastewater in WA

Wastewater is a hidden part of everyday life and is collected daily from households, commercial businesses and industries. The wastewater from properties connected to Water Corporation’s wastewater system, is carried away in sewers and transported to a treatment plant.

In WA, Water Corporation is responsible for the treatment and disposal of wastewater. It operates more than 100 wastewater treatment facilities around the State. The three large metropolitan plants at Beenyup, Subiaco and Woodman Point treat approximately 80% of our wastewater.

How is wastewater treated?

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. These processes are carried out at wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater treatment involves speeding up the natural processes of bacterial breakdown and removing solids by filtration and settling. The treated wastewater is then either:

  • returned to the marine environment via ocean outfalls
  • reused in horticulture or to irrigate recreational areas
  • allowed to infiltrate back into the ground or evaporated.

Groundwater replenishment in WA

Groundwater replenishment is an innovative concept where treated wastewater is further treated to drinking water standards and recharged into groundwater supplies. The water is then stored and taken out some time later for further treatment and supply to a drinking water system.

The successful completion of a three-year Groundwater Replenishment Trial at the end of 2012 showed conclusively that it is a highly viable option to boost much needed drinking water supplies in WA.

The trial was endorsed by the regulators, Departments of Health, Water and Environmental Regulation (formerly Environment and Conservation). In August 2013, the State Government announced that groundwater replenishment would become the next new climate independent water source for Perth.

Groundwater replenishment scheme

The initial stage of Australia’s first full-scale groundwater replenishment scheme will have the capacity to recharge 7 billion litres of recycled water annually and is planned to begin recharging by 2016. The scheme can ultimately deliver around 28 billion litres of quality drinking water per year, and can be staged to meet our population growth and water supply needs, which is currently due for completion in 2022.

Perth’s Groundwater replenishment scheme is similar to the Californian approach where treated wastewater is further treated to drinking water standards and added to groundwater for later use in drinking supplies. Other water recycling schemes that supplement drinking water supplies also exist in Singapore and in Windhoek, Namibia.


Did you know?

Every day in WA more than 450 million litres of wastewater goes into our wastewater systems.

Key vocabulary

  • Groundwater replenishment: Where treated wastewater is further treated to drinking water standards and recharged into groundwater supplies
  • Sewer: An underground conduit for carrying off drainage water and waste matter
  • Stormwater: Surface water caused by rain
  • Wastewater: Used water
  • Wastewater system: The system that collects wastewater from households, businesses and industries then directs it to treatment plants where it is treated to an environmentally acceptable standard before being reused or safely discharged back to the environment