Comprehension Activities

The Water Cycle: https://video.link/w/xNPfdd
The sink/toilet combo: https://www.ecohome.net/guides/1561/greywater-recycling-never-looked-better/
Explore your foodprint: https://www.watercalculator.org/water-footprint-of-food-guide/

It covers 2/3 of our planet’s surface… it’s the reason there’s life on Earth… and still, two billion people on our planet don’t have enough. This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to water—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Amanda Bower.

And I’m Bryce Corbett.

Bryce, March 22 is World Water Day, which the United Nations started almost 30 years ago to draw attention to the world water crisis. Now lately on Squiz Kids, we’ve been following the devastating rainstorms and flooding on the east coast of Australia, which saw some of our friends in Queensland and NSW get a year’s worth of rain in one weekend. With all that water everywhere, it seems hard to believe that the crisis the UN is talking about isn’t too much water… it’s too little.


Two billion people—that’s billion with a “B”—don’t have access to safe water. That’s almost 30% of the world’s population. In case you haven’t covered percentages yet in school, Squiz Kids, that means three out of every ten people on our planet.

Today, we’ll take you through WHY there’s a crisis … HOW unsafe water can make you sick… and WHAT kids can do to help.

Listen carefully – there’s a Squiz at the end!

Bryce, when astronauts first looked down on Earth from space, they called it the “Blue Planet” because more than 2/3 of the surface of our planet is water… and we humans are like our planet. Our bodies are made up of 60% water, and our blood is 90% water! And as we all know, humans need water to survive.

Why is that, exactly?

Well, every cell in our body needs water – we use it to build every cell in our body when we’re growing in our mums’ uterus … and once we come out, we use water to keep our body at the right temperature…

Oh yeah… when we sweat, that sweat is actually cooling us down… and sweat is made up of water

Exactly! We also use the water in our blood to transport food throughout our body… and of course water also helps to get the waste out of our body through our urine and faeces.

Which are the fancy medical words for wee and poo.

Water is also a shock absorber… our brain and spinal cord are surrounded by fluid to protect us … and our joints – like our knees, elbows, wrists, ankles – have capsules of fluid to help them move smoothly.

So how much water do we need to stay alive?

Well, it depends on your age and size, of course, but the Australian government recommends that kids drink between 1 and 2 litres per day, or between 5 and 10 glasses.

So with all this water on the planet, why are so many people unable to get enough safe water to drink?

Well, the first thing is that we can’t drink salt water. Anyone who’s copped a mouthful at the beach knows that it just makes you thirstier! Only 1% of the world’s water is liquid fresh water … and there are two main problems causing the crisis. The first is that in some places, we are using too much water… and the second is that in some places, the water is polluted.

Surely we aren’t using too much in Australia—we’ve had so many droughts, we all know about water restrictions.

Well, you’re right that we are one of the driest places in the world – despite those recent storms. But actually, we use more water per capita – that means per person – than just about any other country in the world!

Is that just because it’s so hot here?

You might think that, but actually, only around 1% is used for drinking. In most houses, drinking-quality water is used to flush toilets and to water gardens. And all around the world, the biggest user of water, by far, is in agriculture. I’ll tell you a bit later about what we can do to change our habits and reduce how much water we use.

Okay… but before we do that, tell me about the second problem, of water pollution. HOW does that happen, and how can it make you sick?


The UN says that most water pollution problems are caused by agriculture, industry, and untreated wastewater. Most farms uses fertilisers, to get plants to grow better and faster, and pesticides, to kill creepy crawlies that want to eat the crops. But then those chemicals can get washed by rain into rivers and lakes, and can also be absorbed into the groundwater below the surface.

And I’m guessing factories and other industry could also be washing chemicals into the water supply, too.

That’s right. Not only can those chemicals damage the water, they can also kill the tiny microorganisms that live in freshwater and actually help to keep it clean. In some countries, there are really strict rules on how industry is allowed to get rid of their waste, but in others, they just dump it.

You also mentioned something called wastewater…

Yeah, so wastewater is basically water that has been used. It’s made up of 99.9% water, and 0.1% of other stuff that needs to be removed before you can use the water again.

Wait… use it again?

That’s right. The water on our planet now is the same water that the dinosaurs were drinking. We don’t ever get NEW water… it basically gets recycled by being evaporated, where it turns into clouds and falls back down again as rain or snow or fog or frost … I’ll pop a video in your episode notes to explain the water cycle more. But the fact that we don’t get any new water means that how we deal with wastewater is VERY important… especially how we deal with poo in the water.

We usually love talking about poo on Squiz Kids! But poo in the water doesn’t sound good at all.

Definitely not. So almost half of the world’s population does not have safely managed sanitation services… meaning that their poo water isn’t treated properly, and the poo—which can carry diseases—ends up back in their drinking water. About 80% of all the diseases in those places is associated with dirty water… and according to the UN, around 5,000 children die every day from diarrhoea caused by dirty water.

Oh wow … that’s a frightening statistic. Thank goodness wastewater IS treated properly in Australia. But WHAT can kids do here, to help the global water crisis and help out kids in other countries who aren’t so lucky?

It can feel really frustrating to hear that 5,000 kids are dying every day in other parts of the world, because you want to help, but don’t know how. Being aware of the problem is important, though, and there are organisations that raise money to build toilets and treatment facilities. But there’s a LOT we can do at home, too, to save and protect our water.

Like what?

There’s the easy stuff, like using less. If you cut your daily shower time by 3 minutes, you’ll save 13,140 litres of water a year! And if your family needs a new washing machine or dishwasher, you can encourage your parents to buy one that is water efficient.

Nothing like a bit of pester power!

There are also some cool ways to reuse what’s called greywater – water that’s been used, but is clean enough to use again. I’ve put a link in your episode notes to a nifty toilet/sink combination —the water from washing your hands then goes in to the toilet’s tank, ready for the next time you flush. Because there’s really no need to use drinking water to get rid of your poo! I’ve also put in a link about how to reduce what’s called your “foodprint” … Did you know it takes more than 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef? But chicken is a third of that, and vegetables are the lowest of all.

I guess I could switch from a hamburger to a chicken burger every now and then.

The S’Quiz

This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening…
1. How much of the water we use is consumed by drinking?
2 What’s the name of the kind of water that needs to be treated before it can be used again?
3 You could save 13,140 L of water each year if you did what?