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What's in your water?

This article appeared in the April 27, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

When the weather gets hot, most of us love a nice, cold glass of water to cool off.  But is that water just hydrogen and oxygen (H2O)?  In the U.S. we have laws against dumping chemicals or trash into the water.

But sometimes there’s still pollution in our water.  Why?  Let’s do an experiment to find out.

You will need: markers (green, red, brown, orange, blue), a plate or bowl, a small container of water, and a pipette.  If you don’t have a pipette, you can just pour very small amounts of water slowly out of your container.

First, draw a picture of your neighborhood on the paper.  Use your green marker to draw lawns, trees and plants, and your red marker to draw houses.

Use your brown marker to draw cars, trucks and buses.  Use your orange marker to draw a factory or store, and finally use your blue marker to draw streams, rivers, creeks and ponds.

Once you’re finished drawing, crumple your paper up into a ball.  This will make your neighborhood look like it’s on a hill.

Place your neighborhood hill on your plate or in your bowl.  Now it’s time to turn on the sprinklers and make it rain!  What do you think might happen when water falls on your neighborhood?

If you have a pipette, load it up with water and start adding drops onto your neighborhood.  If you don’t have a pipette, you can slowly pour water from your container a few drops at a time onto your neighborhood.

After a few drops, pause and observe.  What do you see happening?  Where does the water go in your neighborhood and what’s happening to the trees, houses and cars you drew?

Add some more water and observe again.  How does more water change things?

Do you notice any water collecting in the bowl or on the plate?  What color is it?  Why do you think it’s that color?  

When it rains in our neighborhoods or we turn on the sprinklers on our lawns, the water falls on the grass and the sidewalk.  But then where does it go?

Small amounts of it evaporate, but larger amounts seep into the ground or flow together into rivers and streams eventually becoming part of the water supply that we use to drink and cook and clean with.

But as that water flows over the grass in our yards or down the sidewalk and into the gutter, it picks up trash and chemicals along the way, polluting streams, rivers and lakes. 

This is called nonpoint source pollution or pollution that is the result of many common activities in our community.  How can we cut down on nonpoint source pollution


Explorit’s events:

• Lecture on Spiders and Citizen Science, May 1, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at Mori Seiki, 3805 Faraday Avenue.  For more information and to RSVP to save your spot visit or by sending an email to  

• Sign up for Explorit Summer Camp 2012 on-line at 

• Explorit’s Exhibition, “Forces of Nature” is open the first full weekend of the month from October to June from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  


Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. and features a hands-on science exhibit open to the public the first full weekend of the month from October to June. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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