Could today’s young people solve the looming water crisis? Ongoing droughts in the desert Southwest, worsening floods in the East, lead in water in the Midwest and aging infrastructure all over are certainly daunting. However, gloom and doom don’t have to triumph. America’s water future depends on choices that we make — and opportunities we provide to our children and youth.

The water cycle constantly refreshes the world’s water supply. The water that is available to us now is the same water that has always been available. In fact, the water that you’re drinking today may have spent time in a glacier, an underground aquifer, a cloud — even a dinosaur.

THE AQUEOUS PERIOD: Water touches each and every species and aspect of our ecosystem. To protect the planet, and ourselves, relatable comparisons can help stress the importance of conservation that kids need.

However, the extension of that concept means that the water we have now is also the only water that will ever be available. Water must therefore be used and managed carefully to ensure its safety for future generations. Since water is a renewable resource, young people must learn how to conserve water — and how our actions can impact water quality. That’s where water education comes in.

Kids who learn about water in interactive ways take their new awareness to their parents, siblings and the larger community — particularly when education is paired with action.

1. To clean and to conserve

For example, using the Clean and Conserve program, a teacher, scout leader, parent or anyone else interested in promoting water knowledge can, free of charge, take an online training course and download a lesson about the effects of trash and other potential pollutants on water close to home and downstream. They can then volunteer to lead the lesson in the community, finishing with a trash cleanup to protect the local watershed.

“Water education that starts when kids are young can positively impact behaviors and attitudes for years...”

2. Setting footprints

Another option is Our Watery World. Its free lessons teach kids about water conservation, water footprints and everyday actions anyone can take to make a difference. Upper elementary teachers can also work with their students to enter ideas for conserving water at school into a contest for a chance to win $10,000. As with Clean and Conserve, Our Watery World is available for use, free of charge.

3. Online empowerment

Another free option for encouraging water awareness is the interactive website. Designed specifically for elementary and middle school students, the site offers nine different activities covering everything from oceans to preventing the spread of germs. Downloadable parent-teacher materials can help deepen the experience. The website also offers a “Take Action” backpack that students can “fill” with real-world ways to conserve and protect water.

Water education that starts when kids are young can positively impact behaviors and attitudes for years to come. By encouraging the next generation of water stewards to make responsible choices, we can all be a part of solving water issues that we have now and will have in the future.