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Turning on the tapTurning on the tap – a guided teaching resource – provides an integrated approach to teach students about one of our most important resource.

What’s behind our tap water?

Water is one of life’s essentials and a precious resource, but there’s a lot that has to happen in order for water to reach the tap, safe, clean, and ready for drinking.

Commissioned by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Turning on the tap helps students to understand where their tap water comes from and make informed decisions about how they use it.  It provides an integrated unit of work for Year 5-8 students with content that is particularly relevant for schools in the Wellington region.

The resource covers a term’s work for the curriculum areas of Science, Social Science, Health, Technology, Mathematics and English.

Its guided approach allows teachers with very little experience in environmental education, or sustainability education, to teach the concepts of water conservation, water treatment, and environmental action. There’s also the ability to select specific activities if your time is limited.

Turning on the tap is made up of six sections:

  • Water as a resource – helps students understand that water is a precious resource and investigate the differences in water use around the world.
  • The water cycle – includes activities based around the natural water cycle and how water changes state and moves around the environment.
  • How water gets to our taps – explores how water is delivered from water collection areas to the taps in our homes, workplaces and industry.
  • Water treatment plant visit – examines the water treatment process inside a water treatment plant. A key part of the section is a visit to one of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s water treatment plants (either Te Marua or Wainuiomata). Schools are responsible for their transport to and from the plants. Tour availability is limited so be in quick to book your spot!
  • How much water are we using? – students measure daily water use at school and explore what it is used for.
  • Making change – provides students with the opportunity to use their new knowledge to make informed decisions on how they use water, identifying priorities for change and actions for the environment to reduce their use of tap water.

As well as linking to specific learning areas, the resource also incorporates the values, key competencies and principles from the current New Zealand curriculum with particular emphasis placed on ecological, sustainability, innovation, curiosity, inquiry, equity, community and participation values.

Feedback from teachers

  • Year 5/6 Trentham School teachers: "Our students enjoyed the tour - some said it was the best trip of the year!"
  • Tracey - Year 6-8 Randwick School teacher: "I definitely recommend this unit. It is comprehensive and relevant, and the kids really enjoyed it."
  • Year 4-6 Silverstream School teacher: "Our students really enjoyed the tour, learning about the water cycle and participating in the practical experiments. We absolutely recommend the resource to other teachers."
  • Anita - Year 4-5 Randwick School teacher: "The resource is user friendly and easy to follow. All of the activities relate to the region and the environment the kids live in."

Copies of Turning on the tap

  • Turning on the tap water educational resourceTo download Turning on the tap - see the documents at the bottom of this page.
  • For hard copies -  schools from Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington can order a hard-copy of the resource by contacting Greater Wellington Regional Council on: info@gw.govt.nz or 04 384 5708.

The resource is made up of a booklet, a slideshow, a set of photocards and 6 posters. 


  • Wellington Water has a water education model called Aquarius, which is available for use at your school for free.
  • Aquarius is a self-contained unit that has been fitted with bathroom fittings which helps students learn about volume, flow and water use.
  • Aquarius is ideal to be used during Section 5 - How much water are we using? of Turning on the tap