T E X A S N A T U R A L R E S O U R C E
C O N S E R V A T I O N C O M M I S S I O N
Lesson Plans & Resources
GI-268 / August 2001
Robert J. Huston, Chairman Authorization for use or reproduction of any original material contained in
R. B. “Ralph” Marquez, Commissioner this publication—that is, not obtained from other sources—is freely granted.
John M. Baker, Commissioner The commission would appreciate acknowledgment.
Jeffrey A. Saitas, Executive Director
Copies of this publication are available for public use through the Texas
State Library, other state depository libraries, and the TNRCC Library, in
Published and distributed by
compliance with state depository law. For more information on TNRCC
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission publications call 512/239-0028 or visit our Web site at:
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087 http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/publications
T E X A S N A T U R A L R E S O U R C E
C O N S E R V A T I O N C O M M I S S I O N
Lesson Plans & Resources
Environmental Education Team
Small Business and Environmental Assistance Division
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
Preface Chapter 2—Water
Strong Support for Environmental Education ....... iv Chapter Notes ...................................................... 2-1
TNRCC Environmental Education Team .............. iv Background and Facts about Water ..................... 2-1
Monitoring and Indicators of Water Quality ....... 2-6
Introduction Key Water Quality Concerns ............................... 2-9
About the Teaching Environmental Key Water Quantity Concerns ........................... 2-14
Sciences (TES) Program .................................... v Colonias ............................................................. 2-17
How to Use this Guide ........................................... v Erosion ............................................................... 2-18
Commonly Used Acronyms .................................. vi Water Lesson Plans ........................................... 2-19
Chapter 1—Air Chapter 3—Waste
Chapter Notes ...................................................... 1-1 Chapter Notes ...................................................... 3-1
Background and Facts about Air Quality .............. 1-1 Background and Facts about Waste .................... 3-1
Key Air Quality Concerns ................................... 1-2 Types of Municipal Solid Waste ......................... 3-2
Energy Use and Climate ...................................... 1-5 Collecting and Disposing of Solid Waste ............ 3-4
Prevention and Control of Air Pollution ............. 1-7 Disposing of Industrial Hazardous Waste ........... 3-6
Air Lesson Plans ................................................ 1-10 Key Concerns in Waste Management ................. 3-7
Managing Municipal Solid Waste ....................... 3-9
Waste Reduction: The Four Rs ............................ 3-9
Waste Lesson Plans ............................................. 3-14
Appendix A: List of Lesson Plans by Grade Level ........................................................................................ A-1
Appendix B: Glossary of Environmental Terms ........................................................................................... A-2
Appendix C: Weights and Measures Conversion Charts ............................................................................... A-9
Appendix D: Calendar of Events ................................................................................................................. A-10
Appendix E: Resources for Environmental Education ................................................................................ A-11
Appendix F: Recognition Opportunities for Schools .................................................................................. A-12
Appendix G: Overview of Major Environmental Legislation ..................................................................... A-14
Table 1: Counties in Nonattainment Areas ................................................................................................... 1-2
Table 2: Sources of Impairment ................................................................................................................. 2-10
Table 3: Causes of Impairment ................................................................................................................... 2-13
Figure 1: The Hydrologic Cycle .................................................................................................................... 2-2
Figure 2: Watersheds ..................................................................................................................................... 2-2
Figure 3: The Stream System ......................................................................................................................... 2-3
Figure 4: Point Source Pollution .................................................................................................................. 2-10
Figure 5: Nonpoint Source Pollution ........................................................................................................... 2-11
Figure 6: Major River Basins and Watersheds of Texas ............................................................................. 2-13
Strong Support for Environmental Education
There is strong support for environmental education as indicated by two
recent public opinion surveys. Of 713 Texans surveyed in 1999, 84 percent
believe it is “very important” to educate children about environmental issues
(Survey of Environmental Behaviors and Attitudes of Texans conducted for the
TNRCC by the Office of Survey Research, College of Communication, The
University of Texas).
A 1999 national survey showed that 95 percent of adults and 96 percent
of parents support environmental education in schools. (The National Report
Card on Environmental Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors, conducted for
the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation by Roper
Starch Worldwide.) You can find highlights of this survey on the Internet at
TNRCC Environmental Education Team
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s (TNRCC) Envi-
ronmental Education Team serves as a clearinghouse of educational projects
for teachers of kindergarten through 12th (K-12) grade students. The team de-
velops and coordinates resource materials and training programs specifically
for these grade levels.
The Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1989 mandates the TNRCC to
provide curriculum, suitable for use in programs from kindergarten through
high school, that promotes waste reduction and recycling.
In 1997, the team was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) for its work toward environmental education. The team’s publi-
cation, Teaching Environmental Literacy: A Curriculum Supplement for Class-
room Teachers and Nonformal Educators in Kindergarten through Eighth
Grade helped garner the award. The publication won the EPA Region 6 Re-
gional Administrator’s Environmental Excellence Award for “Outstanding
Commitment to Furthering Environmental Education in the State of Texas.”
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission strives to protect
our state’s precious human and natural resources, consistent with sustainable
economic development. Our goal is clean air, clean water, and the safe man-
agement of waste.
About the Teaching s ideas and information for student field trips,
Environmental Sciences Program games, and other activities
The TNRCC’s Teaching Environmental Sci- To make it easy to quickly find specific lesson
ences (TES) program is a graduate-level course and plans, they are listed at the beginning of each chap-
for teachers and nonformal educators interested in ter (chapter contents) and in Appendix A (Lesson
integrating environmental topics into their lessons Plans by Grade Level). The chapter contents lists
and activities. TES courses offer teachers real-world lessons in the order they are presented in each
information and include activities such as these: chapter. In the appendix, lessons are organized by
s hands-on and lab activities grade level.
s visits to local industries Understanding Environmental Terms. This
s discussions with environmental experts from introductory section defines commonly used acro-
local, state, federal, and nonprofit agencies nyms found in this guide. For more detailed defini-
s field trips to local sites such as recycling cen- tions, refer to the glossary of environmental terms in
ters, air monitoring stations, water treatment
Converting Weights and Measurements. While
plants, and landfills
most lesson plans use U.S. measurements, some of
s freeliterature and other resources
them use the metric system. Appendix C contains
Teachers who have participated in a TES course
developed the lesson plans and ideas for field trips
and other activities contained in this publication.
You can also view acronyms on our
Internet site at (www.tnrcc.state.tx.us) by
TES courses are free and available at universi-
searching for the keyword “acronyms.”
ties around the state. For more information, contact
the TNRCC Environmental Education Team:
Using Lesson Plans. Before using or adapting
Environmental Education Team
these lesson plans, the TNRCC suggests that teach-
ers familiarize themselves with the background in-
PO Box 13087
formation in this guide, and adapt the lesson plans
Austin TX 78711-3087
to meet the needs of their particular students.
Environmental Subjects Covered in this Publi-
cation. The environmental subjects covered in this
(search for the keywords “education” or “TES”)
publication relate to air, water, and land (which in-
cludes waste and waste management) and include
topics such as these:
How to Use this Guide
s pollution prevention
Moving through the Guide. Chapters in this
guide are arranged by subject: air, water, and land
(waste/waste management), and each one contains
the following information:
s a table of contents for each chapter listing s water conservation
the lesson plans included in that chapter s waste/waste management
s background information about the subject However, it is not a comprehensive treatment of
s detailed lesson plans including notes on grade these subjects. Resources listed in Appendix E can
level and Texas Essential Knowledge Skills help provide you with a well-rounded understanding
(TEKS) standards of subjects discussed in this publication.
Disclaimer NASA National Aeronautics and
Neither the TNRCC nor any TNRCC employee Space Administration
makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or as- NEEAP National Environmental Education
sumes any legal liability or responsibility for the Advancement Project
products or processes cited in this publication. Ref- NEW net economic welfare
erence herein to any specific product, process, or- NLEV National Low-Emission
ganization, or publication does not constitute or Vehicle Program
imply an endorsement or recommendation by NOx nitrogen oxides
TNRCC. The information herein is only intended to O3 ozone
further the public interest by facilitating awareness P4 permanent pollution prevention program
of environmental education practices, including PM particulate matter
sources of information and products related to en- PM-10 particulate matter smaller than
vironmental education. Also, be aware that the in- 10 microns in diameter
formation contained in this guide may change. PCB polychlorinated biphenyl
Consult the TNRCC or the other sources mentioned PPM parts per million
in this guide for updates. PSI pounds per square inch
PST petroleum storage tank
RDF refuse-derived fuel
Commonly Used Acronyms RENEW Resource Exchange Network
4Rs reduce, reuse, recycle, rebuy for Eliminating Waste
BOD biochemical oxygen demand RFG reformulated gasoline
CFC chlorofluorocarbon RVP low Reid vapor pressure (gasoline)
C&D construction and demolition SARA Superfund Amendments and
CO2 carbon dioxide Reauthorization Act
COG Council of Government SIP state implementation plan
CRP conservation reserve program SO2 sulfur dioxide
CWQM certified water quality monitoring TEA Texas Education Agency
DDT dichloro-diphynbyl-trichloro-ethane TEKS Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills
DO dissolved oxygen TES Teaching Environmental Sciences
EE environmental education (TNRCC graduate course)
EDF Environmental Defense Fund Title III Emergency Planning & Community
EPA U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Right-To-Know Act of 1986
FC fluorocarbons TMDL total maximum daily loads
GNP Gross National Product TNRCC Texas Natural Resource
GPM gallons per minute Conservation Commission
HCFC hydrochlorofluorocarbon TPD tons per day
HHW household hazardous waste TRI toxics release inventory
HHWC household hazardous waste collection TSS total suspended solids
ISD independent school district VOCs volatile organic compounds
ISEW Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare WRPA Waste Reduction Policy Act
MSW municipal solid waste
Chapter 1 – Air
We all live downwind.
—1980s Bumper Sticker
Chapter Notes ........................................................................ 1-1
Lesson Plans ............................................................................... 1-1
TNRCC Publications .................................................................. 1-1
Safety .......................................................................................... 1-1
Background and Facts about Air Quality ........................ 1-1
Key Air Quality Concerns .................................................... 1-2
Ozone .......................................................................................... 1-3
Nitrogen Dioxide ........................................................................ 1-4
Carbon Monoxide ....................................................................... 1-4
Sulfur Dioxide ............................................................................ 1-5
Particulates ................................................................................. 1-5
Lead ............................................................................................ 1-5
Energy Use and Climate ...................................................... 1-5
Inversions, Wind, and Transport ................................................ 1-6
Acid Rain .................................................................................... 1-6
Prevention and Control of Air Pollution ......................... 1-7
Voluntary Actions ...................................................................... 1-7
Regulatory Programs .................................................................. 1-8
Industrial Controls ...................................................................... 1-9
Air Lesson Plans .................................................................. 1-10
K-5: Particulate Matter: The Lorax .......................................... 1-10
2-5: Plants and Oxygen: Breathing Easy ................................. 1-11
4-5: Ozone Pollution: Smog Alert ........................................... 1-12
4-8: Acid Rain Collection and Mapping ................................. 1-13
4-8: Air Pollution Survey ........................................................ 1-14
4-8: Air Pollution Letter Writing ............................................. 1-15
7-8: The Path of Pollution ....................................................... 1-16
Chapter Notes to industrial processes, air pollution comes from
Lesson Plans cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, boats, off-road
To maintain the contributing teachers’ personal vehicles, lawn equipment, and fumes from paint,
style, the TNRCC has only moderately edited the household products, and gasoline. This chapter is
lesson plans. However, agency staff have reviewed intended to provide teachers with the general back-
them for technical accuracy. ground to help students understand what causes air
The lessons provided in this publication are pollution, how weather affects air pollution, how air
intended to promote awareness of environmental pollution affects people’s health, and what individu-
sciences through simple activities. Teachers should als can do to help prevent air pollution.
adapt the lesson plans to meet the needs of their s Air is a mixture of a number of gases: about
particular students. Before using or adapting these 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, a small
lesson plans, the TNRCC suggests that teachers amount of carbon dioxide, and traces of other
familiarize themselves with the background infor- gases, most of which are inert.
mation provided in each chapter (of course, these s We breathe an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 liters
background sections are not a comprehensive treat- (about 2,113 gallons) of air every day (Ameri-
ment of their subjects.) can Lung Association). Adults breathe more
Grade levels and correlations to the Texas than 10,000 times a day and can breathe as
Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are noted much as 10 times that amount during strenuous
on each lesson plan; these are intended as sugges- exercise.
tions only. s Citizens in nearly 100 major cities in the U.S.
are exposed to harmful concentrations of ozone.
TNRCC Publications In Texas, 60 percent of the state’s population
This guide frequently refers you to TNRCC live in urban areas that do not meet federal stan-
publications. For information on obtaining publica- dards for air quality.
tions, see the back cover. s Particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in the
air can cause regional and urban haze and can
Safety make the air look dirty even in areas where the
For detailed information on safety issues re- air meets national air quality standards.
lated to classroom science activities, refer to the s Burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves
Texas Safety Standards Manual (Second Edition) contributes to air pollution and, in some areas,
Kindergarten through Grade 12, which is available is the largest source of particulate matter gener-
from the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) science ated by residential sources (for explanation of
department by calling 512/463-9556. You can environmental terms, see Appendix B). Emis-
also view the manual on the Internet in the Texas sions from wood smoke can contain carbon
Education Network’s Science TEKS Tool Kit located monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hy-
at www.tenet.edu/teks/science. drochloric acid, and formaldehyde (American
s Small gasoline engines (such as those in lawn
Background and Facts mowers, leaf vacuums, and other outdoor power
about Air Quality equipment) can emit carbon monoxide and ni-
Factories, small businesses, and people’s daily trogen oxides. Electric lawn and garden tools
activities all contribute to air pollution. In addition produce almost no emissions (EPA).
s Roughly 30 percent of five-year-old cars Industry reports have shown that millions of
emit excessive pollution. At seven years old— pounds of toxic chemicals are released into Texas’
the average age of passenger cars in the air every year, many of which come from petro-
United States—55 percent of vehicles are chemical and refining industries. The TNRCC’s
high emitters. Community Air Toxics Monitoring Network detects
s One poorly maintained vehicle can produce pollutants that can result in long-term health effects,
28 times as much pollution as one vehicle in using data gathered from monitoring stations and
good repair. samplers throughout Texas. Toxics are detected and
s Electricity generated by fossil fuels (oil, gas, measured by instruments designed specifically to
and coal) for a single home puts more carbon identify and measure a particular substance. Some
dioxide into the air than two average cars. of the toxic substances measured are benzene, buta-
By implementing a few inexpensive energy- diene, and formaldehyde.
efficient measures, you can reduce your energy The EPA has established national air quality
bills by 10 to 50 percent, and at the same time, standards for six major pollutants: ozone, nitrogen
help reduce air pollution. dioxide, particulates (particulate matter), carbon
s At least 20 percent of the electricity businesses monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. These pollut-
use is wasted because of inefficient equipment. ants, called criteria pollutants, are key indicators of
One compact fluorescent bulb will last as air quality. Each of them results from a characteris-
long as approximately 13 incandescent bulbs. tic set of emissions and atmospheric conditions.
Although purchasing compact fluorescent costs Each also can endanger public health and harm the
more money, using them can save you 25 to environment at a certain concentration and duration
50 percent on your electricity bill (City of of exposure.
Austin’s Energy Conservation Office). Areas of the state that do not meet the standards
may be designated “nonattainment.” This designa-
Key Air Quality Concerns tion is based on measured pollutant levels for some
Many chemical compounds can become air pollutants and the length of time the level of the
pollutants if they escape into the atmosphere, most standard is exceeded. Table 1 shows the counties
often as the result of an industrial process. The size currently designated as nonattainment areas.
of sources varies from large
to small. In addition to the
Table 1: Counties in Nonattainment Areas
major industries in Texas,
small businesses contribute Moderate nonattainment Serious nonattainment Severe nonattainment
(limit: 100 tons/year VOCs) (limit: 50 tons/year VOCs) (limit: 25 tons/year VOCs)
to air pollution. A lot of
small sources can contribute Beaumont–Port Arthur El Paso Houston-Galveston
just as much as one large Hardin El Paso Brazoria
source. Some of the chemi-
Orange Fort Bend
cals released by business
and industry—such as Dallas–Fort Worth Harris
asbestos, arsenic, vinyl Collin Liberty
chloride, mercury, and Dallas Montgomery
cadmium—have the poten-
tial to cause harmful effects.
Ozone Tips for Avoiding Unhealthy Ozone
Ozone in the upper atmosphere (commonly Rising ozone levels can adversely affect your
called “the ozone layer”) blocks harmful ultraviolet health so keep these tips in mind especially during
radiation. Ground-level ozone is a common air pol- ozone season (April through October):
lutant affecting humans and plants. It is the most s Be conscious of ozone levels by checking
pervasive air pollution problem in Texas and the ozone forecasts and warnings, which are avail-
United States. able from various sources: Web pages of the
Ground-level ozone (a component of smog) TNRCC and other environmental groups;
forms when gases called nitrogen oxides (a by- TNRCC’s ozone warning hotline for the Hous-
product of high temperature combustion) and vola- ton and Dallas–Fort Worth areas at 1-888-994-
tile organic compounds react in the presence of sun- 9901; ozone forecasts, warnings, and the
light. Many of our routine daily activities contribute TNRCC’s air quality index How’s the Air Out
to ground-level ozone: mowing the lawn; producing There? (GI-269).
electricity or heat from natural gas, oil, or coal; driv- s Limit the time you exert yourself outdoors or
ing motor vehicles; incinerating waste; painting; re- reduce the level of your outdoor activity. For
fining petroleum; and filling the gas tank. Other example, instead of running or jogging for an
sources are gasoline stations; dry cleaners; outboard hour, do so for just 30 minutes or walk.
motors; lawn, garden, farm, and construction equip- s Plan outdoor activities for times when ozone
ment; oil-based paints; and household products. levels are lower, usually in the early morning
High levels of ozone can cause shortness of or evening.
breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and s Protect children from the effects of ozone by
throat and lung irritation. People exercising out- having them play indoors or planning activities
doors, children, and people with pre-existing respi- that require less exertion (such as playing
ratory illnesses are particularly susceptible. Ground- catch, throwing a Frisbee, or swimming).
level ozone also can damage the leaves of plants, s During periods of high ozone levels, be aware
crack rubber, deteriorate fabrics, and fade colors. of and watch for ozone-related symptoms of
It causes the most problems in the warmer months adverse health effects (such as chest tightness,
(April through October). A number of areas in coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing)
Texas exceed or may soon exceed the national stan- especially in children and people who are sen-
dard for ozone. sitive to the ozone. If experiencing these symp-
Ozone and Transportation. In some Texas cit- toms, stop or reduce activity.
ies, motor vehicle emissions are the single greatest
contributors to ground-level ozone.
Most cars use unleaded gasoline. In an unleaded Motorists often don’t know that their vehicle is
gasoline engine, the fuel does not burn entirely, and not up to standards, although a number of cars made
the engine emits hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, after 1994 have a dashboard malfunction indicator
and carbon monoxide. The hydrocarbons and oxides light (MIL) to indicate it’s time for maintenance of
of nitrogen contribute to ozone formation. Pollutants pollution devices. Follow the manufacturer’s recom-
are emitted not only from the tailpipe, but also from mended maintenance schedules, found in most car
faulty or loose gas caps; from hot engines and the owner manuals. Automobile emission inspection tests
crankcase; from leaking vapor lines; and from the also help notify unsuspecting drivers that they are
gasoline tank during refueling. wasting fuel or that their pollution control devices are
not working properly. Excess smoke or the strong Nonattainment areas are required to implement
smell of gasoline indicates problems not only for a controls to prevent ozone formation, which can be
vehicle but also for the air we breathe. costly. Many near-nonattainment areas will imple-
The most far-reaching way to reduce pollution ment voluntary controls in an effort to avoid exceed-
from motor vehicles is to reduce the use of motor ing the standard.
vehicles. The fewer vehicles on the roadways, the
fewer emissions. People can reduce driving emis- Nitrogen Dioxide
sions by car pooling, using the bus, walking, bicy- Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic, yellow-brownish
cling, telecommuting, or simply choosing nearby gas produced by combustion. It is a major con-
destinations for shopping, dining, or recreation. By tributor to smog and acid rain. It reacts with vola-
not using motor vehicles, people can reduce the tile organic compounds in the air to form smog.
emissions caused by traffic congestion. Congestion Emissions of this pollutant come from burning
may lead to road construction (widening or building fuels at high temperatures. Major sources include
of roadways), which contributes to air pollution, as fuels burned by motor vehicles and by industries
well as water pollution (from runoff). producing energy.
The more you drive, the more fuel you consume. In addition to contributing to the formation of
Increased fuel consumption increases the chances ozone, oxides of nitrogen react chemically in the
that gasoline vapors may escape into the air when atmosphere to form nitrates, which can be trans-
refueling. Consuming more and more fuel also can ported long distances before being deposited and
increase the distribution and manufacture (refining) can contribute to acid rain and impair visibility. At
of fuel in the state. Using motor vehicles can also levels above the national standard, nitrogen dioxide
lead to pollution from solid waste (such as illegal can irritate the lungs, cause bronchitis and pneumo-
dumping of old or worn-out tires or vehicle parts.) nia, and lower resistance to respiratory infections.
Measuring Ozone. The EPA sets national stan- For asthmatics, elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide
dards for air quality, including 1-hour and 8-hour can cause increased difficulty in breathing. How-
standards for ozone. Although Texas has improved ever, in recent years, no monitor in the United States
the overall air quality since the 1970s, the TNRCC has recorded levels that violate the national standard.
continues to measure unhealthy levels of ozone in
many large cities. TNRCC monitoring stations have Carbon Monoxide
detected ozone levels that violated the EPA ozone This pollutant is produced by the incomplete
standards in the areas of Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, combustion of carbon in fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, or
Beaumont–Port Arthur, Dallas–Fort Worth, El Paso, natural gas). Most carbon monoxide emissions comes
Longview, and most recently in Austin, San Antonio, from transportation sources (principally cars and
and Tyler. trucks). Stricter automobile emission standards and
The EPA may designate areas that do not meet mandatory vehicle inspection and maintenance pro-
the ozone standard as “nonattainment” and those grams have reduced the amount of carbon monoxide
that come close to violating the standard are com- emissions in parts of Texas and across the nation.
monly called “near-nonattainment.” When the three- Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to
year average of the years’ fourth highest ozone level deliver oxygen to vital tissues affecting, primarily,
at a single monitoring site exceeds the standard, the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Concentra-
the EPA may classify the surrounding county or tions above the national standard have been shown
metropolitan area as nonattainment. to adversely affect individuals with heart disease
and to decrease maximal exercise performance in particles below 2.5 microns. Overall, particles vary
young people. At low levels, it can cause headaches, in size, amount, density, and chemical composition.
loss of visual acuity, and decreased muscular coor- Respirable particulate matter, at levels above
dination after several hours of exposure. Higher the national standard, may cause or worsen lung and
concentrations can cause symptoms such as dizzi- respiratory disorders. Elevated levels of respirable
ness, headaches, and fatigue. particulate matter may cause certain individuals to
experience chest pain, coughing, and shortness of
Sulfur Dioxide breath. The elderly, children, and individuals with
Sulfur combines with oxygen in the air to form pre-existing respiratory or heart problems are
the gas sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is primarily thought to be particularly susceptible.
produced through industrial processes, including the For the first time in a decade, the EPA has
combustion of sulfur-bearing fuels and the smelting issued new standards for particulate matter, generat-
of sulfur-bearing metal ores. Major sources of sulfur ing concern, particularly around the issue of fine
dioxide emissions are power plants, refineries, some particulate matter. The relationship between particu-
chemical plants, metal smelters, and cement plants. late matter and public health is less than perfectly
This pollutant reacts in the atmosphere to form defined, nor do we have a handle on the complex
other compounds, such as sulfuric acid, sulfates, chemistry, nature, and means of control of particu-
and sulfites. These compounds can be transported late matter.
long distances through the atmosphere before being
deposited as rain or dust, and they can contribute Lead
to acid rain and impair visibility. Sulfur dioxide Emissions from lead smelters, battery recycling
becomes sulfuric acid when it comes in contact with plants, and automobiles that burn gasoline with
moist mucous membranes. leaded additives have been the primary sources of
At levels above the national standard, sulfur lead air pollution in Texas. Overall levels of lead in
dioxide irritates the respiratory tract, causing re- the air in Texas have declined steadily with the uni-
stricted air flow and difficulty in breathing. Indi- versal use of unleaded gasoline and the placement
viduals with preexisting pulmonary disease are par- of additional controls on industrial sources.
ticularly susceptible to these effects. Sulfur dioxide Lead, at levels above the national standard, may
in the air can harm vegetation and corrode metal. It adversely affect the brain and nervous system, blood
also affects paper, fabrics, stone, and leather chemistry, the digestive system, and the reproduc-
tive system. Young children are most at risk since
Particulates their bodies and brains are still developing.
These tiny particles in the atmosphere can be
solid or liquid, and are produced by a wide variety Energy Use and Climate
of manmade and natural sources, such as factories, Burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil emits
power plants, refuse incinerators, motor vehicles, carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere.
construction, fires, and natural windblown dust. One These gases help to trap the sun’s heat in the atmo-
set of regulations exists for particles that are below sphere, like a greenhouse, and the result is called the
10 microns in size (about one-seventh the width of a “greenhouse effect.”
human hair) and are likely to lodge deep in the According to the EPA, fossil fuels burned to run
lungs and cause respiratory problems. A second cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and
newer set of regulations exist and are evolving for power factories are responsible for about 98 percent
of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, 24 percent of Inversions, Wind, and Transport
methane emissions, and 18 percent of nitrogen Some areas of the state occasionally experience
oxide emissions. In 1997, the United States emitted conditions that trap pollutants near the ground, pre-
about one-fifth of world’s total greenhouse gases. venting them from being dispersed. This condition
The Texas Public Utility Commission states is called a temperature inversion, which is a layer of
that Texas uses more electricity than any other state cool air under a layer of warm air that prevents air
in the country. Texas also uses more coal and more circulation. Inversions are strongest at night in the
natural gas to fuel power plants than any other state. cooler months when skies are clear and winds are
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, coal light. When an inversion occurs, a buildup of pollut-
accounts for 23 percent of energy use in the United ants can cause health and visibility problems.
States, natural gas accounts for 25 percent, petro- In summer months, persistent light winds over
leum products 40 percent, and nuclear electric a large region, coupled with sunshine and warm
power 7.4 percent. temperatures, can cause ozone concentrations to
Educators have the opportunity to teach stu- increase to harmful levels. Persistent large-scale air
dents the theories of global warming theories. stagnation also causes particulate levels to increase,
Teaching students ways to use energy more effi- which in turn causes visibility to decrease.
ciently can reduce pollution. Using energy more Wind moves air masses with high pollution
efficiently will also reduce the cost of that energy levels around the state and country. Through this
both at home and at school. pollution transport, areas that do not generate sig-
nificant air pollution can be affected by air pollution
from other areas that do generate it. Ozone and fine
Actions to Reduce Energy Use particulates are often transported regionally.
Energy conservation is an important way to
reduce air pollution. Some of these ideas students Acid Rain
can use on their own, while others are suggestions Acid rain is any form of wet or dry precipita-
they can take to their families and neighbors: tion (such as rain, snow, fog, or dust) that is more
s Turn off lights when leaving a room. acidic than normal rainfall. It is formed when
s Turn off appliances, including computers and sulfur and nitrogen oxides mix with water droplets
televisions, when not using them. in the atmosphere to form dilute sulfuric and nitric
s Use fluorescent light bulbs. acids. Acid rain can result when utilities, indus-
s Use a geothermal heat pump for heating and tries, businesses, homes, and automobiles burn
cooling in home and school. fossil fuels. This pollution can be transported
s Buy a propane water heater. hundreds of miles by the atmosphere before being
s Plant trees around air conditioners and along deposited by precipitation.
the south side of buildings. Trees absorb car- Acid rain occurs in Texas but is not a problem
bon dioxide from the atmosphere. throughout most of the state. Monitoring shows that
s Use less hot water. East Texas has a higher acidity in its rainfall than
s Turn thermostats up in summer and down in the central and western parts of the state. The
the winter. strength of acid rain that falls in East Texas is about
one-third the rate of the more heavily affected areas
in the nation. Acid rain is measured using a pH
scale: a logarithmic measure of acidity or alkalinity.
A more detailed discussion of pH is contained in the telecommuting opportunities at work. Prevent the
chapter on water quality. air pollution from at least one automobile, while
Another rain-related pollutant is mercury. avoiding bumper-to-bumper stress, conserving
Mercury is found in coal in trace amounts, and it is energy, saving fossil fuels, and reducing the stress
released into the air from power plant stacks. The and wear on your vehicle.
mercury dissolves in water vapor particles and Smoking Vehicles. Tailpipe smoke can vary in
precipitates out in rainfall. Once on the ground, the color and composition. Different colors of smoke
mercury-polluted water reaches streams and lakes, mean different engine problems. If you see smoke
where it affects aquatic life. As a result, for some coming from the tailpipe of any light-duty gasoline-
water bodies in northeast Texas there are advisories or diesel-powered vehicle for more than 10 consecu-
against human consumption of fish. tive seconds, the vehicle is violating state air quality
laws. Call 1-800-453-SMOG (7664) to report these
Prevention and smoking vehicles.
Control of Air Pollution The call is free and you can remain anonymous.
Voluntary Actions When you call, provide the license plate number,
Ozone Action and Air Pollution Watch/Warning the date, the time, and the location where you saw
Days. During the summer, TNRCC meteorologists the smoking vehicle. Students can help report smok-
forecast a day ahead when weather conditions will be ing vehicles by taking down the license number
right for high levels of ozone. These conditions include while parents are driving and by encouraging family
light winds, little or no cloudiness, no rain, and tem- members who drive to report violators.
peratures of 70 degrees and higher. The TNRCC The TNRCC will notify the owner by letter
meteorologists then send notices to local task forces that the vehicle may be contributing to air pollution
that get the word out to citizens and industries via by smoking excessively and will explain how to
television, radio, Internet, and road signs. Individuals improve the vehicle’s performance. For more infor-
are asked to take steps to reduce air pollution. mation on the smoking vehicle program, please call
Commute Options. One way to reduce pollution 1-800-453-SMOG.
is to reduce the number of cars on the road. Walk, Fuel Cells. Fuel cells convert natural gas,
bike, take the bus or other form of public transporta- hydrogen, and other fuels to electricity. A fuel cell
tion, car pool or van pool, or take advantage of never needs recharging. Fuel cells powered every
Tips to Reduce Air Pollution from Vehicles
Here are some suggestions to get students thinking about ideas they can pass along to parents and older siblings
who drive. Proper maintenance and operation of a vehicle will improve engine life and lower maintenance costs:
s When filling up, don’t top off the tank—spills evaporate and just add to the pollution—and wait until
late in the day to refuel, especially during summer months.
s Regularly tune and change the oil/oil filter in your vehicle.
s Keep tires properly inflated and wheels properly aligned.
s Limit driving on ozone action days and combine trips when running errands.
Park the car and go inside instead of using a drive-up window; long periods of idling burn more gas than
starting the engine.
s Drive slower; for every mile per hour over 55 mph, the average car or truck loses almost 2 percent in
gas mileage. (EPA).
manned spacecraft developed by NASA, making both s vehicles available for lease or short-term
electricity and drinking water for the space shuttle. rentals to the public, and
Researchers are looking at ways to mass produce s vehicles garaged at private residences.
them at competitive prices for use in homes and cars. Motorist’s Choice Vehicle Emissions Testing
Alternative Fuels. One way to reduce pollution Program. This program, operated by the Texas
from cars is to change to use cleaner burning fuel Department of Public Safety, applies to vehicle
alternatives such as natural gas, liquid petroleum owners in Dallas, Tarrant, Harris, and El Paso
gas (propane), methanol, ethanol, and electricity, or counties, and is integrated with the annual safety
to use hybrid vehicles which use both electricity and inspection program. Vehicles are tested annually
conventional fuel. Contact your local gas and elec- either at a decentralized test-and-repair facility or
tric utilities about to find out which fuels are avail- at a test-only facility. Gasoline-powered vehicles from
able in your area. Ask auto dealerships about alter- 2 through 24 years old are tested beginning with the
native fuel vehicles (AFVs). Convert your current vehicle’s second model year anniversary. Vehicles
vehicle if this is practical, and support AFV fueling failing the test will have to be repaired and pass a
stations if possible. retest or qualify for a waiver.
Reformulated Gasoline Program. Amendments
Regulatory Programs to the Clean Air Act require nine major metropoli-
Texas Clean Fleet (TCF) Program. State law tan areas of the United States with the worst ozone
requires certain organizations to purchase low- air pollution to use reformulated gasoline (RFG).
emission vehicles in order to meet national require- RFG is designed to reduce air toxins and volatile
ments for reduced emissions. This program applies organic compound emissions (VOCs) by decreasing
to the following: the amount of toxic compounds such as benzene,
s local government fleets with more than 15 vehicles; lowering the evaporation rate, and increasing the
s private fleets with more than 25 fleet vehicles; amount of oxygenate blended with the fuel. The
s mass transit fleets operating primarily in the RFG Program began Jan. 1, 1995, and the Texas
Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston-Galveston and counties that it applies to include the nonattainment
El Paso nonattainment areas (the counties of areas of Houston-Galveston, (Brazoria, Chambers,
Brazoria, Chambers, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery,
El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, and Waller counties) and Dallas–Fort Worth
Montgomery, Tarrant, and Waller). (Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties).
The program allows any vehicle/fuel combina- El Paso Seasonal Gasoline Programs. Because
tion, including gasoline or diesel fuel, certified by the El Paso area does not meet national air quality
the EPA to meet or exceed the federal low-emission standards for both ozone or carbon monoxide, the
vehicle (LEV) standards. TNRCC developed two fuel programs for the area.
The TCF program excludes these vehicles: s The Oxygenated Fuel Program is designed to
s law enforcement vehicles, help reduce carbon monoxide emissions from
s emergency vehicles, the cold starts of motor vehicles during the win-
s vehicles greater than 26,000 lbs., ter months. Oxygenated fuel is conventional
s school buses, gasoline “splash blended” with an oxygenate
s vehicles used in maintenance or repair of such as methanol, ethanol, methyl tertiary butyl
underground mass transit facilities that are ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE),
required to operate on diesel fuel, or tertiary amyl methyl ether (TAME) to achieve
a minimum oxygen content of 2.7 percent by Baghouses. Dry particulates are trapped by
weight. This program, which began in 1992, filters made of cloth, paper, or similar material.
requires that all gasoline in the area be oxygen- The particles are shaken or blown from the filters
ated from October 1 to March 31 of each year. into a collection hopper. Baghouses are used to
s The Low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) Gasoline control air pollutants from steel mills, foundries,
Program is designed to help reduce evaporative and industrial furnaces.
emissions that contribute to the formation of Cyclones. Dust-laden gas is whirled very
ozone during the hot summer months. rapidly inside a collector shaped like a cylinder.
Low RVP gasoline is refined to have a lower The swirling motion creates centrifugal forces,
evaporation rate and lower volatility than conven- causing the particles to be thrown against the walls
tional gasoline. It reduces the evaporative emissions of the cylinder and to drop into a hopper. Cyclones
generated when refueling vehicles, thus decreasing are used for controlling pollutants from cotton gins,
emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and rock crushers, and other industrial processes.
other ozone-forming emissions. This program began Electrostatic Precipitators. Using static elec-
in 1996 and requires that all gasoline in the area tricity, electrostatic precipitators attract particles in
have a maximum Reid vapor pressure of 7.0 pounds much the same way that static electricity in clothing
per square inch absolute (psia) from May 1 through picks up small bits of dust and lint. Electrostatic
September 16 of each year. Gasoline-dispensing precipitators are used instead of baghouses when the
facilities are required to sell low RVP gasoline from particles are suspended in very hot gases, such as in
June 1 through September 16 of each year. emissions from power plants, steel and paper mills,
More information about air quality and transporta- smelters, and cement plants.
tion can be found in a variety of TNRCC publications. Wet Scrubbers. Both particulates and gases are
Refer to the back cover for ordering instructions. controlled by water washing the dust-laden gas.
Scrubbers are used on coal-burning power plants,
Industrial Controls asphalt/concrete plants, and a variety of other facili-
In many industries, more than one type of equip- ties that emit sulfur dioxides, hydrogen sulfides, and
ment or method may be used to control air pollutants. other gases.
The most common methods to reduce or eliminate Dispersion. Air emissions can be discharged
pollutants are described in the following paragraphs. through tall vent stacks so that the natural move-
Fire. Flares burn off waste gases from a variety ment of air currents dilutes and spreads the pollut-
of industrial plants; however, they also produce car- ants. This way, the maximum concentration that
bon dioxide and particulates. Flares are used to burn a person could encounter at ground level would
pollutants on a routine continuous basis (process be reduced. However, this method has the potential
flares) as well as on a nonroutine emergency basis to cause long-range transport problems such as
(safety flares). acid rain.
Air Lesson Plans
Title: Particulate Matter: The Lorax
Author: Clarice Toler, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1994
Grade level: K - 5th grades
TEKS: science: K.2A - E, K.3A, B
Purpose: To help students learn about dirty air; in other words, about visible pollutants.
Objective: Students will check the air for visible pollutants.
Materials: s labels
s colored markers
s five jar lids
s white cardboard or oak tag
s magnifying glasses
Background: 2. Place the jar lids on the cardboard. Carefully
Particulate matter is made up of tiny particles in the trace around the jar lids.
atmosphere that can be solid or liquid (except for 3. Number these circles to match the labels on
water or ice) and is produced by a wide variety of the lids.
natural and manmade sources. Particulate matter 4. Take the lids and cardboard outside. Place
includes dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and tiny particles of them flat in an open area. (Note: rain will spoil
pollutants that have attracted an amount of water so the results so remind students to bring the ex-
small that it does not fall to the ground as rain. Ma- periment inside if the weather turns inclement.)
jor sources of particulate pollution are factories, 5. At the end of the first day, have the children
power plants, refuse incinerators, motor vehicles, remove one lid, starting with number one.
construction activity, fires, and natural windblown 6. Repeat this procedure for the next five days,
dust. Particles below 10 microns in size (about taking away one lid each day.
seven times smaller than the width of a human hair) 7. Have students compare the circles as they re-
are more likely to travel deep in the respiratory sys- move the lids. What observations can they
tem and be deposited deep in the lungs where they make as the days go by?
can be trapped in membranes. If trapped, they can 8. At the end of the fifth day, take away the last
cause excessive growth of fibrous lung tissue, which lid and look at the circles. If the air is dirty, the
leads to permanent injury. Children, the elderly, and circles covered by the low-numbered lids will
people suffering from heart or lung disease are espe- have more specks of dirt than the others. Have
cially at risk. the children use magnifying glasses to count
the dirt specks. Discuss results of experiment.
Lesson: Ask students: Is our air clean or is it dirty?
Read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Discuss with children
how the “smogulous” smoke produced by the Extension:
THNEEDS factory made the Lorax cough, whiff, See the Particulate Matter “Information, Activities
sneeze, snuff, snarggle, and croak. Talk with stu- and Data” page for suggested activities using par-
dents about air pollution produced by cars and other ticulate matter data collected by the Texas Natural
machinery with gas-burning engines, as well as Resource Conservation Commission and provided
emissions produced by furnaces, fireplaces, facto- in the El Paso Particulate Data, Houston Particulate
ries, and incinerators. Then have the students work Data, El Paso Particulate Map, and Houston Particu-
with a partner to conduct this experiment to see how late Map files. Make a list of things students can do
dirty the air is. to fight air pollution.
1. Write the numbers one through five on the la-
bels. Place one label to the top of each jar lid.
1 – 10
Title: Plants and Oxygen: Breathing Easy
Author: Linda Abbott, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1994
Grade level: 2nd - 5th grades
TEKS: science: 2.2A - E, 2.3A, B, C, 2.7A
social studies: 2.7B
Purpose: To help students understand that trees and plants produce a lot of the oxygen we breathe.
Objective: To show students how plants produce oxygen.
Materials: s a clear, deep glass bowl of water (a small aquarium works well)
s a glass jar
s a few water plants such as pondweed (may be purchased at pet store)
Background: 2. Place the plants in a deep bowl of water.
The Earth’s atmosphere is a mixture of gases, water 3. Fill the glass jar with water by lowering it
vapor, and a variety of solid particles and liquid drop- on its side into the bowl, letting all trapped
lets. In some respects, air differs from place to place air bubbles escape.
around the globe. The air in a tropical rain forest is 4. Turn the glass upside down to cover the plants.
hot and steamy. On the other hand, some people 5. Leave the plants in a sunny place and watch
travel to the seaside to enjoy the salt air. Visitors go what happens. Oxygen bubbles from the plants
to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee to view the will start rising toward the surface of the wa-
bluish air. On a cold night in the Arctic, the air feels ter. Eventually a pocket of oxygen will collect
particularly dry and “pure.” Dry, filtered indoor air at the top of the jar.
is roughly 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, 6. Explain to students that plants and trees
and one percent other gases. Most samples of out- release oxygen into the air. [During the process
side air contain some water vapor as well. In a hot, of making food from carbon dioxide and wa-
steamy jungle, air may contain five percent water ter, trees and plants give off oxygen. Energy
vapor, whereas in a dry desert or a cold polar region from the sun is used to change the carbon di-
there may be almost no water vapor. oxide and water into food and release oxygen.
This process is called photosynthesis. Cutting
Lesson: down too many trees could leave us breathless.]
1. Hold up a plant and ask students if they 7. Have students write about the experiment
believe that plants help us breathe. and tell how it works.
Note: Plants need to be healthy and the experiment needs to be done in a sunny location.
1 – 11
Title: Ozone Pollution: Smog Alert
Author: Lois Myers and Kelly West, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1995
Grade level: 4th - 5th grades
TEKS: science: 4.1A, B, 4.2A - D, 4.3A - D, 4.4A, 4.6A, 5.1A, B, 5.2A - D, 5.3A - D, 5.4A
social studies: 4.9C, 5.9C, 5.24D
Purpose: To help students understand ozone pollution and make them aware of how it is formed.
Objective: Student will simulate the development of smog and infer how it occurs in nature.
Focus: Hold up a news headline about air pollution. Ask if anyone knows what ozone pollution or smog is.
Materials: s glass jar s ruler
s water s scissors
s aluminum foil s matches
s 2 or 3 ice cubes s paper
Background: warm air settles over a layer of cool air that lies near
Ozone is the same molecule regardless of where it is the ground. This condition prevents the smog from
found, but its significance varies. Stratospheric ozone rising and scattering. Mountain ranges near cities
is found nine to 18 miles high where it shields us may also trap smog in an area.
from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. High
accumulations of ozone gas in the lower atmosphere Lesson:
at ground level is air pollution and can be harmful to (This activity should be done with adult supervision.
people, animals, crops, and other materials. Do not breathe in the “smog.”)
Elevated levels above the national standard may 1. Cut a strip of paper about 15 centimeters by
cause lung and respiratory disorders. Short-term ex- 1 centimeter. Fold the strip’s length in half
posure can result in shortness of breath, coughing, and twist the paper.
chest tightness, or irritation of nose and throat. Indi- 2. Make a “lid” for a glass jar by shaping a piece
viduals exercising outdoors, children, the elderly, of aluminum foil over the open end of the jar.
and people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses Remove the foil and put it aside.
are particularly susceptible. Chemists have found 3. Put some water in the jar and swish it around
that the materials damaged by ozone include rubber, so that the inside walls of the jar are wet. Pour
nylon, plastics, dyes, and paints. out the water.
Ozone pollution, a component of smog, is 4. Place two or three ice cubes on top of the foil
mainly a daytime problem during summer months lid to make it cold.
because sunlight plays a primary role in its forma- 5. Light the strip of paper and drop it and the
tion. Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons are known match into the damp jar. Put the foil lid on the
as the chief precursors of ozone. These compounds jar and seal it tightly. Keep the ice cubes on
react in the presence of sunlight to produce ozone. top of the foil, in the middle. (You must do all
The sources of these precursor pollutants include of this very quickly.)
cars, trucks, power plants and factories, or wherever 6. Ask students: What do you see in the jar? How
natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, and oil is this like real smog? When you are finished,
are combusted. These gaseous compounds mix like release the “smog” outdoors.
a thin soup in the atmosphere, and when they inter-
act with sunlight, ozone is formed. Extensions:
Large industrial areas and cities with heavy sum- See the ozone “Information, Activities and Data” page
mer traffic are the main contributors to ozone for- for suggested activities using ozone data collected by
mation. When temperatures are high and the mixing the TNRCC provided in the Texas Cities Data, Hous-
of air currents is limited, ozone can accumulate to ton and El Paso Data for 1993 and Houston Data for
unhealthful levels. 20 Years files. Does your local newspaper or weather
Weather conditions such as lack of wind or a channel have a pollution index or other type of report
“thermal inversion” can cause smog to build up in on pollution in your area? Record this information over
an area. A thermal inversion occurs when a layer of several days and see how it changes.
1 – 12
Title: Acid Rain Collection and Mapping
Author: Terri Danenburg
Grade level: 4th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 4.2B-E
Objectives: The students will be able to measure the pH of local rainwater and map the location of the
collected rainwater according to pH levels.
Vocabulary: acid rain, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, greenhouse effect, global warming
Materials: s large-mouth container to collect rainwater
s sealed container to transport rainwater to class
s pH paper
s city map
Background: 4. Test the pH level of the water.
A by-product of burning coal is the production of 5. Locate the collection point on the city map
carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. An increase and record the pH level.
in atmospheric carbon dioxide may result in an in- 6. Connect areas of equal pH level. Identify areas
crease in the greenhouse effect and global warming. that have low pH between 0 and 6 (acidic).
Increased production of sulphur dioxide increases 7. Identify possible causes of high or low levels
the occurrence of acid rain. Clouds and rain forming of acidity in different areas (industrial areas).
in the presence of sulphur dioxide combine to form
a weak sulfuric acid. Assessment:
The students should complete a map and answer
Lesson: the following questions:
1. Lesson must be taught 1 day after a rain shower 1. In which areas of your community
2. Each student should collect a sample of rain was the rain found to be acidic?
water from their neighborhood. The rain water 2. What factors might have caused these
can be collected in any clean, wide-mouth areas to have more acidic rain than others?
container. Be careful that the water collected
is not runoff from roofs or trees. Enrichment:
3. After a rain, transport the water back to school The students can research methods that industries or
in a closed container. local factories use to prevent acid rain formation.
1 – 13
Title: Air Pollution Survey
Author: Brianna McMullen, TES
Grade Level: 4th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 5.2A-E, 5.3A-D
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Identify the different sources of air pollution
2. Evaluate knowledge of air pollution
3. Brainstorm ways of reducing air pollution
4. Instruct the school and community in the reduction of air pollution
Vocabulary: air pollution, NOX, VOC, emissions, acid rain, smog, ozone, CFC, EPA, Clean Air Act
Materials: s example surveys
s stopwatch to measure cars passing
s Internet access, telephone, fax, business letter guidelines
Background: The teams will collect data for 3 weeks.
Air pollution refers to contamination of the air by The students will switch teams each week
harmful gases or particles. Pollutants can be re- so that all students experience each job.
leased by individuals, homes, automobiles, and in- 3. At the end of the data collection period, stu-
dustry. Once the sources of air pollution are identi- dents will compile their data and begin to iden-
fied, examination of methods to prevent the release tify areas where their community might have
of pollutants can be explored. air pollution problems and what can be done to
reduce the pollution. (Sample issues: car pool-
Lesson: ing, natural gas automobiles, emissions stan-
1. Lecture on air pollution concepts, the Clean dards, alternative energy sources.)
Air Act, and air pollution prevention.
2. Split the class into 3 teams: Assessment:
s Team one will design surveys for the The final project will be to design fliers, posters,
school and community to evaluate how video messages, announcements, etc. for the school
much people know about air pollution. and community to inform them of the class’s results
s Team two will survey cars and buses and and encourage them to be aware of air pollution.
determine how many cars pass by the
school in a certain period of time at differ- Enrichment:
ent times of the day and how many people Coordinate the study with air issues in the current
are in each car and bus. city council/legislative/congressional session or po-
s Team three will contact representatives litical campaigns. Invite guest speakers from EPA,
from local industries about their air pollu- industry or other environmental organizations. Have
tion policies by using business letters, tele- a school car pooling rewards program or other con-
phone, fax and Internet access. test to encourage clean air measures.
1 – 14
Title: Air Pollution Letter Writing
Author: Catherine Inmon, University of Texas at El Paso TES, 1996
Grade level: 4th - 8th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 6th grade
science: 6.2E, 6.3B, D
social studies: 6.21A-F, 6.22A-E, 6.23A-B
language arts: 6.15A, 6.20A, 6.21B
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Design business letters addressed to state officials using the proper form
2. Request information concerning air quality issues
3. Evaluate information received in brochures, charts, graphs, text
4. Summarize air quality issues in the United States
Vocabulary: air pollution, NOX, VOC, emissions, acid rain, smog,
ozone, CFC, particulates, EPA, Clean Air Act, SIP
Materials: s chart with the names of states for student sign-up s Internet access
s addresses of government officials, envelopes, and stamps s graph paper
s business letter format
Background: 7. Students write letters and e-mail requesting
Air quality is directly related to sources of pollut- information about air quality.
ants in an area. All states do not have identical air 8. Teacher should approve all correspondence
quality concerns or management plans. Air does before it is sent.
travel, however, so the problems of one area can 9. Students should compile information as they
quickly become the problems of an adjacent area. A receive responses and share the information
survey of all 50 states will illustrate the geographic they receive with cooperative groups.
variations in air pollution issues and should suggest 10. Cooperative groups should present their
a need for cooperation between states and countries findings to the class.
to address air pollution problems 11. Teacher should lead group discussion to
identify air topics common among all states.
Lesson: 12. Students and teacher should choose a method
1. This activity should follow a study of air to graph and present their data. A suggestion
quality issues. would be to choose air quality topics and cre-
2. Display chart of state names and have ate a bar graph illustrating the number of
students adopt them one at a time. Continue states that mentioned that topic.
until all states have been chosen. Extra credit
may be given for adopting extra states. Assessment:
3. If Internet access is available, students
s Grammar and professionalism
should search the web for their state’s capital
in letter/e-mail correspondence
city. If the Internet is not used, other resources
s Ability to find information in reference
for this information should be made available
materials and on the Internet
s Cooperative group presentations
4. Students should list capital city next to their
s Graphing ability
state on the class chart.
5. Students should then begin a search for air
quality information about their state (environ- Enrichment:
mental state agencies, specific air pollution s Students write journal entries
concerns in the area, etc...). about what they learned
6. Students should create a list of 3-5 addresses/ s Students write laws for their
e-mail and 2 Web sites to contact concerning state to improve air quality
air pollution in their state. s Guest speaker on air quality
1 – 15
Title: The Path of Pollution
Author: Texas Southern University TES Course
Grade level: 7th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 7.2A - E, 7.3A, B, D, 7.14A, C
Purpose: To follow the path of pollution from the Chernobyl accident.
Objective: Students will name and locate countries where radiation from the Chernobyl accident traveled;
describe how air pollution travels from one area to another; and will list the travel of radiation
in chronological order.
Materials: s student copy of Explosion at Chernobyl s atlas of encyclopedias
s pencil s map of Europe
s sticky dots or stickers to mark map s Pollution Points handout
s world map
Background: one definition. Divide students into groups to brain-
Most major air pollutants are invisible, although storm about things that pollute the air. Have groups
large amounts of them concentrated in areas such as take turns recording ideas on an air pollution chart
cities can be seen as smog. One often visible air pol- posted in the room.
lutant is particulate matter, especially when the sur- Students may work individually or in groups.
faces of buildings and other structures have been Discuss with the students what air pollution is and
exposed to it for long periods of time or when it is how it travels. Pass out the Explosion at Chernobyl
present in large amounts. Particulate matter is made information sheet. The students can read and discuss
up of tiny particles of solid matter and/or droplets of the article. Using the Pollution Points handout, stu-
liquid. Natural sources include volcanic ash, pollen, dents will plot the course the radiation took each
and dust blown by the wind. Coal and oil burned by day. Points should be plotted numerically and in se-
power plants and industries and diesel fuel burned quence, chronologically. (Be sure to make reference
by many vehicles are the chief sources of man-made materials available to locate countries.)
particulate pollutants, but not all important sources
are large scale. The use of wood in fireplaces and Extension:
wood-burning stoves also produces significant Split the class into two teams. Each team will work
amounts of particulate matter in localized areas, al- together to map the pollution points. Mark
though the total amounts are much smaller than Chernobyl’s location with a sticker. The mapping
those from vehicles, power plants, and industries. will start with someone from the first team reading
Our air “knows” no boundaries. Wind can carry pollution point location number “one” out loud. He/
pollutants hundreds of miles from their origin. The she will have 40 seconds to find that city on the map
distance air pollutants travel depends on how high and mark it with a sticker. Team members can help
in the atmosphere they go. If the pollutants don’t the player by giving directional tips, but they cannot
rise very high, they are deposited close to their point to any specific location. If the team member
source. However, pollutants that are lifted high into finds the location point within 40 seconds, that team
the atmosphere may travel thousands of miles be- gets one point. If not, the other team gets a chance
fore they drop back to Earth. Air does not “know” to find the correct location. Teams take turns locat-
local, state, national or international boundaries. By ing the points until all 29 points have been mapped.
tracing the movement of radiation released during
the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Evaluation:
students will see how air pollution, like particulate Students may be given a clean map and asked to
matter, can become a global issue. plot the points independently. Write answers to
questions such as: What other forms of air pollution
Lesson: can you think of? How is our community affected
Ask each student: What is air pollution? Write all by air pollution?
ideas on the board. Through discussion, arrive at
1 – 16
Chapter 2 – Water
In nature there is neither praise or
blame, but there are consequences.
Chapter Notes ................................................ 2-1 Key Water Quantity Concerns ................. 2-14
Lesson Plans ....................................................... 2-1 Population Growth ............................................ 2-14
TNRCC Publications .......................................... 2-1 Depletion of Aquifers ....................................... 2-15
Safety .................................................................. 2-1 Surface Water Use ............................................ 2-15
Freshwater Inflow Needs .................................. 2-15
Background and Facts about Water ......... 2-1 Water Conservation .......................................... 2-16
Water Cycle ........................................................ 2-2 Water Rights and Watermasters ....................... 2-16
Surface Water ..................................................... 2-3
Groundwater ....................................................... 2-4 Colonias ......................................................... 2-17
Relationship between Surface Water Erosion ............................................................ 2-18
and Groundwater ........................................... 2-5
Drinking Water ................................................... 2-5 Water Lesson Plans .................................... 2-19
K: Is Our Water Clean? ................................. 2-19
Monitoring and Indicators K-8: Water Conservation Task ......................... 2-20
of Water Quality............................................. 2-6 K-8: Where Does the Water Go? ..................... 2-21
Indicators of Water Quality ................................ 2-6 1-3: Oily Oceans .............................................. 2-22
Water Monitoring ............................................... 2-9 2-6: Hopscotch Migration ............................... 2-23
3: Clean Water ............................................. 2-24
Key Water Quality Concerns ...................... 2-9 4: Underground Pollution ............................. 2-26
Sources of Pollution ......................................... 2-10 4-5: Wetlands/Watershed Model ..................... 2-27
Preventing Nonpoint Source Pollution ............. 2-12 5: Making a Water Filter .............................. 2-29
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) ........... 2-13 5-6: Storm Drain Dumping .............................. 2-30
Watershed Management ................................... 2-13 5-8: An Experiment Testing Growth of Algae ... 2-31
6-8: Aquifers: Unlimited or Not ...................... 2-32
6-8: Don’t Cry Over Spilled Oil ...................... 2-33
1 – 17
Chapter Notes depend on good quality water. The waters of Texas
Lesson Plans vary depending on the seasonal changes and regional
To maintain the contributing teachers’ personal and local water sources. Water quality can be affected
style, the TNRCC has only moderately edited the by natural factors, temperature changes, and human
lesson plans. However, agency staff have reviewed factors. This chapter is intended to provide teachers
them for technical accuracy. with the general background to help students under-
The lessons provided in this publication are stand water sources, water use, water quality, and
intended to promote awareness of environmental water conservation.
sciences through simple activities. Teachers should s Water is the only substance that occurs
adapt the lesson plans to meet the needs of their naturally in all three physical states (solid—
particular students. Before using or adapting these as ice; liquid—in its usual state; and gas—
lesson plans, the TNRCC suggests that teachers as clouds or fog). Water changes from one
familiarize themselves with the background infor- form to another when the temperature changes.
mation provided in each chapter (of course, these s The Earth has the same amount of water
background sections are not a comprehensive treat- as there was when the Earth was formed.
ment of their subjects.) The water from your faucet could contain
Grade levels and correlations to the Texas molecules that dinosaurs drank.
Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are noted s Nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface
on each lesson plan; these are intended as sugges- is covered with water; more than 97 percent
tions only. of it is salt water (useless for plant and animal
consumption) and another 2 percent is locked
TNRCC Publications in ice caps and glaciers. Just 1 percent of the
This guide frequently refers you to TNRCC Earth’s water is left for human use.
publications. For information on obtaining publica- sA person can live about a month without
tions, see the back cover. food, but only about a week without water.
The average total home water use for each
Safety person in the U.S. is about 50 gallons a day.
For detailed information on safety issues re- s The U.S. uses more water than other
lated to classroom science activities, refer to the countries: 525,000 gallons annually per
Texas Safety Standards Manual (Second Edition) capita. Of that amount, 90 percent of it
Kindergarten through Grade 12, which is available was used for industry and agricultural
from the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) science needs (including water used for electrical
department by calling 512/463 9556. You can power and for cooling.)
also view the manual on the Science TEKS Toolkit s Texas has 191,228 miles of streams and
Web page located at www.tenet.edu/teks/science. rivers; 10,196 reservoirs; about 6.5 million
acres of inland wetlands; 2,394 square
miles of bays and estuaries; and 624 miles
Background and of coastal shoreline.
Facts about Water s The state has 23 major watersheds and nearly
Water quality is determined by looking at its 200,000 miles of streams and rivers. Of the
physical, biological, and chemical characteristics. total miles of streams in Texas, 79 percent of
Humans, wildlife, and aquatic plants and animals them have intermittent flow during some part
of the year, which means these streams have por- s According to the Texas Environmental Alma-
tions that are completely dry some of the time. nac, about 21 million gallons of wastewater
sA dripping faucet can waste up to 2,000 gallons is discharged per day, enough to fill Texas
of water a year. A leaky toilet can waste as Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, more
much as 200 gallons of water a day. than 27 times.
s In 1999, after Thanksgiving dinner, 16.4 million
Americans will watch football. At halftime, Water Cycle
they will flush approximately 16.4 million Water is constantly moving between the ocean,
toilets and use 48.5 million gallons of water. atmosphere, and land. The water or hydrologic cycle
Water-efficient toilets would save 22.3 million (see Figure 1) is the natural pathway that water fol-
gallons of water, which would fill 1,476 back- lows as it moves through the ecosphere in its vari-
yard swimming pools. ous forms. Water moves into the atmosphere from
Figure 1. The Hydrologic Cycle
Surface runoff Transpiration
Groundwater flow Evaporation
Figure 2. Watersheds Ocean
the Earth’s surface through evaporation or transpira- runoff seeks a path of least resistance. Very steep
tion. Water vapor condenses in the atmosphere and terrain results in swift-moving water that may cut a
returns to the surface in the form of precipitation. deep stream channel and flush sediments. In flat
Water available for human use is captured in transit, land, the stream may be shallow and meandering
and, after its use and reuse, is returned to the hydro- with many sediments found suspended in the water.
logic cycle from which it came. A stream channel naturally provides a variety of
When precipitation falls to the ground, it is habitats for plants and animals in pools, riffles, root
absorbed into the ground, or runs over or through mats, plants, and undercut banks (see Figure 3).
the Earth into nearby streams, lakes, or underground Along with the depth and flow of the water, habitats
water supplies. Energy from the sun’s heat and usually determine the type of aquatic organisms
gravity keep the water moving from one stage to found in the stream. When a stream’s banks are
another in the cycle. The hydrologic cycle has no covered with trees, shrubs, and non-woody plants,
beginning or end; it’s the constant recycling of the they protect against erosion through complex root
Earth’s water supply. systems that serve as a filter, collect sediment, and
The ability of a natural system to regenerate it- absorb nutrients.
self and maintain good water quality is affected by:
s the concentration of impurities Figure 3. The Stream System
s the speed and amount of water
s the materials the water flows over or through
s the steepness of the land
Stream systems include surrounding water-
sheds, streams, stream channels, rivers, in stream
habitats, stream banks, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.
All of the components in the stream system influ-
ence living things within the water, so it is impor-
tant to consider every element in the study of stream
systems. Most Texas streams drain into the Gulf of
Mexico, affecting the bay and estuary systems.
Watersheds. Watersheds (see Figure 2) are
areas where surface water flows toward a particular
body of water such as a stream. A watershed is like
a bowl with all water running downhill to the center.
The total area of land that contributes runoff to the
stream is determined by the land’s layout. A ridge
or other area of elevated land, called a divide, sepa- The above diagram shows the water flow and major struc-
tures of a stream. Notice how the pools and riffles alternate.
rates one watershed from another. A major feature of the riffle is that water flows through the
Streams. Streams originate from rainwater, gravel as well as over it. This enables fish eggs and small
benthic invertebrates to obtain the oxygen they need while
springs, and snowmelt, flowing into a series of being protected from predation by larger organisms such
water bodies, and finally to the ocean. The water
path, or stream channel, created from watershed (Source: Kentucky Division of Water)
Rivers. Rivers are large, natural streams that coast, bottomland hardwoods in East Texas, and
return excess rain or snow to the ocean. They are playa lakes in the Panhandle.
extremely important as sources of water, avenues For more information, see the TNRCC’s publica-
for commerce, food, recreational use, and sources tions Conducting a Watershed Survey (GI-232, rev.
of hydroelectric power. 3/01) and the Guide to Freshwater Ecology (GI-034).
Ponds and Lakes. Some ponds develop where
streams have stopped flowing through old channels Groundwater
or where deposits of soil prevent water from flow- The primary source of groundwater is precipita-
ing through channels. Ponds are small, quiet bodies tion. When the ground absorbs rain or other water, it
of water that are usually shallow enough for sun- leaves water in interstices, or void spaces, of rocks;
light to reach the bottom. The sunlight enables this is groundwater. In natural areas, such as forests,
rooted plants to grow across the bottom of a pond the vegetation slows the flow of water over the land,
from shore to shore. Lakes are formed when streams which filters out impurities (such as sediments, oil
are dammed naturally or by human action, causing and grease, and bacteria) and reduces erosion of the
water to collect in large pools. Lakes create little land. In these areas, as much as half of the rainfall is
worlds of their own. Water plants live under the absorbed into the ground. In urban areas, impervi-
surface of lakes and provide food for aquatic life. ous cover (like parking lots and rooftops) keep the
Reservoirs. Reservoirs are created when people ground from absorbing water; less than one-third of
erect structures to dam surface water. Most reser- the rainfall is absorbed in many urban areas.
voirs consist of a retaining structure or dam and a Aquifers. Water bearing layers of permeable
spillway that limits the maximum water level. Many rock, gravel, or sand are called aquifers. Two essen-
reservoirs also have outlet structures that allow the tial rock characteristics for water movement are:
controlled release of water. The main purposes of s porosity, the amount of open space contained
a reservoir is to stabilize the flow of water from a in the rock, and
watershed to prevent flooding and to satisfy the s permeability, the ability of the porous material
varying demands of water consumers. to allow fluids to move through it.
Estuaries. Estuaries are unique water bodies For a geologic formation to be an aquifer, it
where fresh water from rivers, streams, and direct must be porous, permeable, and water-bearing.
rainfall mixes with salt water from the sea. Habitats Recharge. Recharge is the addition of water
include river deltas, emergent marshes, mud and directly into an aquifer or indirectly by way of another
sand flats, submerged seagrass beds, oyster reefs, aquifer. Also, it may mean the quantity of water in
and open bay bottoms. the aquifer. Only a small percentage of precipitation
Wetlands. Wetlands are low, flat areas where actually reaches the groundwater through recharge.
water accumulates and promotes growth of certain Recharge rates in groundwater systems vary.
types of vegetation and certain types of habitat. Effective Recharge. Effective recharge is the
They are transitional areas between land and water amount of water that enters an aquifer and is avail-
where soil is moist enough to support vegetation. able for withdrawal.
Wetlands provide a home for plants and wildlife, Discharge. Discharge is the loss of water from
recharge aquifers, control flooding, and act as an aquifer. Discharge may be either artificial or
natural filters for rivers, lakes, and streams. There natural. Artificial discharge takes place from flow-
are many different types of wetlands found in dif- ing and pumped water wells, drainage ditches,
ferent parts of the state: tidal marshes along the gravel pits, and other excavations that intersect the
water table. Natural discharge occurs as effluent of groundwater usually involves substances released
seepage to rivers and lakes, springs, evaporation, on or slightly below the land surface; therefore,
transpiration, and interformational leakage. Even shallow aquifers are normally more easily polluted
though movement through an aquifer may be only a than deeper aquifers. Groundwater pollution occurs
few feet per year, eventually, the groundwater will by infiltration, direct migration, interaquifer exchange,
discharge to the surface, but the time it takes to do and recharge from contaminated surface water.
so may vary from two weeks to 10,000 years. During floods, the river height may be higher
To determine the water availability in an aqui- than the groundwater entrance into the river. When
fer, professionals consider the aquifer’s ability to this happens, a reversal of flow allows surface water
store water (the recharge level), the aquifer’s ability and any contaminants to enter the groundwater system.
to move water to discharge areas. When groundwater pumping lowers a stream’s wa-
Water Table. A small percentage of precipita- ter level, a nearby stream or lake may leak in, also
tion will percolate downward through the soil by the causing a reversal of flow.
force of gravity to the zone of saturation, in which Groundwater discharges can affect the quality
the hydrostatic pressure in the water-filled void of the surface water. Most aquifers contain water
spaces of the permeable rocks of the aquifer is equal that ranges from fresh to brackish (somewhat salty).
to or greater than atmospheric pressure. The upper Many deeper groundwater resources, however, have
surface of this zone is called the water table. slightly salty to very saline water. The quality of
Water entering the zone of saturation moves to natural groundwater and surface water varies widely
lower elevations where it is eventually discharged within Texas. In general, the quality of surface
naturally or artificially. Above the zone of satura- waters improves from west to east across the state,
tion, the rock void spaces are partially filled by reflecting an improvement in groundwater quality
moisture and partially by air. This area is known as and increased precipitation.
the zone of aeration. Groundwater moves relatively slowly through
The water table fluctuates in response to a the aquifer, as little as a few feet per year, and in
change in the volume of water in storage within distinct paths with little mixing. In contrast, the flow
the aquifer, such as seasonal recharge. of surface water is turbulent and often fast.
Relationship between Surface Drinking Water
Water and Groundwater Most Texans get their drinking water from
Both regional and local hydrologic conditions public water systems; others get water directly
affect the availability of water. In humid and semiarid from a well. A public water system is a utility, water
areas such as those found in most of Texas, an aquifer’s district, or water supply corporation. They get their
water table normally is close to or at the surface. water from a natural source of groundwater (aqui-
Groundwater may eventually flow into a stream fer) or surface water (lake or river). Some systems
or body of surface water. Approximately 30 percent may get their water from both sources.
of the nation’s surface water flow is provided by
groundwater. During dry weather, a stream’s entire Treatment
flow may be due to groundwater discharge. Public water systems must clean the water, test
Protection of groundwater sources is especially it, and measure pollutants to make sure the water is
important since cleanup of contaminated groundwa- safe to drink. Treatment may include disinfection
ter is difficult and expensive. Human contamination with chlorine or other chemicals to kill germs in
water. The water that suppliers deliver to people Distribution
must meet strict standards, which were set by the Once the water has been treated, the water
federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The water is system distributes it to homes for people to use for
sampled and tested before it leaves the plant to drinking, bathing, cooking, washing, watering their
ensure that the water is safe for people. yard, and recreation. Water systems also distribute
A drinking water treatment plant will perform water to businesses, factories, restaurants, parks,
the following steps: sports arena, and fire hydrants.
1. Intake—Water is taken in from the source. The water travels through large pipes called
Plants, fish, and other materials are screened mains. Large valves, like giant faucet handles, are
out at the intake and the water is drawn into the used to control the water. Water system managers
treatment plant. If the source is groundwater, can shut off the water if the system has problems or
the screening is done by soil as water travels repairs are needed. Water system employees sample
through the earth’s surface. This is why ground- and test the water throughout the distribution
water often needs very little treatment. process to make sure it is safe for their customers.
2. Chemical Addition—Aluminum sulfate (alum), Water system operators measure the amount of
polymers, and/or chlorine are added to the water they pump each day, as well as the amount
water to kill germs, improve taste and odor, of water used in each home or business, by using a
and settle solids in the water. water meter. Someone reads the meter on a regular
3. Coagulation and Flocculation—Coagulation basis, and the water system bills each home or busi-
occurs when alum and other chemicals from the ness for the amount of water used.
chemical addition step cling to particles in the When used water goes down the drain, it travels
water. This process causes the particles to stick through a sewer to the wastewater treatment plant.
together and form larger particles called floc. The wastewater is treated and returned to the natural
4. Sedimentation—Water and the floc particles flow source. To avoid health problems, water must be
into a sedimentation basin. Here the floc settles to protected at the source, during treatment, and at the
the bottom and is removed from the water. tap to ensure a safe, plentiful supply.
5. Filtration—The water flows through filters
made of sand and gravel to remove any par- Monitoring and Indicators
ticles left in the water. of Water Quality
6. Disinfection—Small amounts of chlorine or Indicators of Water Quality
other disinfecting chemicals are added to kill The study of water (limnology) involves several
any remaining germs and to keep the water safe characteristics: physical, such as water temperature,
as it is sent to the public. stream velocity, and turbidity or clarity; chemical,
7. Storage—The water is placed in a closed tank referring to the chemical makeup of water such as
or reservoir, which will allow time for the chlo- the amount of dissolved oxygen, phosphate, and ni-
rine to mix throughout the water so disinfection trate; and biological, referring to the organisms the
takes place. water supports such as bacteria, plankton, macro-
After treatment, drinking water may encounter invertebrate (insects, crayfish, etc.), and fish. These
lead and asbestos from corrosion of piping materials, conditions are used to determine water quality.
bacteria and dirt from leaking pipes, and plumbing Water Temperature. Temperature affects feed-
connections that can suck polluted water into pipes ing, reproduction, and the metabolism of aquatic
instead of pushing it out. animals. Temperature also affects the solubility of
compounds in water, distribution and abundance of eroded soil, or plankton blooms due to high levels
organisms living in the water, and rates of chemical of nutrients.
reactions, among other things. Dissolved Oxygen. Oxygen is as essential to
Conductivity. Conductivity is a measure of aquatic life as it is to life on land. The amount of
water’s ability to pass an electrical current. A failing oxygen in water is called the dissolved oxygen (DO)
sewage system could raise the conductivity because concentration. DO directly relates to water tempera-
of the presence of chloride, phosphate, and nitrate; ture (the colder the water the more oxygen it can
an oil spill would lower the conductivity because oil hold). Dissolved oxygen is vital to fish and other
does not conduct electrical current very well. aquatic life.
Salinity. Salinity is the total of all salts dissolved Traditionally, the level of dissolved oxygen has
in water and is used to refer to waters receiving been accepted as the single most important indicator
marine inflow such as bays and estuaries. The salt of a water body’s ability to support desirable aquatic
content of water affects the distribution of animal life because it is essential for all plants and animals.
and plant species based on the amount of salinity When oxygen levels in the water fall below about
they can tolerate. three parts per million (ppm), fish and many other
Bacteria. The presence of bacteria is significant aquatic organisms may not survive. Oxygen is a
as indicators of pollution. High levels of bacteria are particularly sensitive factor because chemicals,
not desirable. Fecal coliform bacteria is measured to biological processes, and temperatures often deter-
determine if water is safe for swimming. mine its availability at different times during the year.
Algae. Algae attract attention because of their Oxygen is transferred from the atmosphere
bright colors and overabundance in nutrient-enriched into the surface waters by the aerating action of
streams, ponds, and lakes. While the majority of the wind. It is also added at or near the surface as
freshwater algae are microscopic, the more obvious a by-product of plant photosynthesis—floating and
forms are often referred to as “pond moss” or rooted aquatic plants and phytoplankton increase
“scum.” Slick rocks in streams are often due to algae DO levels. Since the existence of plants also
growths. High-quality streams and lakes contain depends on the availability of light, the oxygen-
sparse to moderate amounts of algae, assuring an producing processes occur only near the surface
adequate food supply to maintain productive or in shallow waters where sunlight can penetrate.
macroinvertebrate and fish communities. Waters Oxygen levels may be reduced because the water is
with little or no algae may be affected by toxic too warm (such as near a power plant) or because
substances or located in low-nutrient watersheds. there are too many bacteria or aquatic organisms
Water Clarity. Material that becomes mixed using the oxygen in a given area.
and suspended in water reduces clarity. Factors con- Acidity (pH level). Water’s acidity is determined
tributing to this turbidity are varied. In the summer, by its pH level. At a pH of 7.0, water is said to be
plankton often reduce water clarity when they grow neutral. When the pH is less than 7.0, the water is
and multiply very rapidly in warm, sunlit, nutrient- acidic, and if it’s greater than 7.0, the water is basic
rich water. During periods of heavy runoff, silt is or alkaline. The pH level affects aquatic life indi-
also a factor. Moderately low levels of turbidity may rectly by changing other aspects of water chemistry.
indicate a healthy, well-functioning ecosystem in A pH change of one whole number is quite a large
which plankton flourish at a reasonable level to change. The pH scale is logarithmic, so that an
form the foundation of the food web. High turbidity increase of one number is equal to a factor of 10.
is an indicator of either runoff from disturbed or For instance, toxic metals trapped in sediment are
released into the water at lower pH levels, and the In a certain quantity and proportion, nutrients
level of ammonia that fish can tolerate varies tre- such as fertilizers from urban runoff can contribute
mendously within a small range of pH values. to an overabundance of plant growth. An abundance
Water dissolves mineral substances it comes in of plants causes dissolved oxygen (due to photosyn-
contact with, picks up aerosols and dust from the thesis) to increase during the day and to decrease
air, receives man-made wastes, and supports photo- (due to respiration) at night. When plants die, bacte-
synthetic organisms, all of which affect water pH. rial decomposition increases and dissolved oxygen
Photosynthesis by aquatic plants removes carbon falls due to increased respiration, lowering the oxy-
dioxide (CO2) from the water, which can signifi- gen supply in the water.
cantly increase pH. In waters with abundant plant Depth. Shallow ponds and lakes have similar
life, an increase in pH can be expected during a physical characteristics (temperature and oxygen)
sunny afternoon, especially in low-velocity or still from top to bottom. The water is generally well
waters. Other events in the watershed that may also mixed by wind. When a body of water is well mixed,
affect pH include increased leaching of soils or min- the physical characteristics vary little with depth. If
erals during snowmelt or heavy precipitation, acci- light can penetrate to the bottom, photosynthesis and
dental spills, agricultural runoff (pesticides, fertiliz- plant growth can occur throughout the water column.
ers, soil leachates), and sewage overflows. Larger, deeper lakes become layered during
Phosphates and Nutrients. Phosphates, chemi- warm summer months. This layering is known as
cal compounds that are made from the element stratification. During summer months, increased sun-
phosphorus, are sometimes used in detergents and light and warm winds heat the surface water, trapping
fertilizers. A stream at its headwaters would prob- colder waters at the bottom. Differences in the densi-
ably contain very little natural phosphorus, but by ties of warm and cold water resist mixing by wind.
the time it reaches a river, the level of phosphorus Unlike shallow lakes and pond, the physical charac-
could sharply rise due to point and nonpoint source teristics of a deep lake vary from top to bottom.
pollution. The heaviest concentration of phospho- Stratification creates three different zones:
rus in a water system is usually in estuaries where s epilimnion: the warmest water; characterized by
rivers meet the ocean. Urban activities such as freely circulating surface waters with variable
using phosphate-rich laundry detergent, washing temperatures. This is usually the area where the
cars, and applying fertilizers can greatly increase majority of organisms are found. It is the area
phosphate levels. of greatest productivity and light penetration.
Nitrates are also plant nutrients, and they are The oxygen concentration is usually greatest in
found mostly in fertilizers. Plants need a much this zone.
greater amount of nitrate than they do phosphate, s metalimnion: characterized by steep and rapid
but both can be considered as “limiting nutrients.” declines in temperature. The thermocline is
This means that if there is an appropriate balance found in this zone, which is the area of most
of phosphate and nitrate in the water, the aquatic rapid temperature decrease, 1O C per each meter
plants will grow and reproduce at an ideal rate. But of depth. Warm water is much lighter than cold
if there is more of one nutrient than the other, then water, which is heavy and tends to sink to the
the scarcer nutrient is said to be the “limiting nutri- bottom of the lake.
ent.” The aquatic plants will grow and reproduce s hypolimnion: a deep, cold layer with little tem-
only as much as the amount of the limiting nutrient perature change and low oxygen. Oxygen is low
will allow. because there is very little or no production of
oxygen by plants (photosynthesis). This water statewide and regional conferences and workshops.
does not come into contact with air. The quantity Currently, Southwest Texas State University coordi-
of oxygen decreases with depth, the farther the nates the Texas Watch program through a contract
distance from the air-water boundary and mixing with the TNRCC.
by the wind. Oxygen is further depleted by bot-
tom-dwelling organisms and bacteria feeding on Measuring Pollutants
organic matter. Little or no light penetration. Monitoring stations in Texas can detect pollut-
In the fall months, the cooler air temperatures ants in water bodies in measurements of parts per
also cool the surface waters of a lake. The densities million, parts per billion, and even per trillion.
of the upper and lower waters become similar, and s One part per million would be equal to one
the wind mixes the layers of water together. The drop in 10 gallons (about the size of a fish tank).
water temperature in the lake becomes uniform; this s One part per billion would be equal to one
is know as fall overturn. Oxygen levels are also re- drop in 10,000 gallons (about the size of a
plenished in the deep water. small swimming pool).
In Texas, there is generally one turnover per s One part per trillion would be equal to one
year in the fall (monomictic) In the northern cli- drop in 10,000,000 gallons (about the size of a
mates, lakes become stratified in the summer and small stock pond).
winter. Turnovers occur twice a year (dimictic), in
the spring and fall. The variation in the northern
turnover comes during the winter when the stratifi- Key Water Quality Concerns
cation of warm water over cold is reversed. Colder Protecting both groundwater and surface water
water (usually in the form of ice) lies over warmer is necessary to ensure clean water for drinking and
water during the winter, creating what is know as other uses. Unfortunately water sources can be pol-
inverse stratification (when the layering is reversed). luted if people don’t protect them properly. During
its movement, water comes into contact with rock,
Water Monitoring soil, vegetation, and a variety of both natural and
The TNRCC’s Texas Watch program is a net- manmade substances. Water picks up all sorts of
work of trained volunteers and supportive partners natural pollutants and can become contaminated
working together to help the TNRCC protect Texas’ and polluted from different sources such as indus-
environment. Texas Watch, established in 1991 and trial waste, sewage, chemical fertilizers, animal
funded primarily through the federal Clean Water wastes, and insecticides. Businesses, industries,
Act, trains students, teachers, and other volunteers and the public can help promote clean water and
to collect quality-assured information that can be prevent its pollution.
used to assist professionals in developing local and Observable signs of water pollution in surface
regional management strategies. Currently, nearly water include discoloration; unpleasant odors; ex-
3,000 citizens monitor the health of Texas lakes, riv- cess algae growth; cloudy or silty water; and dead
ers, streams, wetlands, bays, bayous, and estuaries. fish, plants, or animals. Most natural stream systems,
Texas Watch supports a wide range of monitor- whether in mountains or flatlands, possess a great
ing activities, including a rigorous certified water diversity of plants and animals. A decline in the num-
quality monitoring program, biological monitoring, ber of different organisms (diversity) or the total
environmental education programs, outreach activi- number of organisms (density) occurs when the sys-
ties including storm drain stenciling, as well as tem is in some way disturbed, such as when polluted.
Sources of Pollution shows the percentage of river segments impaired by
The two sources of pollution are called point pollution, mostly due to nonpoint source pollution.
sources and nonpoint sources. Point sources can be Point sources of pollution can be controlled by
traced to a specific location such as a pipe or dis- such means as water treatment and regulatory per-
posal site. Pollution from nonpoint sources comes mits. Nonpoint sources are more difficult to control
from pollutants carried by rainfall that runs off because they often come from everyday activities
from sites such as lawns, construction areas, farms, such as fertilizing lawns, using pesticides, irrigating
or highways. crops, and constructing highways or other structures.
In 1996, the TNRCC studied 142 segments of Point Sources. Discharges from industrial and
Texas rivers that lacked adequate quality for certain municipal wastewater treatment plants are examples
uses, such as swimming, boating, and so forth. Table 2 of point sources (see Figure 4). Generally, pollution
Table 2. Sources of Impairment
Source Segments Affected
Number of segments that do not 142 segments
support or partially support their
Nonpoint source (NPS) only 62 segments (44%)
NPS and point source (both) 43 segments (30%)
Point source or natural source only 37 segments (26%)
Figure 4. Point Source Pollution
A single source can be identified as the cause of the pollution.
2 – 10
from point sources is controlled, to some degree, by from the land, through the watershed, into the stream,
treatment technology (either chemical or biological) and possibly into groundwater. As the runoff flows
at or before the point of discharge. They have be- over the land, it picks up sediments, organic wastes,
come the target of legislation because they are nutrients, toxic substances, bacteria, and other pol-
traceable to one discharge point. Permit holders lutants from agricultural and urban sources.
must monitor and document the quality (including Some common pollutants that enter streams
chemistry, toxicity, pH, and temperature) of the with this runoff are:
wastewater discharged. s pesticides and fertilizers from
Nonpoint Sources. A nonpoint source means yards and agriculture
that pollutants come from a broader area so that their s oils from roadways and parking lots;
origins are not easily identified or controlled (see s improperly disposed of wastes, including
Figure 5). Most nonpoint source water pollution hazardous materials from illegal dumping
comes from water that runs in a thin layer or “sheet” grounds and mismanaged storage areas.
over the land as rainfall runoff and carries pollutants
Figure 5. Nonpoint Source Pollution
Pollutants originate from a large number of usually small sources over
a broad area, and cannot be pinpointed to a single major source.
2 – 11
Preventing Nonpoint Source Pollution
It’s easy to see how water quality and waste management issues overlap: managing waste properly
keeps it out of our waterways, prevents pollution, keeps Texans healthier, and improves the view! Govern-
ment regulation of water quality alone is not enough. Nonpoint source pollution is everyone’s responsibility
because we all contribute to it.
By learning how individual activities affect the water, everyone can make an important contribution
to protecting this valuable resource. The following practices help to protect drinking water sources and
Individual Actions 911 Hotline at 1-800-CLEANUP for a list of
collection dates and sites.
s Keep pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of
s When boating, dispose of trash, oil, and sewage
gutters and storm drains; material deposited in
from holding tanks properly, not in the water.
storm drains goes directly to lakes and rivers.
s Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly, or
use nontoxic products in your gardening; fertil-
izers and pesticides can contaminate drinking s Report illegal dumping to local officials such as
water by running off into lakes and rivers or regional offices of the TNRCC or the Texas Parks
seeping into groundwater. and Wildlife Department; the sheriff’s office or
s Leave grass clippings on the lawn. county enforcement office in your area (see your
s Dispose of household hazardous wastes (used local phone book under government agencies).
antifreeze, paint, and other household chemi- s Participate in water monitoring programs and
cals) properly; call your community’s solid cleanup activities.
waste department, the TNRCC (512/239-4747), s Get your community involved in a watershed
or the Earth’s 911 Hotline at 1-800-CLEANUP, or wellhead protection program.
for information on proper disposal. s Support local community leaders in their
s Dispose of used oil and oil filters at recycling efforts to improve the water system, sewage
facilities or at a designated collection center; system, or waste disposal landfills.
many businesses that sell or change automo- s Label (stencil) the storm drains in your neigh-
bile oil will accept used oil from the public. borhood to warn neighbors not to dump waste
For information on a location near you, call into the drains; get a copy of Storm Drain Sten-
the Earth’s 911 Hotline at 1-800-CLEANUP. ciling: A Manual for Communities (GI-212).
s Dispose of agricultural pesticides, containers, s Start a household hazardous waste disposal
and container residue in an approved manner. program if your community does not have one
Call the TNRCC (512/239-4749) or the Earth’s by contacting the TNRCC at 512/239-4747.
If You Have a Septic System
s Pump out the system regularly and have it in- s Consider composting food scraps instead
spected annually to avoid contaminating surface of using garbage disposals, which place an
and ground water with nutrients and pathogens. additional burden on septic systems.
s Avoid using strong detergents, solvents, or s Avoid construction or parking heavy vehicles
disinfectants in the sinks and toilets; they on or near the septic tank; heavy objects and
can destroy essential, beneficial bacteria that hard surfaces such as patios and driveways
decompose sewage. could collapse the drain lines.
2 – 12
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) Watershed Management
The TNRCC has embarked on a new program Everyone lives in a watershed, or drainage
to improve water quality and ensure that Texas basin, which is defined as a geographic area in
lakes and streams meet federal and state standards. which water, sediments, and dissolved materials
This program involves identifying polluted water drain into a common body of water. The body of
bodies and implementing action plans to restore water could be a stream, lake, estuary, aquifer, or
their water quality. (In previous years, the TNRCC ocean. A watershed can be as large or as small as
has issued permits based on waste load allocations, you want to define it. In a city, the gutters that run
to limit pollutants to a point below where water along the curb on your street are the drainage outlets
quality becomes impaired.) for your street’s watershed. Everything that is done
TMDLs are a measure of the amount of pollution in a watershed can affect the quality of the receiving
a water body can take and still meet surface water water body. Figure 6 lists the state’s 25 river basins
quality standards for its designated use (for example, and watersheds.
aquatic life, recreation, or water supply). Table 3
shows what pollutants are impairing water quality. Table 3. Causes of Impairment
The TNRCC’s initiative will assess the level of Contaminant Use Impaired Segments Affected
pollution entering a water body from all sources, Fecal Coliform Recreation, Shellfish 117 segments (82%)
both point and nonpoint. Establishing TMDLs for
Dissolved Oxygen Aquatic Life 38 segments (27%)
specific pollutants in a specific lake or stream
Metals Aquatic Life 28 segments (20%)
means that discharges of those pollutants to that
Organics Aquatice Life 19 segments (13%)
water body are restricted. This will restore water
quality to levels that better support aquatic life and Dissolved Solids Aquatice Life 19 segments (13%)
protect public health.
Figure 6. Major Basins and Watersheds of Texas
1 - Canadian River Basin
2 - Red River Basin
3 - Sulphur River Basin
4 - Cypress Creek Basin
5 - Sabine River Basin
6 - Neches River Basin
7 - Neches–Trinity Coastal Basin
8 - Trinity River Basin
9 - Trinity–San Jacinto Coastal Basin
10 - San Jacinto River Basin
11 - San Jacinto–Brazos Coastal Basin
12 - Brazos River Basin
13 - Brazos–Colorado Coastal Basin
14 - Colorado River Basin
15 - Colorado–Lavaca Coastal Basin
16 - Lavaca River Basin
17 - Lavaca–Guadalupe Coastal Basin
18 - Guadalupe River Basin
19 - San Antonio River Basin
20 - San Antonio–Nueces Coastal Basin
21 - Nueces River Basin
22 - Nueces–Rio Grande Coastal Basin
23 - Rio Grande River Basin
2 – 13
TNRCC promotes watershed management priorities and foster the protection and restoration of
to improve the water quality in the state. Water- specific water uses such as:
shed management is based on the premise that s drinking water supply
the protection and restoration of water resources s aquatic life habitat and propagation
are best addressed through integrated efforts s recreation
within hydrologically defined watersheds or ba- s irrigation
sins. In the watershed management approach, Evaluation. Success is measured in terms of
water quality problems are addressed holistically, improving and maintaining environmental quality
by evaluating all potential sources of pollution and protecting public health. Watershed manage-
and available resources in the watershed, then ment activities are interdependent and encompass
developing strategies for protecting or restoring numerous functions of the TNRCC and other orga-
water bodies. nizations. Coordination is essential to successful
Components of a successful watershed man- effective management.
agement plan include monitoring and assessing More information on the TNRCC’s watershed
data, developing strategies, implementing solu- management approach and the process by which it
tions, and evaluating results. was developed can be found in TNRCC publication
Monitoring Data. Data is gathered and used Clean Water for Texas, Solving Water Quality
to determine the quality (impaired or threatened) Problems (GI-229A).
of water bodies in the state. Texas has 23 sampling
stations that collect data on the quality of surface Key Water Quantity Concerns
water. The data is collected by the TNRCC and Water supply is increasingly becoming an issue
its partners: the U.S. Geological Survey, Clean Riv- in many parts of the state due to four major factors:
ers Program, Texas Department of Health, the Texas s Population Growth: rapid population growth in
Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Interna- Texas is causing a higher demand for water in
tional Boundary and Water Commission. urban and suburban areas and a reduced demand
Assessment. Sound decisions depend on un- for water for agricultural uses.
derstanding the relationship among water qual- s Aquifer Depletion: the groundwater in aquifers
ity, water use, and conditions within the water- is being depleted at a faster rate than they are
shed. Assessments based on representative data being recharged; this condition has led some
and targeted monitoring describe the physical, areas to turn to surface water for their needs.
chemical, hydrological, and biological condi- s Surface Water Use: many areas have experi-
tions of water bodies; identify sources and enced drought conditions, and other areas are
causes of water resource contamination and deg- increasing their dependence on surface water
radation; and evaluate the effectiveness of vari- (instead of groundwater)
ous management actions. s Freshwater Inflow Needs: the state has recog-
Strategy Development. Developing an appro- nized the need to provide adequate flow in rivers
priate management strategy includes evaluating to protect species habitats and allow a sufficient
possible solutions, choosing the best one, and get- flow of freshwater into Texas estuaries.
ting stakeholders to participate in the process.
Implementation. The culmination of watershed- Population Growth
based assessments is to implement regulatory and Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show
voluntary solutions to address local water resource that the state’s population has grown more than any
2 – 14
other state in the nation during the 1990s. Texas needs. Currently, over 125 reservoirs on the state’s
was the third most populous state (17 million major river basins capture most of our surface
people) in 1990. By 1998, the state was ranked water. Twenty-two of 27 major urban areas depend
second at more than 19 million people. The Texas solely on surface water. The TWDB predicts that
State Data Center projects that the state’s population within 50 years, surface water will provide 70 per-
will grow to 24.1 million by the year 2010. If the cent of the state’s drinking water.
current rate continues, Texas will double by 2027.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Freshwater Inflow Needs
reports that the state’s industries and population are The Texas coast has seven major and three
outpacing existing water supplies. Historically, the minor estuaries, which consist of bays, mudflats,
state used approximately 60 percent of its water for marshes, coastal wetlands, and oyster reefs. These
agricultural uses such as irrigation and livestock. areas support the state’s seafood industry, provide
Municipal uses (drinking water, watering lawns, recreation, and act as a natural filter to help break
and commercial businesses) accounted for 25 percent down waste products.
of the water use; and industries (manufacturing, Bays and estuaries require freshwater flowing
mining, and power generation) used 15 percent. into them to stay healthy. Due to increasing water
Water demands for industrial and municipal uses demands, the Rio Grande has ceased to flow into the
have increased since 1990, and the TWDB recently Laguna Madre. In 1975, the Legislature required the
reported that Texas will need seven new major res- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the TWDB
ervoirs to meet long-term water needs. to study freshwater inflow, and in 1985, the Legisla-
The TWDB is responsible for the state’s water ture established a program to continuously collect
planning and administration of low-cost financial and analyze data. Decision makers will use this data
programs for the planning, design, and construction to develop water management strategies.
of water supply, wastewater treatment, flood control, Bays and Estuary Programs. Galveston
and agricultural water conservation projects. Bay and Corpus Christi Bay rank high among
the nation’s great bay systems, providing huge
Depletion of Aquifers economic benefits to both regions and the state.
In 1997, groundwater from Texas’ 9 major and Remarkably, a bay’s natural resources are self-
20 minor aquifers provided 60 percent of the state’s renewing as long as the bay remains healthy and
water supply. San Antonio is the only major city in productive. However, Texas bays face significant
the world that depends solely on groundwater (from issues related to habitat loss and species decline,
the Edwards Aquifer) for its water needs. However, conflicting human uses, and pollution. Under the
the recharge (the amount of water that enters an aqui- National Estuary Program (part of the federal
fer and is available for withdrawal) is not keeping Water Quality Act of 1987), each estuary develops
up with discharge (the loss of water artificially or a plan for ensuring that the bay will remain healthy
naturally). Only a small percentage of precipitation and productive for future generations. Developing
actually reaches the groundwater through recharge, this strategic plan involves a consensus-building
and the rate of recharge varies for each aquifer. effort among all users.
For more information on the Galveston Bay
Surface Water Use Estuary Program see The Galveston Bay Estuary
Depletion of groundwater from aquifers has led Program (GI-236). Information on the Coastal
many areas to turn to surface water to fulfill their Bend Bays and Estuary Program is available on the
2 – 15
Internet at http://tarpon.tamucc.edu. To learn more s Xeriscape and use water-saving native
about issues affecting the Gulf of Mexico, contact plants, which require little water and generate
the Texas A&M Sea Grant College Program, 1716 a minimum of organic waste; see TNRCC’s
Briarcrest, Suite 702, Bryan TX 77802, 409/845- A Green Guide to Yard Care (GI-028)
3854; or the Gulf of Mexico Program Office, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Building 1103, For Your Vehicle
Room 202, Stennis Space Center, MS 39528-6000, s Take your car to a commercial car wash,
601/688-1172. where water is recycled and cleaning solutions
can be better managed.
Water Conservation s If you wash your car at home, wash it
One way to ensure we will have adequate water on the grass, not on the driveway, and use
in the future is to conserve whenever possible by biodegradable, phosphate-free soaps.
using less, wasting less, and reusing. Here are some
ways individuals can help conserve water: Water Rights and
Around the House Many areas experienced dry, almost drought-
s Make sure your dishwasher is full before like conditions in 1996, which brought on disputes
running it. about who had rights to use the water in Texas
s Turn off the water while brushing teeth and streams and lakes. Watermaster programs in the
washing dishes. state administer the legal framework that resolves
s Install a toilet dam or a low-flush toilet. these disputes.
s Take shorter showers and install a low-flow The water flowing in Texas creeks, rivers, and
shower head. bays belongs to the state; surface water is public
s Buy or use a low-water clothes washer. property. However, the state has the authority to
s Turn down your water heater to 130 degrees grant individuals and organizations the right to
Fahrenheit (especially during the summer). pump water or impound (detain) the water from
surface water sources. There are two exceptions:
In the Yard s People living adjacent to a water body can
s Water your lawn in the early morning or divert surface water for household and livestock
in the evening. uses. These people can impound up to 200 acre-
s Avoid watering walkways, driveways, feet of water surface water in stock tanks. An
and other concrete areas by adjusting the acre-foot of water is enough to cover one acre
heads of your lawn sprinkler system. of land with one foot of water (or approximately
s Hand-water plants instead of using a 326,000 gallons).
sprinkler system. s Fire departments (and other similar services)
s Water plants only when needed and at in counties and rural communities can divert
the proper frequency and depth. and use water for emergency uses.
s Install shut-off devices on garden hoses All other water users must get documentation
to reduce water loss. of water rights from the TNRCC.
s Use compost on your lawn and garden; Watermaster programs ensure compliance
it helps retain moisture allowing you to with water rights. The programs oversee day-to-day
use less water. activities such as monitoring stream flows, reservoir
2 – 16
levels, and water use. Watermasters also coordinate Texas Water Development Board administers
the diversion of water in basins. They have the author- the EDAP.
ity to lock up pumps for violations of water laws s In 1995, a state law known as the Colonias Bill
and, in cases of a shortage, allocate water flow changed the regulatory and zoning authority of
among the users. county governments in EDAP counties. The bill
People with water rights who need to divert authorizes counties to provide utility service,
water must first notify the watermaster, who ensures including water and sewer service, to colonias.
there is enough water for everyone without dimin- It also removed special “grandfathered” status,
ishing the supply. People with water rights are granted by the Model Subdivision Rules, for
required to pay for watermaster programs and must thousands of unsold lots, to prevent further
meter their water pumps. growth in areas lacking adequate water and
Colonias The TNRCC collaborates with the Border Envi-
Colonias are unincorporated communities that ronment Cooperation Commission (BECC), the
lack basic services, including drinking water and North American Development Bank (NADBank),
wastewater treatment. In Texas, more than 367,000 the Texas Rural Development Council, and the
people live in 1,412 colonias in 25 border counties, Rural Utility Service Program of the U.S. Department
according to a 1992 survey by the Texas Water of Agriculture to solve the problems of colonias.
Development Board (TWDB). Few colonia residents In 1997, the TNRCC and TWDB calculated in
have water service, and most of them use outhouses the Texas Border Region Environmental Infrastruc-
or inadequate septic tank systems for waste dis- ture Needs Assessment that the Texas border region
posal, which can result in waste entering the local needs $2.5 billion for improvements to water and
water supply. wastewater systems, seven new landfills, 10 landfill
Contrary to widespread belief, most colonia expansions, 69 new recycling centers, and other im-
residents are citizens or legal residents. They are provements in solid waste infrastructure.
frequently employed at the low end of the wage The Border Solid Waste Program was created
scale or in seasonal work. Most residents of them to focus on illegal dumping problems in the Texas-
are poor, with average annual household incomes Mexico border area. The program facilitates, through
from $5,000 to $7,000. municipal solid waste management planning, the de-
Because colonias are unincorporated and away velopment of model and pilot projects and programs
from local government scrutiny, regulations, and that can be duplicated elsewhere along the border,
services, residents are vulnerable to shady land- resolving illegal dumping problems for the long term
purchase schemes promising no money down and and protecting land resources from further damage.
a small monthly payment. The Texas Legislature The TWDB assembled representatives from a
has attempted to curb the spread of colonias: group of state and federal agencies to coordinate strate-
s The 1989 Model Subdivision Rules, part of gies for aid to colonias. In fall 1998, the group released
Texas’ Environmentally Distressed Areas a comprehensive border resource document, the
Program (EDAP), are intended to prevent the Resource Guide for Border Communities: A Guide
development of new colonias by requiring that to State, Federal, Local and Binational Programs.
adequate water and wastewater facilities be The group meets quarterly to identify resources and
provided in existing residential developments coordinate efforts for specific infrastructure projects
with plots of land of one acre or less. The in target areas such as Laredo and Webb County.
2 – 17
Erosion An abundance of sediment in the water can
One of the biggest sources of water pollution is affect fish by clogging their gills, covering up their
sediment, small particles of “dirt” that are carried breeding areas, and smothering their eggs. If heavy
along by water as it runs off the land. Most sediment sediment loads are carried into a lake or reservoir
comes from the erosion of agricultural and surface- over a period of years, they can actually fill the
mined land and construction sites. Waters that are basin and eventually turn it into a wetland, or
heavily polluted with sediment are obvious because eventually even dry land. All lakes naturally fill
of their muddy appearance. with sediment over time, but human activity
Rivers. The muddy appearance is especially speeds the process.
evident in rivers where the force of moving water keeps Beaches. Certain parts of the shoreline are
the sediment suspended rather than allow it to settle on subject to high rates of erosion. Areas with high
the bottom. When the water flow does slow down, the banks, areas adjacent to open water, and areas
sediment settles to the bottom and reduces the instream subject to prevailing winds can erode at an aston-
habitat for macroinvertebrates and small fish. ishing rate. People contribute to this erosion by
Lakes. When a river reaches a lake or reservoir, boating, clearing shorefront areas, altering
the water loses speed and the sediment drops to the marshes, and building close to the shoreline.
bottom, a process called siltation. Therefore, the Strategies for shoreline and stream bank erosion
lake water looks clear after you move some distance control are very similar. Structural solutions, which
from the point where the river enters. This result are often expensive, work with some success but
does not mean that sediment is not a pollution can cause erosion along other parts of the shoreline.
problem in lakes. As sediment settles, it covers the Planting vegetation, which for the most part is less
lake bottom, smothering the organisms that live expensive, can be very effective. However, vegeta-
there and changing the lake bottom’s nature. What tion cannot provide protection in severe exposure
was once a sandy or clay bottom now becomes a situations, and it requires more maintenance.
“muck” bottom in which few organisms can live.
2 – 18
Water Lesson Plans
Title: Is Our Water Clean?
Author: Sue Weiss,* Pflugerville
Grade level: Kindergarten
TEKS: science: K.2A - E, K.3A - C, K.4A, B
social studies: K.5A
Purpose: To help students recognize the difference between clean and dirty water
and gain an understanding about the water we use.
Objective: Students will identify qualities of clean water, which will develop an awareness
of people in the community who keep our water clean.
Materials: s 2 glass jars s wire strainer
s tap water s coffee filter
s polluted water s The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by Joanna Cole
Background: 5. Introduce The Magic School Bus at the Water-
The water on Earth has been here for millions of works by Joanna Cole. Explain that the Water-
years and must be used over and over again. Most works is a place where people are trained to
people today get their water from public utility com- clean the water for us. Read the book to the
panies that get water from a natural source. Some of class. (In order to simplify, leave out the water
our water comes from surface water such as lakes facts on the edges of the pages.) Return to pages
and rivers. Other utility companies get water from 20 through 29 to explain more clearly with the
underground sources (rock, clay, sand, gravel) use of the pictures. Talk about the workers that
called aquifers. Public utility companies must clean do different jobs at the Waterworks.
this water to make it safe. This process is called wa-
ter treatment. Extensions:
Language—Use the steps of water treatment
Lesson: to write a sequence story. The teacher provides
1. Have a previously prepared jar of water that is the words and the students draw a picture. Develop
obviously dirty. This can be secured from a an opposite concept of clean/dirty. Make a list of
nearby pond or prepared by adding dirt, other things that can be clean or dirty (clothes, face,
crushed leaves, oil, etc. to tap water. Let stu- room, dishes).
dents see the other jar filled with tap water.
Ask students to compare the two jars of water. Math—Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt to collect
How are they different? You might want to use objects that might make our water dirty. Assign
a magnifying glass to look carefully at the two quantities for items to find using numbers. For ex-
jars. Take suggestions as to how we could ample: five broken leaves, or three tiny rocks.
make the dirty water cleaner.
2. Introduce the various straining devices one at a Social Studies—Invite a speaker from the local wa-
time. For example, what would happen if we ter utility company to speak and answer questions
poured the water through the funnel? What about our water.
could we take out of the water? Pour the dirty
water through the funnel and observe. Art—Collect objects from the school grounds to
3. Make a chart of results. Continue to progress make a class collage of dirty water using a large
using the strainer and the coffee filter. sheet of blue paper to represent the water. Let stu-
4. Fill in chart. Allow students to come to conclu- dents draw pictures of themselves on how they
sion that the coffee filter will be the best tool would dress for the water. Paint over the pictures
to clean the water. with thinned blue tempera paint to look like water.
*Sue Weiss, a second grade teacher from Pflugerville, wrote a series of lesson plans on drinking water topics,
under contract with the TNRCC in 1995
2 – 19
Title: Water Conservation Task
Author: Sunny Whittington, Stephen F. Austin University TES, 1994
Grade level: K - 8th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 1st grade
1.1B, 1.2A-E, 1.3A-C
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. List reasons that water conservation is important.
2. Describe methods to conserve water.
Materials: s 5-gallon bucket with individual gallons marked s towels
s 5 1-gallon milk jugs s 2 toothbrushes (unopened)
s tap water s toothpaste
Lesson: 5. Remind the student brushing to brush normally
This lesson could be incorporated with an oral hy- and not try to go faster than the “faucets.”
giene lesson on brushing teeth. 6. When the brushing student is finished, have
1. Focus questions: them turn off the water. (the “faucets” will
s Ask the students how much water they use stop pouring)
when brushing their teeth. 7. Have the class observe how much water is in
s Ask them how full they could fill the bucket the bucket and record their observations.
with the water they use brushing their teeth. 8. Repeat the procedure with a new group of stu-
s Ask them if they turn off the water while dents, but, this time, have the student brushing
they brush their teeth. Record their answers his/her teeth turn off the water in the middle
on the board. while brushing and turn it on again when they
2. Choose 5 students to be the “faucets” and give need to rinse.
each of them a 1 gallon milk jug full of water.
(If the milk jugs are too heavy for younger stu- Assessment:
dents, smaller containers can be used and more Have the students compare the difference in amount
than 5 children will be needed as “faucets.”) of water used in the two methods.
3. Have one student volunteer to brush their teeth.
4. That student should stand by the sink and be- Enrichment:
gin his/her teeth-brushing routine. When he/ Have the students identify other ways in which wa-
she needs to turn the water on, one of the “fau- ter is unconsciously wasted on a daily basis. Have
cets” will begin to pour water into the 5 gallon the students list other uses for the water wasted
bucket. The “faucets” should only pour one at while brushing their teeth, such as watering a plant
a time. When the first one is empty, a second or classroom pet.
should take over and so on. The “faucets”
should pour at a smooth, even pace, like a run-
2 – 20
Title: Where Does the Water Go?
Author: Donna L. Morales, Texas Lutheran University 1999
Grade Level: K - 8th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for Kindergarten
science: 2A, B, D, E 5C
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Understand how water travels in and out of houses/buildings
through pipes and water treatment centers.
2. Summarize the importance of wastewater treatment processes.
Vocabulary: wastewater, filters
Materials: s PVC pipes s “used” water with rocks and dirt in it
s buckets s filter material
Background: a variety of filters such as coffee filters, colan-
Many students turn their faucets on and off and ders, sand, fine rocks, netted material or fabric.
never think about where the water comes from or The students can predict, then determine which
where it goes after it is used. Most cities have water material filters most effectively.
and wastewater treatment facilities that carry out 6. A teacher-directed activity can be to provide
procedures to supply the city with clean water for tinted water and allow the children to drop
use and to purify the water after it is used. chlorine bleach into it to demonstrate how the
city treats wastewater to purify it.
1. Begin with a walk around the school to iden-
tify sources where water comes into the school Assessment:
or house and sources where water goes out of Photos can be taken of the students’ constructions,
the school or house. experimentation and of the entire process. Anec-
2. Discuss where water comes in (faucets, toilets, dotes can be attached to the photos in the form of a
showers, sprinkler system, dishwasher, wash- classroom book or displayed on posters or a bulle-
ing machine, outdoor faucets or hoses...) and tin board.
where water leaves (drains, toilets...)
3. These findings can be counted and graphed Enrichment:
4. On the playground, provide children with dif- s Trip to a wastewater treatment facility
ferent lengths of PVC or gutter and buckets of s Art Activity- The children can draw, paint or
“wastewater.” Have them design a drainage construct a model of the pipeline system or any
system leading to a “wastewater treatment fa- of the processes discussed.
cility.” (This can be a designated tub or bucket) s Literacy Activity- The students may dictate or
5. A filtering center can also be set up. Used water write a story about their field trip to the waste-
filled with small particles can be sifted through water treatment facility
2 – 21
Title: Oily Oceans
Author: Laurie L. Gordon, Lamar University TES Course, 1996
Grade level: 1st - 3rd grades
TEKS: science: 1.1A, 1.2A, C, 1.4B, 1.6A, B, D
social studies: 1.6A, B
Purpose: To understand how pollutants affect our bodies of water.
Objective: Will give students hands-on knowledge of the effects of oil
on water, and those things that come in contact with it.
Materials: s newspaper s paper
s cake pans (or another container) s spoons
s vegetable cooking oil s foil
s water s cotton balls
s feathers s Jack, the Seal and the Sea, by Gerald Aschenbrenner
s craft sticks
Lesson: 6. Hypothesize what will happen when we put
1. Read Jack, the Seal and the Sea, by Gerald the oil on the water.
Aschenbrenner, and discuss it. 7. Pour approximately 1 cup of oil on top of the
2. Make a web of different bodies of water. water.
3. Brainstorm ways we use water. Explain that oil 8. Let students feel the oil-water mixture, and
is something that can pollute our water. describe what they feel. Dip feather into mix-
4. Lay newspaper down to cover desk or table ture, observe.
surface. 9. Discuss how this effects birds.
5. Fill cake pans full of water. This activity can 10. Have students try to remove the oil from the
be done individually, in small groups, or as a water with a variety of items. Is it easy or
whole class. hard? Which item worked the best?
2 – 22
Title: Hopscotch Migration
Author: Marie Marks, Texas Lutheran University 1999
Grade Level: 2nd - 6th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 2nd grade
science: 2c, 2d, 3a, 5a, 8c
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Understand the use of the wetlands by migrating birds.
2. Identify causes for disappearance of the wetlands.
Vocabulary: wetlands, migration
Materials: s pavement chalk or sand
s a stick
Background: 4. Now, tell the students you are a developer.
Migratory birds use different areas of North You will destroy two wetland areas in order to
America to stop along their path of migration from build houses. Put an “X” on two of the squares.
north to south. Many birds travel the same paths 5. Tell students to make the migration once
each year and use landmarks to identify areas they again. The students may not set foot on the de-
stopped in previously. As the human population ex- stroyed wetlands. If they do , they die and may
pands and more natural habitats are replaced by de- not participate in any further migrations.
veloped areas, the migratory birds have a difficult 6. After all students have run through, destroy
time finding safe, inhabitable areas. two more and repeat the procedure. Repeat this
until all students fail to make the migration.
Lesson: Try to “X” off the squares in such a way that
This activity will be best accomplished on a sandy not all are destroyed but are so far apart stu-
section of the playground or a parking lot. dents cannot make the jump. This will help
1. The teacher will draw a large sized hopscotch with the debriefing.
course. The course can be drawn on the pave-
ment with chalk or on the sand/dirt with a
stick. The squares should be approximately Assessment:
3’ X 3’. The hopscotch course should contain Ask students these questions:
10 squares. 1. Why did some birds die earlier than others?
2. Have the students line up at the beginning of 2. Why did the rest of the birds die?
the course. Tell the students that they are birds 3. How does this game represent migration?
starting their journey northward. Tell the stu- 4. Why did the birds die even though some wet-
dents that each of the squares represents a wet- lands remained at the end of the game?
land between Texas and Maine. (It will be 5. Why is it important to save wetlands in all states?
more dramatic using a migration path which 6. How do migrating birds depend on wetlands
includes your state. Specific migration patterns during migration?
and bird species can be obtained from a bird
field guide). Enrichment:
3. Students are then challenged to migrate north- s Have students research migration
ward on the course one at a time. They do not patterns of certain birds
have to step on every square, however, they s Visit a wetland area nearby
must not go outside the course. All students
should be successful in the first migration.
2 – 23
Title: Clean Water
Author: Sue Weiss, Pflugerville
Grade level: 3rd grade
TEKS: science: 3.2A - E, 3.3A, C
social studies: 3.4B, C, D
Purpose: To understand the concept of clean water and the process involved in ensuring quality water.
Objectives: The student will use the senses to determine water quality; will become familiar with the
process of water treatment; and will be able to sequence the steps involved in water treatment.
Materials: s The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by Joanna Cole
s clear plastic or glass jars
s various additives
s copies of pages 18 through 30 from the book (enough sets for two students to share)
s 6-by-12-inch strips of white paper
Background: 7. Pass out the book pages and the 6-by-12-inch
The water on Earth has been here for millions of strips of white paper. Allow students to share
years and must be used over and over again. Most the pages but work independently.
people today get their water from public utility com- 8. Read the duplicated pages together and ask
panies that get water from a natural source. Some of students to underline important words (reser-
our water comes from surface water such as lakes voir, purification, alum, settling, filter, impuri-
and rivers. Other utility companies get water from ties, chlorine, fluoride).
underground sources (rock, clay, sand, gravel) 9. Explain to students that they are to fold the
called an aquifer. Public utility companies must strips of paper into six sections. (Each section
clean this water to make it safe. This process is will be about two inches.) They will use the
called water treatment. front and the back to write the steps outlined in
the book as the sequence to water treatment.
Lesson: Encourage students to use arrows to show the
1. Prepare five clear containers with water and a sequence progression.
distinctive additive: vinegar, dirt, dishwashing 10. Draw a mini-picture to accompany each step.
soap, milk, or oil. Have these prepared before
lesson begins. Extension:
2. Ask students: Is this water clean? Let students Language—Pretend you are in Ms. Frizzle’s class.
look, smell, touch, but not taste. Have students Write how you felt as you traveled through the wa-
tell how they know it is not clean. terworks. Write a newspaper article reporting on the
3. Ask a student to take a clear, clean container trip taken by Ms. Frizzle’s class. Be sure and write a
and fill with water from the tap. Ask: Is this catchy title like, “This Class is Clean” or “Ms.
water clean? Use senses to test the water. Ask: Frizzle’s Class is All Wet.” Construct a Venn Dia-
Does it smell? How does it feel? Ask students gram comparing clean and dirty water qualities.
if they have ever gotten a drink out of the fau- You could also compare uses of each. Talk about
cet outside their house or from the bathroom the conversation bubbles in the story. Cut out a pic-
sink. Is this water safe to drink? ture from a magazine showing people using water.
4. Lead students to the conclusion that all the wa- Paste the picture to a sheet of white paper. Add con-
ter in their house comes from the same source. versation bubbles to the picture. Have students write
It is all clean. a letter to city officials requesting information on
5. Introduce the book: The Magic School Bus at the water quality in their city.
the Waterworks. Remind students of informa-
tion learned previously about the water cycle. Math—Point out that the students are wearing
Tell them to look for this information as you swim suits. Make a class graph related to swimming
read then read the book. such as: What color is your swim suit? or Where is
6. Stop for discussion and to look at the pictures. your favorite place to swim? Discuss water usage
2 – 24
100 years ago in your area. Most people got their Frizzle’s class must follow when they visit the wa-
water from a well or nearby water source. Make up terworks. Use the list for the class trip. Invite the
story problems such as: John needed 25 gallons of mayor or another local city official to talk about wa-
water to take a bath. He had 2 gallon buckets. How ter in your city.
many trips must he make to the well? Assign a de-
tective center (perhaps a computer assignment) us- Health—Make a list of consequences if a water
ing The Magic School Bus Visits the Waterworks. source is not clean. Invite a dentist to visit the class
Ask students to count items in the book: different stu- to discuss the benefits of fluoride to teeth.
dents in the class, times you see the bus or animals.
Art—Draw a picture of yourself inside a large rain-
Social Studies—Take a trip to the local water treat- drop. Provide a large cardboard school bus. Let the
ment plant. Make a list of places, besides homes, students paint and decorate with symbols represent-
that need clean water. Make up a list of rules Ms. ing water.
2 – 25
Title: Underground Pollution
Author: Hooshang Amiri, Texas Southern University TES Course, 1997
Purpose: To construct aquifer and show the operation
Grade level: 4th grade
TEKS: science: 4.1, 4.2B, C, E, 4.3B, C, D, 4.4A
social studies: 4.7A, B, 4.8A, D
Objective: Learn about groundwater by aquifer model.
Materials: s 2 kilograms pea-size gravel s clear plastic tray
s 800 grams top soil or potting soil s watering can
s 800 grams sand s spray pump
s 2 liters tap water s paper coffee filter
s 70 grams sugar s rubber band
s blue food coloring s metric ruler
Background: 6. Push the spray pump through the soil and into
There are two main sources of water, groundwater the gravel. Let one of the children operate the
and surface water. Ninety-five per cent of those fresh pump which will draw from the aquifer and to
water resources in U.S. come from groundwater. the surface.
7. Continue pumping to lower the water table and
Lesson: the lake level. Precipitation can return to the
1. Build a 6-centimeter layer of gravel on the bot- previous levels.
tom of the tray to represent the aquifer. Slope 8. Discuss the effect of drought and rainfall,
the gravel so there is an empty space at the show the effect of groundwater contamination.
lower edge of the tray to represent the lake. Colored sugar demonstrates nonpoint source
2. Place a loose layer of soil over the gravel. pollution. Mix 30 drops of food coloring per
3. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water 80 grams of sugar.
in the watering can and sprinkle the colored 9. Spread the sugar over the surface of a plate
water on the soil. Children observe what hap- and allow it to dry for one to two hours.
pens with precipitation. The colored water 10. Spread 40 grams of sugar over the sand.
should infiltrate the soil and begin to fill the Sprinkle warm water on the sugar. Water
space between the stones on the bottom of the moves through the sand and it will dissolve the
tray. The groundwater will also move laterally sugar and the color will mix with the water;
to fill the lake area. the polluted water will move into the aquifer
4. Continue adding precipitation until the water and the lake.
table is three or four centimeters high as mea-
sured by a ruler held by the tray. Demonstrate Extension:
the impact of human activity on the aquifer. Social studies: identify areas of Texas where there
5. Place a coffee filter over the open end of spray are aquifers. Study the relationship between the lo-
pump and secure with the rubber band. Explain cation of aquifer and settlement patterns.
the device represented well with a screen.
2 – 26
Title: Wetlands/Watershed Model
Author: Carol Cooper, Texas Southern University TES Course, 1996
Grade level: 4th - 5th grades
TEKS: science: 4.1A, B, 4.2A - E, 4.3A - D, 4.4A, 4.11A, 5.1A, B, 5.2A - E, 5.3A - D, 5.4A
social studies: 4.7B, 4.8B, D, 4.9B, C, 4.13B
Objective: This activity would be used after students have learned the topography of Texas, with its major
rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico through coastal wetlands, estuaries, and bays. They
would also be knowledgeable about the function of wetlands as a filter between land and water
and as its value as an aquatic nursery. The model we will make will demonstrate the flow of
surface water across the land in Texas and how materials that originate many miles away can
end up in the wetland along the coast.
Materials: For each pair of students:
s large waterproof tray or tub. s small paper scraps (optional)
s heavy duty aluminum foil, about 70 cm long s newspaper to cover work areas
s watercolor paint set and brush s paper towels
s cellulose sponges, cut into 1/2-inch strips s bucket or sink with water
s spray bottle filled with water s science notebook
s landform map of Texas s pencil or pen
Lesson: added to the foil’s surface and paper bits scattered
on the foil. Place the strips of sponges along the
Part One edge of the Gulf. Tell the students that the “rain”
Ask students this question: “Today we will board our will occur after all models are completed.
version of the Magic School Bus to go on a trip from Ask a student to repeat the directions about shap-
the high plains and mountains of western Texas to the ing the foil. Ask others to tell how the paint is to be
Gulf of Mexico in the southeast. We will float on the applied. Remind the class that the rain will not oc-
water. What sorts of materials might we pick up cur until the teacher has approved the landform
along the way?” Record student responses on a chart model and a chart has been created to label which
or on the board. After the “brainstormed” list is cre- color of paint represents which undesirable element
ated, students would be asked to categorize the items found in the watershed.
as desirable or undesirable. Additional items could
be added to these categories. Part Two
To reinforce previously taught information, ask 1. Students will be pairs. One person will gather
students to describe how water flows and to locate materials from the table, while the other will
the rivers on their map of Texas. Tell them that the fill the water spray bottle and cover the work
foil will be shaped to represent mountains, hills, area with newspaper. As the students begin to
plains, streams, and rivers that flow into the Gulf of shape their foil and paint the model, the
Mexico. The strips of dampened sponges will repre- teacher should circulate among the groups to
sent the wetlands. Each pair of students will also check that the model is being developed ac-
select undesirable materials found in the watershed cording to instructions and to answer questions
to be represented by the watercolor paints. For in- that the groups may have.
stance, blue may represent runoff from urban paved 2. After all models have been completed and ap-
surfaces like roads and parking lots; red may repre- proved by the teacher, the students will spray
sent soil eroded from fields and forests harvested of the models using the spray bottles. When
trees. Solid waste materials may be represented by spraying the models, the students should make
small bits of crumbled paper. sure the “wetlands” are damp. As the “rain”
The teacher can bend and shape the foil to dem- lands on the foil, students should observe how
onstrate the procedure or have a model already cre- the water moves over their model, where water
ated to save class time; however, not every landform collects, and the color of the water before/after
shape should be exactly the same. Paint will be it passes through the sponges.
2 – 27
3. Within each working pair, the students must Discuss the effect these materials would have on
decide how to shape the foil. After the foil is the living organisms in the wetlands and the effects
shaped and fastened into the tray, students these undesirables would have on the life forms re-
should designate each color of watercolor paint siding in the Gulf area. Students can be evaluated on
to represent a different undesirable substance three criteria.
in the watershed. A color chart can be created s how well they worked with their partner. Were
as the paint is applied. the responsibilities shared fairly and was the
4. After the foil, sponges, and paint are in place discussion on-task and respectful?
and the chart is created, the teacher will check s how the product was constructed. Was the
the model prior to spraying the model. The model constructed according to the guidelines?
models are sprayed to simulate rainfall on the Were the materials used properly?
watershed. s the written record of the students’ project. In
5. After the closing discussion, models are disas- this case, a class chart and categories were es-
sembled, and the foil is wiped clean and re- tablished prior to the model construction, but
cycled in the aluminum recycling bin. each team made a color-coded chart of pollut-
6. The trays, spray bottles, and paint brushes are ants and it should be in the science notebook.
rinsed and dried to be put away in the storage
area. The newspapers may be dried overnight As a final closing, students are asked what they
and then put in the recycling bin. learned from this project and if they would do their
project differently if given another opportunity.
If students do not recall the sources of nonpoint pol-
lution, a reference chart may be provided. Extension:
A good source for this activity would be the Have students demonstrate their model to another
TNRCC publication, Nonpoint Source Pollution class and prepare a presentation about nonpoint
(GI-162). source pollution and the steps we all can take to de-
crease its presence in our environment.
After all the groups have simulated rainfall and wa- Social studies - Look at the various ways people
ter has collected in the Gulf area of the model, the use rivers in Texas to earn a living and provide
students should lift the sponge strips and observe recreation. Note settlement patterns along the riv-
the color of the sponges and the color of the accu- ers of Texas.
mulated water. Ask students how effective the wet-
lands were in trapping the paint sediments.
2 – 28
Title: Making a Water Filter
Author: Sue Weiss, Pflugerville
Grade level: 5th grade
Purpose: The student will be able to apply information in the formation of a workable water filter.
TEKS: science: 5.2A - E, 5.3A, C, D, E, 5.4A, B
social studies: 5.7B, 5.11B, 5.19A
Objectives: The student will interpret written information to a realistic mode;
evaluate the effectiveness of different variables; and be able to
draw logical conclusions about preferred materials in a water filter system.
Materials: s 2-liter soda bottles filled with sludge water (dirt, pebbles, sand, food coloring, etc.)
s coffee filters s gravel
s cheesecloth s soil
s paper towels s different size containers
s sand s rubber bands
Background: Have students make the changes and try again.
The water on our earth has been here for millions of 6. When the group is satisfied that the water will
years and must be used over and over again. Most be sufficiently clean, draw a model of the
people today get their water from public utility com- treatment system and label carefully.
panies that get water from a natural source. Some of
our water comes from surface water such as lakes Extension:
and rivers. Other utility companies get water from Language—Write a sequence story of the steps wa-
underground sources (rock, clay, sand, gravel) ter goes through in your treatment plant. Use the
called an aquifer. Public utility companies must Internet to find names of water utility companies in
clean this water to make it safe. This process is Texas. Record the searching process you went
called water treatment. through. Write a letter to the residents of your com-
munity to convince them of the safety of your water.
Lesson: Stage a debate over the benefits and problems asso-
1. Show a bottle of the prepared sludge water. ciated with fluoride.
Would they like to drink it? Discuss where it
came from and how it is different from the wa- Math—Use a timer to record the amount of time
ter that comes out of the tap. Ask questions required for all the sludge water to make it through
about the water source identified for their com- your water treatment system. Compare with other
munity. Could it have things in it that you groups. Using a ruler, draw a scaled model of your
would not like to come out of the tap? Like treatment plant. Make up story problems about situ-
what? Water utility companies must clean the ations in the water treatment plant.
water that comes from the source.
2. Introduce the book: The Magic School Bus Visits Social Studies—Visit a nearby water treatment
the Waterworks. Read the book and discuss it. plant. Make a list of safety rules to be followed
3. Your utility company must find a way to clean around a water treatment plant. Construct a Venn
the water that will travel through the pipes. Using Diagram comparing uses for clean water versus un-
the system outlined in the book, students will ob- treated water.
serve the materials provided on the table. They
may use any of these or any others in the room. Health—Use a magnifying glass to determine the
4. After a group discussion, students will draw a content of your treated water. What could possibly
plan that they think will clean the sludge in the be left in the water? Investigate the benefits and
jar. Have students construct the treatment system problems with the chlorine and fluoride that is
they designed, take a bottle of sludge to the sys- added to treated water.
tem and try it out, writing down what happened.
5. If not happy with the results, have students Art—Construct a class mural showing the steps Ms.
evaluate the treatment plant. What could be Frizzle’s class experienced at the waterworks. Di-
wrong? What changes could have been made? vide jobs between the students.
2 – 29
Title: Storm Drain Dumping
Author: R. Debra Lopez, University of Houston Clear Lake TES Course, 1996
Purpose: To teach students an awareness of water pollution from runoff.
Grade level: 5th - 6th grades
TEKS: science: 5.1A, B, 5.2A - E, 5.3A - D, 6.1A, B, 6.2A - E, 6.3A - D
social studies: 5.9A, B, C
Objective: Students will develop an awareness of what happens to water contaminated
through neighborhood runoffs.
Materials: s wax paper s oil
s salt s water
s tape s other materials to represent pollutants
s food coloring s sugar
s clay s eyedropper
Lesson: will pick up contaminants as it goes through
Begin by discussing how students would feel if the maze.
everything that was dumped in the gutter went into 5. Students should be able to describe what the
a glass as they turned on the water tap. drop looks like and feels like when it exits. If
1. Cover a piece of cardboard with wax paper the drop went to the treatment plant, the drop
and form a maze out of clay. Let the clay dry gets replaced with a clean drop of water. If it
for one day. ended in the overflow (untreated) exit, the drop
2. The maze needs a starting point and 2 exits. is added to a cup labeled stream.
One exit leads to the treatment plant and the 6. Discuss the problems associated with untreated
other into a stream. Label each exit. urban runoff entering bodies of water.
3. Students should make a list of those things
which enter a gutter inadvertently or on pur- Extension:
pose. Place drops of food coloring, salt water Have students identify and research ways contami-
mixed with pepper, and oil on different loca- nated water affects contaminated aquatic life and
tions. Allow one day for water to evaporate. drinking water supplies. Students research alterna-
4. Tilt the maze, add a drop of water at the start- tives to house and lawn chemicals.
ing point and let it drop slowly to an exit. It
2 – 30
Title: An Experiment Testing Growth of Algae
Author: Dorla Santa Cruz O’Brien, University of Houston Clear Lake TES Course, 1996
Grade level: 5th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 5.1, 5.2A - E, 5.3A - D
social studies: 5.9A, B, C
Purpose: To teach that household wastewater contains
detergents which act as nutrients for growth of algae.
Objective: Students will observe and test whether soapy water will stimulate algae growth.
Vocabulary: pollutant, organic wastes, phosphates, diatoms, toxic substances, bacteria, plankton,
blooms, nutrients, algae, red algae, pollution
Materials: s measuring spoon s 40 tbsp. of soapy water
s measuring cup s 5 3-inch strips of paper
s 10 4-cup jars s coloring markers
s 20 cups of lake, stream, fresh, or bay water
Time: five days for observations and one to two days for instruction and setup
Lesson: s Pour two tablespoons of soapy water in jar #2,
Instruction - 1 Day four tablespoons in jar #3, six tablespoons in jar
s Discuss algae and review the vocabulary words. #4, and eight tablespoons in jar #5.
s Give assignment and instructions for homework. s Repeat the previous step for the five remaining
s Arrange vocabulary words alphabetically. jars but using 4 cups of lake, stream, fresh or
s Accent, code, identify parts of speech, and define. bay water instead of distilled water.
s Write one sentence for each vocabulary word. s Place all jars in a location with plenty of sunlight.
s Color code nouns, verbs, and adjectives. s For the next five days, record observation for
odor and color change in the observation sheet
Setup and Start of Experiment - 5 Days provided.
s Collect the homework. s After 5 days, place a 3-inch strip of paper with a
s Fill five jars each with 4 cups of distilled water. name written on it behind each jar. Identify
Label the jars: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. which jar has the most algae.
2 – 31
Title: Aquifers: Unlimited or Not
Author: Dean McKnight, University of Texas at El Paso TES Course, 1996
Purpose: To demonstrate what can happen when an aquifer is overused.
Grade level: 6th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 6.1A, B, 6.2A - E, 6.3A - D, 6.4A, B, 7.1A, B, 7.2A - E, 7.3A, C, 7.4A, B,
8.1A, B, 8.2A - E, 8.3A, C, 8.4A, B
social studies: 6.6B, C, 6.7A - C, 7.10A, B, 7.9B
Objective: Students will understand that an aquifer can become a nonrenewable resource
if it is not used wisely.
Purpose: After students build their model of an aquifer, they will understand that if an aquifer
is overused, it will stop producing usable water.
Materials: s 2 clear plastic cups s modeling clay
s 1 soda straw s sand (cactus potting soil can be used)
s 1 dropper
Background: clay. Put just enough water to soak the sand.
An aquifer is any natural material that contains On top of the sand place the remaining clay,
water recoverable in useful amounts by means of leaving a small area of sand uncovered.
wells or natural springs. Aquifers may be fractured 4. The students will drill their wells by inserting
zones in otherwise solid rock, layers of solid but the soda straw by pushing into the clay and
porous rock or loose sedimentary materials. Some sand by a twisting motion. Pull the straw out
of the best aquifers are thick beds of sandstone, and let it sit for ten seconds.
geologically young limestones and bath salts, sands 5. Use the dropper to pump the water out of
and gravels. Except in favored areas, most geologic the well. When the student cannot pull any
materials are not aquifers. Clay and shale contain more water from their well, they may add
water, but unless the beds are fractured, pore open- a few droppers of water to their reservoirs.
ings are too small to allow water movement. Most Wait a few minutes and try to pump again.
igneous and metamorphic rock lack pore spaces 6. Restate the objective and purpose then
and contain hardly any water. begin questions.
s What happened when you first started
Lesson: pumping? (Referring to the amount of
1. Prior to the lesson have the students read water pumped)
about aquifers in various source material. s What happened as you pumped longer?
For younger students, a good explanation (The amount of water pumped decreased)
may be helpful. s After you added water to the reservoir,
2. Give each student or group a cup, straw, drop- what happened to the amount of water
per, and a small amount of modeling clay and you could get out of the well?
sand. Water will also need to be available. s Write a brief explanation on how we
3. The students will put half of the clay in the should conserve our aquifers.
bottom of the cup. Place the sand on top of the
2 – 32
Title: Don’t Cry Over Spilled Oil
Author: Terri Danenburg
Grade Level: 6th -8th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 8th grade
science: 1B, 3C, 14B-C
social studies: 32A, B
Objectives: The students will be able to investigate the Exxon Valdez oil spill, evaluate oil spill cleanup
procedures, and understand long-term effects of an oil spill on an ecosystem.
Vocabulary: oil spill, Exxon Valdez, barriers, booms, microorganisms
Materials: s Exxon video s play money s 50 ml clean motor oil
s 500 ml saltwater s expenditure worksheet s fur scraps
s shrub clippings s paper bathroom cup s balance
s small rocks s plastic zipper bag s feathers
s disposable containers for oceans (plastic or aluminum pans)
Cleanup Materials: s tweezers s paper towel strips s styrofoam peanuts
s medicine dropper s string s liquid detergent
s cotton balls
Background: components can remain in the water column for many
While pollution of the world’s oceans by oil is not a new years. Some will disperse into the water, some are oxi-
problem, conferences were held as early as 1926, the dized by sunlight, some are consumed by microorganisms
growth of world production has increased the incidents of and the remaining will be deposited as sediment.
oil spills. While oil tanker accidents and offshore well Many methods of clean up have been employed in the
blowouts often grab the headlines, more petroleum is lost aftermath of a major oil spill, including the use of micro-
in the routine operation of oil tankers. organisms to “eat” the oil. Detergents have been used to
disperse the oil, but have actually been found to do more
Sources of Oil Pollution damage than the oil itself. Burning the oil is ineffective
9.8% natural seepage due to the fact that the more volatile components quickly
21.8% tanker operations escape. Barriers and booms are often used to contain the
3.3% tanker accidents spill while the oil is absorbed or siphoned off. Most at-
9.8% other transportation activities tempts to clean up a spill have proven to be ineffective.
9.8% atmospheric fallout In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez accident of
1.3% offshore petroleum production 1989 there have been efforts to clean up Prince William
12.3% coastal facilities (sewage plants, refineries, etc) Sound. In support of their efforts, Exxon has produced a
31.1% river and urban runoff video, Scientists and the Alaska Oil Spill. The video ex-
amines some of the methods currently employed in
Because oil is less dense than water and floats, it can worldwide oil spill clean ups. The scenes of cleaning ot-
quickly coat anything in the water. By cutting off the ex- ters and birds as well as the shoreline will point out to
change of gas, organisms that live in the water column and students the magnitude of cleaning up a spill of this size.
require oxygen quickly die. This damage is particularly
damaging in the tidal zone and near-shore environments. Lesson:
Not only does this zone support aquatic life, but also a vari- Day One
ety of predators that feed on aquatic organisms. Birds and Teacher preparation
aquatic mammals can be most severely effected. A coating 1. Bundle the money so that each
of oil on feathers reduces the birds’ ability to fly and the group will have $15 million
feathers can no longer help the bird retain body heat. Oil on 2. Package the cleanup materials in bundles
the fur of sea mammals, such as otters and seals, reduces so that they can be easily distributed:
the animals’ ability to stay warm. The ingestion of oiled s paper towels cut into 25 1-inch strips
water and prey will further weaken the animals. stapled together
While most of the volatile components of the oil s string cut to 12 inches
quickly escape into the atmosphere, other more stable s sandwich bags filled with styrofoam peanuts
2 – 33
s Sandwich bags with 25 cotton balls s One large zipper bag will be provided to dispose
s cups with small amounts of detergent of all materials.
3. Set up one station with a pan of water and paper 8. Allow each group to discuss how they will spend
towels and label as the “Wildlife Rehabilitation their money. Once the money has been spent on
Center.” This station will only be used by one mem- Day two, they cannot get a refund.
ber of each team to clean any wildlife that becomes
oil soaked. While at the center they can use any of Day Two
the materials, but they cannot take them back to the Teacher preparation
spill sight to help with the shoreline cleanup. Remember that the students were told not to disturb their
4. Cut fake fur into small pieces (you can find fake fur oceans and to be careful with them During the night there
at craft stores or garage sales.) is going to be a storm and the wildlife is going to get hun-
5. Set up an example of an oil spill so that you can gry. Shake up the trays and push the feathers and/or fur
demonstrate how each of the cleanup materials are scraps into the water.
to be used.
Student Activity: 1. The students will return to find the effects of the
1. Students fill their containers about two-thirds full surprise storm and will probably be upset when
of saltwater. A little blue food coloring will in- they see the condition of their spills. Remind them
crease visibility. that nature doesn’t stop just because there has
2. Build a beach of rocks and gravel and add sprigs been a spill.
of leaves to simulate trees. Place feathers and/or 2. Pass out money to each group and allow students to
fur scraps to simulate wildlife. begin purchasing clean up materials from different
3. Pour a small amount of motor oil into the paper areas of the room. Point out that clean up materials
cup and place in the center of the ocean. This is and equipment are seldom near the sight of an acci-
the oil tanker. dent and may have to be transported from far parts
4. To simulate the spill, poke a hole in the cup below of the world before the clean up can begin.
the water line or slowly lay the cup on its side. Leave 3. All used materials and oil should be placed in the
the cup in place, remember the tanker continued to large zipper bag.
leak oil for several days before it could be stopped.
5. Observe how the oil spreads over the surface of the wa-
ter. Do not disturb the ocean set-up until the next day. Assessment:
6. Inform the students that their oil company has been After the students have cleaned as much as possible, line
allotted $15,000,000 to clean up the spill. At this the oceans up with the bag of waste material in front. Let
time it may be helpful to demonstrate how each each group judge who was the most successful in their
of the cleanup materials are to be used. efforts. Discuss the most successful methods and the
7. Clean up material restrictions: problems encountered.
s each group must purchase
at least one set of tweezers Enrichment:
s cotton balls, paper towels and styrofoam peanuts Due to the fact that no one group will be able to purchase
cannot be touched with the fingers, only tweezers all methods of cleanup, some groups may want to share.
s purchase of detergent allows one student the use Allow them to set up a consortium to share their re-
of the “Wildlife Rehabilitation Center” sources or pool their remaining money.
Sample Expenditure Worksheet:
MATERIALS COST NUMBER PURCHASED TOTAL COST
paper towels $5,000,000
cotton balls $7,500,000
medicine dropper $10,000,000
tweezers (each) $1,000,000
2 – 34
Chapter 3 – Waste
Use it up, wear it out, make it do,
or do without.
— New England Proverb
Chapter Notes ................................................ 3-1 Managing Municipal Solid Waste ............. 3-9
Lesson Plans ....................................................... 3-1 Factors Affecting Solid Waste Management ...... 3-9
TNRCC Publications .......................................... 3-1 Texas Solid Waste Management Plan ................ 3-9
Safety .................................................................. 3-1
Waste Reduction: the Four Rs ................... 3-9
Background and Facts about Waste ........ 3-1 Reduce ................................................................ 3-9
Reuse ................................................................ 3-10
Types of Municipal Solid Waste ................ 3-2 Recycle ............................................................. 3-10
Plant and Animal Materials ................................ 3-2 Rebuy ................................................................ 3-12
Human-Made Materials ...................................... 3-3
Hazardous Materials ........................................... 3-4 Waste Lesson Plans ................................... 3-14
K-3: Milk Carton Art ........................................ 3-14
Collecting and Disposing K-5: Trash City ................................................. 3-15
of Solid Waste ................................................ 3-4 K-6: Trash Pizza ............................................... 3-17
Collection Methods ............................................ 3-4 1-5: Trash Count .............................................. 3-18
Methane Recovery .............................................. 3-5 1-8: Worm Composting (Vermiculture) .......... 3-19
Combustion ......................................................... 3-6 2-8: Composting .............................................. 3-21
Liquid Waste Processing .................................... 3-6 3-5: Ready, Set, Go Recycling ........................ 3-23
Land Application of Sludge ................................ 3-6 3-6: In Search of Reused and Recycled ........... 3-24
Refuse-Derived Fuel ........................................... 3-6 4: Classroom Landfill ................................... 3-25
4: Household Hazardous Waste ................... 3-27
Disposing of Industrial 4: Landfill Loafers Meet the Wise Buys ...... 3-29
Hazardous Wastes ........................................ 3-6 4-8: Biodegradability of Plastic Bags,
Paper Bags, and Newspaper ................ 3-30
Key Concerns in Waste Management ...... 3-7 6-8: EGGS-A Toxic Waste Simulation ........... 3-31
Litter and Illegal Dumping ................................. 3-7
Maquiladoras ...................................................... 3-7
Hazardous Waste Landfills ................................. 3-8
2 – 35
Chapter Notes money and valuable natural resources. Although
Lesson Plans increased federal regulations have made modern
To maintain the contributing teachers’ personal landfills safer environmentally, the regulations also
style, the TNRCC has only moderately edited the made it difficult to open new ones. Since 1986, over
lesson plans. However, agency staff have reviewed 700 landfills have closed. Fewer landfills means
them for technical accuracy. waste must be hauled further distances, increasing
The lessons provided in this publication are the cost for Texans to dispose of waste and to man-
intended to promote awareness of environmental age waste efficiently and safely.
sciences through simple activities. Teachers should This chapter is intended to provide teachers
adapt the lesson plans to meet the needs of their with the general background on what is considered
particular students. Before using or adapting these solid waste, how it’s disposed of in Texas, and its
lesson plans, the TNRCC suggests that teachers effect on the state’s environment and economy.
familiarize themselves with the background infor- With this information, teachers can help their
mation provided in each chapter (of course, these students understand the different ways waste
background sections are not a comprehensive treat- can be managed, the types of materials that can be
ment of their subjects.) recycled, why buying products made of recycled
Grade levels and correlations to the Texas Essen- material is important, and the correct meaning of
tial Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are noted on each terms such as reduce, reuse, recycle, and rebuy.
lesson plan; these are intended as suggestions only. s About 80 percent of the waste created in
the workplace can be recycled. In a 1999
TNRCC Publications survey, 87 percent of Texans participated
This guide frequently refers you to TNRCC in a workplace recycling program. (Survey
publications. For information on obtaining publica- of Environmental Behaviors and Attitudes
tions, see the back cover. of Texans, Office of Survey Research,
College of Communication, University
Safety of Texas at Austin, 1999).
For detailed information on safety issues re- s Recycling half the paper produced in the
lated to classroom science activities, refer to the U.S. would annually save 680 million
Texas Safety Standards Manual (Second Edition) trees; 164 billion kilowatt hours of energy
Kindergarten through Grade 12, which is available (enough to power 20 million homes for an
from the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) science entire year); 2.8 billion gallons of water;
department by calling 512/463 9556. You can and 132 million cubic yards of landfill space.
also view the manual on the Science TEKS Toolkit Plus, it would reduce air-polluting effluents
web page located at www.tenet.edu/teks/science. by 1.2 million tons (Recycling Sourcebook,
Gale Research, Inc.).
s Texans dispose of more than 28 million
Background and Facts tons of trash annually; that’s 7.5 pounds
about Waste per person per day—more than one ton
As getting rid of our waste becomes more ex- for every person in the state each year
pensive, reducing the amount of waste we generate (Analysis of MSW Landfill Disposal in
becomes more important than ever to protect the Texas in 2000, Waste Planning Team,
environment and human health, as well as to save Strategic Assessment Division, TNRCC).
s Texas has fewer landfills to dispose of its Types of Municipal Solid Waste
waste. In 1986, about 250 of 254 Texas In Texas, municipal solid waste (MSW) waste
counties had at least one landfill; in 1999 typically comes from residential, commercial, recre-
only 132 counties had at least one landfill. ational, and institutional sources. It is the waste that
s Over one-quarter of the trash generated in is typically disposed of in landfills and can include
Texas is made up of yard trimmings and garbage, rubbish, ashes; waste from street cleanings,
food waste, about 20 percent yard trimmings dead animals, and abandoned automobiles; waste
and 5 percent food waste. In coastal and Rio from construction debris; brush from the clearing of
Grande Valley areas of the state, yard trim- land; and other solid waste other than industrial
mings and food waste can constitute up to solid waste, which comes from manufacturing and
50 percent during the spring and summer. other industries, mining, and agricultural operations.
s Sixty percent of Texans in single-family
homes report leaving yard trimmings on the What is Waste?
lawn all or most of the time (Environmental Waste is any unwanted, discarded, or aban-
Behaviors, UT Austin, 1999). doned material or product that is no longer needed
s In 1999, more than 4.6 million gallons of or used for its intended purpose. It can be left over
used oil were collected at registered collec- from a manufacturing process, or it can be refuse
tion centers, as well as at various cleanup from places of human or animal habitation. Waste
events sponsored throughout the state. comes from these sources:
s One out of every $11 that Americans s plant and animal materials
spend on food goes for packaging, and s human-made materials
about 30 percent of all plastics produced s hazardous materials
are used for packaging. Solid waste is garbage, rubbish, refuse, sludge
s Each American consumer uses about from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply
190 pounds of plastic per year. About treatment plant, or air pollution control facility, and
60 pounds of it gets discarded immediately other discarded material. It includes solid, liquid,
after a package is opened. Packaging accounts semi-solid, or contained gaseous material resulting
for about one-third of all the trash Americans from industrial, municipal, commercial, mining,
send to landfills. and agricultural operations and from community
s Steel cans are 100 percent recyclable. All and institutional activities. Different types of solid
steel products contain at least 25 percent waste include hazardous waste, industrial waste,
recycled content; American cars are made medical waste, and municipal solid waste.
of 45 to 50 percent recycled steel.
s Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of
the energy needed to manufacture aluminum Plant and Animal Materials
from raw materials. Yard Trimmings. Every year more than 5 mil-
s Texans are more likely to recycle aluminum lion tons of yard trimmings and other organic mate-
cans than any other recyclable product (Envi- rials (such as grass clippings and dead leaves and
ronmental Behaviors, UT Austin, 1999). branches) end up in landfills. Almost 20 percent of
s For each potentially hazardous household the waste that Texas households generate consists
product, there is at least one less-toxic alter- of leaves, grass, and tree trimmings totaling about
native readily available. 5 million tons a year. In the 1990s, composting
significantly reduced the amount of yard trimmings and cleaners (which can be recycled into drainage
going to landfills. pipe, traffic cones, decking, flooring, park benches,
Composting these items helps to make our and toys). Soft drink bottles can be turned into food
lawns greener and our farmlands more productive, containers, carpet fibers, pillow and sleeping bag
as well as saving water and reducing pollution in fill, T-shirts, and ski jackets. Texas is a leading plas-
lakes and streams. Grass clippings left on the lawn tics-manufacturing state.
act as a natural soil amendment (something that Steel. Steel is the most recycled material in
enhances the natural properties of the soil, such America and is sometimes called the “grandfather”
as compost, humus, or certain naturally occurring of recycling. When a steel mill uses scrap, or re-
minerals like gypsum). cycled steel instead of iron ore to make new steel,
Food Scraps. Many food items such as veg- it cuts related water and air pollution. Scrap steel,
etable trimmings, eggshells, coffee grounds, and including steel cans used for food products, can
tea bags can be considered plant waste. This waste be recycled into appliances and automobiles.
comes from uneaten food from residences; from According to the Steel Recycling Institute, Ameri-
grocery stories, restaurants, and produce stands; cans recycled 18 billion steel cans in 2000 (about
from institutional cafeterias and kitchens; and from 63 cans per person ).
industrial sources like lunchrooms in factories.
Animal Waste. This type of waste includes In 2000, there were 25 cars recycled every
the manure generated from animal feeding opera- minute across the United States. (Steel Recycling
tions, livestock yards, and milking facilities; and Institute)
it includes dead animals, as well.
Aluminum. Most Americans see aluminum as
Human-Made Materials soda cans or kitchen foil used for cooking and wrap-
In the past, many human-made wastes, such ping leftovers. American consumers and industries
as paper and plastics, were commonly disposed throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire
of in MSW landfills. Unfortunately, that practice commercial air fleet every three months. Aluminum
continues in too many places to this day. However, can be made into new cans, foil, rain gutters, siding,
many common human-made wastes are recyclable. and window frames.
Recyclables are not wastes; they are commodities Glass. Windows and windshields (called “flat”
with a market value. glass) are not usually handled in most community
Paper. This category includes not only newspa- recycling programs. Glass containers can be re-
pers, magazines, and brochures but also cardboard cycled back into containers, as well as into fiber-
and most envelopes, folders, posters, and softcover glass insulation and abrasives. Commercial busi-
books. Recycled newspaper can be turned into such nesses recycle them into specialty products such as
things as newsprint and building materials. Corru- glass beads for abrasive uses and reflective coatings.
gated boxes can be turned into new boxes, while Construction and Demolition (C&D) Waste.
office paper can be recycled up to five times into Throughout history, whole civilizations have been
writing paper, cereal boxes, napkins, facial tissue, built and rebuilt on C&D debris. When early civili-
paper towels, and toilet tissue. Junk mail and cata- zations rebuilt a structure, they would knock the
logs also can be recycled. roof and walls inward to create the foundation of the
Plastics. This category includes grocery bags new building. It is estimated that much of London is
and containers for beverages, detergents, shampoo, 20 feet higher than during Roman times, and today
much of Manhattan is 6 to 15 feet higher than in the s electronic equipment
17th century. s auto batteries
Many construction materials can be recycled s cleaners (polishes and oven cleaners)
into other products or reused in other projects: s paints (including thinners)
wood, drywall, cardboard, metals, concrete, bricks, s antifreeze
and plastic. The first priority in dealing with con- s pesticides
struction waste is to minimize what is generated. s used oils
Savings are realized through efficient use of s solvents
building materials (remember “measure twice
and cut once!”). Unused materials can be donated Collecting and
to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Disposing of Solid Waste
C&D waste makes up 18.2 percent of all solid waste Collection Methods
going to Texas landfills. It is a good target for recy- Modern landfills are a far cry from the early
cling and needs more attention, especially given the dumps. Today’s landfill is highly engineered for
population and economic growth in Texas. protection of public health and the environment.
Garbage is spread in layers within lined pits and
Hazardous Materials compacted by bulldozers. At the end of each day,
Waste is considered hazardous material in one fresh materials are covered with a layer of soil to
of two ways. First, the EPA considers waste hazard- discourage odors, rodents, and birds. Once a portion
ous if it contains certain chemicals, which are desig- of the landfill is full, it is covered with an imperme-
nated by federal law. Second, waste is considered able liner and topsoil and planted with grasses to
hazardous if it is toxic; ignitable (easily combustable control erosion.
or flammable); corrosive (a liquid waste that corrodes Modern landfills also have a system for vent-
steel at a certain rate); or reactive (unstable or under- ing the methane gas that is generated as organic
goes a rapid, violent chemical reaction). Hazardous materials decay in the absence of oxygen; and
waste may be generated in the home (household haz- methods for collecting groundwater to test for po-
ardous waste or HHW) or in the workplace. tential contamination.
Types of Facilities That May Produce Haz- Waste reaches landfills through various means
ardous Waste. State law requires facilities to deter- of collection.
mine whether their waste is hazardous. Here are Residential Collection. In many Texas com-
examples of facilities that produce potentially munities, weekly or biweekly curbside or alley-
hazardous waste: way collection is the common approach for resi-
s wineries dential collection services. In more rural areas,
s mobile home construction individual collection services may be provided on
s one-hour eyeglass facilities a less frequent basis. Many communities, both
s veterinary services urban and rural, manage sites for the public to
s public transportation drop off recyclables.
s publishers/printers/newspapers Increasingly, communities are introducing resi-
Types of Household Hazardous Waste. Examples dential solid waste collection programs that incorpo-
of household hazardous waste include these items: rate variable fees to reflect the amount of garbage
s nickel-cadmium batteries (used in small appli- each household throws away. These programs, called
ances and electronic devices) Pay-As-You-Throw or variable rate programs, are
similar to electric and water utility service fees TNRCC Community Collection Programs
where customers are charged on the basis of how The TNRCC offers communities free opportuni-
much they use. Many believe variable rates to be ties to properly dispose of various types of wastes.
more equitable. These rate systems give households Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collec-
a financial incentive to practice waste prevention tions. These events promote the collection and
(source reduction) and recycling. proper disposal of HHW at the local government
Commercial Collection. Commercial solid and industry level. Communities, local govern-
waste collection is often provided by private com- ments, and other organizations that sponsor HHW
panies under contract, although some local gov- collection events or are interested in disseminating
ernments also provide commercial waste collec- information about environmentally friendly prod-
tion. Charges for these commercial collections ucts can receive technical assistance and educa-
vary widely across the state, depending upon the tional resources from the TNRCC. While HHW
size of collection containers, location, and fre- legally can be disposed of in municipal landfills, it
quency of collection. can contaminate groundwater and adjacent prop-
Citizen Collection Stations. A citizen collec- erty. HHW may also be collected at Agriculture
tion station is a facility established for the conve- Waste Pesticide Collections.
nience and exclusive use of residents (not commer- Agricultural Waste Pesticide Collections. These
cial or industrial users or collection vehicles). The events offer farmers and ranchers throughout the state
facility may have one or more storage containers, the opportunity to dispose of unusable agricultural
bins, or trailers. chemicals in a safe and environmentally sound man-
Many communities provide this collection ser- ner at no cost. Improper storage and disposal of these
vice to residents who lack a nearby disposal facility. pesticides could result in the contamination of a drink-
Citizen collection stations are typically recom- ing water source or injury to humans or livestock.
mended for unincorporated areas. In some cases, Texas Country Cleanup. These events offer rural
they may offer a practical and cost-effective alterna- areas opportunities to dispose of properly rinsed
tive to individual collection services, as well as an pesticide containers, as well as used oil, used oil
alternative to illegal dumping, open burning, and filters, and lead-acid batteries. Improperly managed
litter problems. Some facilities have introduced pesticide containers pose a threat to groundwater,
drop-off recycling services at their location for surface water, and human health. In addition, many
small quantities of selected recyclables, including landfills do not accept empty pesticide containers.
yard trimmings. Some citizen collection stations do Lake and River Cleanup. These events were
not require a charge for use, and some are even developed to clean up waste in waterways around
unstaffed. For those citizen collection stations that the state, with community involvement from citi-
charge for use, charges appear to be comparable to zens interested in local water quality issues.
those for residential curbside services.
Transfer Stations. Transfer stations reduce the
costs of collecting and transporting solid waste. A Methane Recovery
transfer station is used to move waste from collec- Closed landfill sites, as well as closed portions
tion vehicles to larger long-haul vehicles that trans- of active landfills, can be “mined” for methane gas,
port the waste to a landfill. Transfer stations may which can be used for fuel. Although several MSW
also be used to consolidate recyclables before they landfills in Texas have permits to recover methane
are taken outside the service area. gas, there are currently only three active recovery
operations in the state. The potential exists for areas of the state still lack sufficient alternatives
recovering significant volumes of methane gas, for dealing with liquid wastes.
particularly in light of recent federal regulations
requiring many landfills to install emission controls. Land Application of Sludge
Sludge is muddy sediment produced by the
Combustion processes used to treat water and sewage. Although
Combustion includes basic incineration, as well over 670,000 tons of sludge were disposed of in
as burning for energy recovery. There are many MSW landfills in 1996, this practice has become
combustion facilities across the state in hospitals, much less cost-effective in many areas. Conse-
schools, police stations, prisons, and industrial quently, there has been a significant increase in the
facilities. Although these facilities must comply number of registered sludge land-application sites
with appropriate air control regulations, only those in the state. When applied to land, sludge acts like
combustion facilities handling entire community or a compost or fertilizer and diverts the sludge from
regional waste flows must have a permit. landfills. This movement toward land application
Reduction through Incineration—with Energy of sludge is expected to continue.
Recovery. The volume of solid waste is reduced
by incineration and energy is extracted for heating Refuse-Derived Fuel
or generating electricity. The resulting ash is then Certain components of the MSW stream can be
sent to the landfill. Prior to incineration, waste diverted from landfilling and processed into fuel
processing systems may recover recyclable and pellets, known as refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Although
compostable materials. this technology continues to be of interest, it has not
Reduction through Incineration—without been developed to any great extent in Texas, where
Energy Recovery. Trash is burned solely for the other power sources are more cost-effective and
purpose of reducing its volume. readily available.
Liquid Waste Processing Disposing of Industrial
Examples of liquid wastes include sludge (solid Hazardous Wastes
or semi-solid residue that comes from treating mu- In 1997, Texas industries and businesses reported
nicipal wastewater); septage (liquid or solid material generating more than 69 million tons of hazardous
removed from sources such as septic tanks and por- waste. Most of that waste, 98 percent, was in liquid
table toilets); grease trap waste (waste from cleaning form (wastewater), which was primarily managed
“traps” that collect grease from sources such as on site or pretreated on site before it was sent to
restaurants and cafeterias); and grit trap wastes wastewater treatment facility.
(waste from cleaning traps that collect sediment In the past, some of the on-site treatment pro-
from permanent car washes). cesses have released hazardous waste into the soil
To dispose of these wastes in landfills, they and groundwater, which now have to be cleaned up
must be solidified and stabilized. Consequently, at a cost of millions of dollars. Sites with extreme
there has been a growing demand in recent years industrial pollution are called “Superfund” sites,
for the permitting of liquid waste processing facili- after the legislation that funds the cleanups.
ties in the state. The number of processing facili- Industries generating the largest quantities of
ties, however, is still not at the level needed to hazardous waste in Texas include:
meet the demand, and it is expected that many s petroleum refining
s chemicals and allied products metal, and other materials. Rats, snakes, mosquitoes,
s paper and allied products and other pests can live in the dumped garbage and
s electronic and other electrical equipment transmit disease to humans. Harmful chemicals can
s electric, gas, and sanitary services contaminate the ground or water. Dumping garbage
Two industrial categories accounted for 82 percent in drainage ditches can cause flooding if it accumu-
of all hazardous waste generated in 1997: petroleum lates. Fires at illegal dump sites cause air pollution
refining and industrial organic chemicals. Numerous and threaten neighboring residences and businesses.
options are available to industry for the proper han- Cleaning up illegal dumping is costly. Property
dling of hazardous waste. owners must pay to remove garbage dumped on
Deep-Well Injection. Deep-well injection is their land. Everyone pays through tax dollars when
underground disposal of wastes below drinking county workers must clean up litter and illegal dumps.
water supplies into a rock formation where they Prevention. Nuisance dumping and the illegal
cannot come into contact with groundwater. The disposal of solid waste are considered to be grow-
average depth of a hazardous waste injection well ing and pervasive problems in many areas of Texas.
is one mile below the ground surface. Why? Because there still exist many rural areas
Combustion for Energy or Other Recovery. with few or no collection services and many miles
Some kinds of waste can be burned in a boiler or to the nearest landfill. The costs of disposal in
industrial furnace to recover energy from the waste. sparsely populated areas, even when a landfill is
A boiler or industrial furnace must burn waste in a close by, can be extremely high because collection
test burn to prove it can destroy or remove 99.99 services do not want to travel a long way for a
percent of the organic compounds in the waste. small amount of material. Some people do not care
Incineration. Incinerators use direct flame or think about what they are doing when they
combustion to destroy wastes that are primarily or- dump material by the roadside
ganic and reduce waste material to ash and gaseous Efforts to Control Illegal Dumping. Many com-
emissions. A hazardous waste incinerator must meet munities in Texas are implementing partnerships
the same “test burn” standards as those for combus- that focus on preventing litter and illegal disposal
tion for energy recovery. through public education, local enforcement, and
Land Treatment. Land treatment is the process construction of convenient legal waste management
of placing water or wastewater onto the ground for facilities like citizens collection stations and transfer
purposes of irrigation (to supply the water and nutri- stations. The state also sponsors a number of state-
ents that soil and plants need). Soil bacteria use the wide education programs and special cleanup activi-
waste as food, and in this way the waste is treated. ties. The TNRCC has helped to organize river, lake,
The soils below the land treatment unit must be and coastal cleanups in various locations, and these
sampled and monitored so that any contamination types of events are becoming more popular.
from the wastes can be detected.
Key Concerns in A maquiladora is a foreign-owned manufactur-
Waste Management ing plant located in Mexico. Maquiladoras use Mexi-
Litter and Illegal Dumping can labor to convert raw materials or components
Litter and illegal dumping are dangerous and imported into Mexico by the plant’s parent company
expensive. Children play around illegally dumped into finished products. The La Paz Treaty requires
litter and can get hurt by broken glass, exposed U.S. maquiladoras to return wastes generated from
their production activities to the U.S., where suit- this capacity is not spread equally among all
able waste management facilities exist. regions of the state.
The TNRCC keeps track of the wastes from Landfill capacity can be measured three ways:
these maquiladoras, as well as other imported s weight of the waste in tons;
wastes, and prescribes rules for anyone transporting s volume of waste in cubic yards of space
hazardous waste to or through Texas to off-site stor- taken by deposit of the material; and
age, processing, or disposal facilities. According to s years (how long it will take to fill a landfill
Twin Plant magazine, as of November 1998, there at the present rate—this is the most common
were 2,952 maquiladoras in Mexico, and 1,800 of measurement).
those (61 percent) were located in major cities along Location. No one wants a landfill in his or her
the Texas portion of the U.S.-Mexico border. The neighborhood. Across the country, proposed new
Mexican Attorney General for the Environment landfill sites have been greeted by potential neigh-
estimates that 53 percent of Mexico’s maquiladora bors with a cry of “Not in My Back Yard!” (short-
waste is returned through Texas. ened to NIMBY). The use of the NIMBY acronym
Maquiladora waste increases the burden of spawned a variety of others:
Texas facilities by reducing the already limited s PITBY—put it in their backyard
disposal capacity. In addition, some maquiladoras s NIMTO—not in my term of office
contribute to environmental degradation in the U.S.- s NOTE—not over there either
Mexico border region by illegally dumping hazard- s BANANA—build absolutely nothing
ous wastes. To address these environmental issues, anywhere near anything
the TNRCC has partnered with Mexican federal, s LULU—locally unacceptable land use
state, and border region authorities. Tipping Fees. Fees for disposing of waste
(called tipping fees) have been rising at landfills and
Hazardous Waste Landfills other disposal facilities in Texas. These facilities
Landfills for hazardous wastes are similar to charge users by the ton, by the compacted cubic
those for MSWs, in that they must have a liner; a yard, by the uncompacted cubic yard, or by a com-
system for gathering and collecting leachate (water bination of these measures (depending on factors
that collects contaminants as it trickles through such as the type of waste and how it is delivered).
wastes, pesticides, or fertilizers); a leachate-detection Of the 213 landfills open at the end of 1999, 81
system that will detect any liquids below the top (38 percent) had a tipping fee by the ton, averaging
liner; and monitoring wells to detect contamination $25; 71 (33 percent) had a tipping fee by the com-
of groundwater. However, landfills for hazardous pacted cubic yard, averaging $7.35; and 96 (45 per-
waste also require special permits, with more strin- cent) had a tipping fee by the uncompacted cubic
gent requirements, under the federal Resource yard, averaging $6.30.
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Closures. In 1991, federal regulations on land-
Limited Capacity. Despite the large number fills substantially changed how MSW landfills are
of landfill closures in Texas in recent years, over- designed, constructed, operated, closed, and moni-
all disposal capacity in the state has fluctuated tored. Texas then had to comply with the federal
relatively little. In addition, improvements in standards or create its own standards that met or
technology have resulted in greater compaction exceeded the federal rules.
rates, extending the life of many landfills. Although The new regulations changed not only how
Texas has a large reserve of disposal capacity, waste is managed, but also the number of landfills
available to deposit waste. Under the new rules, unevenly distributed, with many parts of the state
landfills must meet stringent location requirements still remaining sparsely populated and even isolated,
related to soil geology, proximity to wetlands, im- making cost-effective solid waste management a
pacts on neighboring land uses, and groundwater. particular challenge.
Owners of both new and existing landfills are Economy. Compared to other states, Texas
required to control stormwater runoff, monitor ranks second in total number of industries and has
groundwater quality, and clean up contamination. the third-highest gross state product. Continued
Closed landfills must be covered with impermeable growth is expected for the state’s overall economy,
layers to keep water from leaching through the fill, which has broad implications for the generation of
while groundwater and methane buildup must be all types of waste.
monitored for 30 years after closure.
Landfills are no longer an easy, simple solu- Texas Solid Waste Management Plan
tion to our solid waste disposal needs. Many land- The TNRCC prepares the Municipal Solid
fill owners closed their facilities just to avoid the Waste Management in Texas Strategic Plan (SFR-
costly 30-year monitoring requirement. Hundreds 042) and updates it every two years. The plan pre-
of landfills in Texas have closed largely because sents the status of solid waste management in Texas
of the new requirements. and describes the state’s policies, goals, objectives,
and recommendations to help guide future MSW
Managing Municipal Solid Waste management activities.
Factors Affecting Regularly published status reports include:
Solid Waste Management s progress made and activities consistent with the
Size. Texas is the second-largest state in the comprehensive MSW strategic plan, including
nation. The state’s large physical size and diverse achievement of the waste reduction goals;
geography present challenges to managing solid s evaluation of progress made by local govern-
waste on a statewide level. ments under their MSW plans;
Location. Texas borders four states in Mexico: s status of state procurement of products made
Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. from recycled materials;
Texas also has an extensive Gulf of Mexico coastline s status of recycling programs of governmental
with a number of major ports, resulting in special entities, including schools; and
challenges for waste management in shipping, s status of public education programs.
industry, and tourism.
Climate. Texas has a wide climate range, with Waste Reduction: the Four Rs
average annual precipitation ranging from 56 inches The TNRCC promotes reduction of waste using
in the eastern part of the state to less than 10 inches activities referred to as the Four Rs:
in the far western part. Violent weather may result s Reduce
in emergency solid waste management needs. The s Reuse
generation of yard trimmings virtually year-round s Recycle
in the southern part of the state and seasonally else- s Rebuy
where are special challenges.
Population. According to the U.S. Census Reduce
Bureau, the Texas population grew from 17 million Reducing, or preventing waste, is the preferred
in 1990 to 20.8 million in 2000. This population is option because it eliminates the use of energy, water,
materials, and toxic products. This option is some- Reuse
times called source reduction because it reduces Reuse, the second preferred option to manage
waste at the source. waste, is using something again and again until it
Examples of reducing waste by not creating can’t be used anymore. People often confuse reuse
it include: and recycling. Reuse keeps a product in its original
s Selecting products with the most purposeful, form, while recycling turns the product’s material
least wasteful packaging. Avoid buying goods into a new resource for manufacturing. Using your
with unnecessary packaging. grocery bag again on another shopping trip is reuse;
s Buying products in bulk. You can refill a returning it to be made into new bags or another
smaller container at home from the larger dis- product is recycling. Reuse saves even more energy,
penser. However, make sure you can realisti- materials, and landfill space than recycling.
cally expect to use the quantity you purchase. Other examples of reuse include:
Don’t buy in large volume just to save money s donating books to libraries
and end up throwing it away because you s reusing the containers that come with frozen or
never use it. microwave foods
s Composting yard trimmings, and even food scraps s saving scrap materials to use in school art projects
(excluding meat and animal products) at home. s using rechargeable batteries
s Using less gasoline and oil by using mass tran- Resource Exchange. The TNRCC manages the
sit or bicycling. Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste
s Purchasing household cleaning products that are (RENEW) program. This program helps manufac-
“environmentally friendly,” or learning to make turers locate companies that can use the by-products
cleaning products out of items such as baking they create. Since RENEW began accepting listings
soda and vinegar. in 1988, it has assisted in the successful exchange of
Industrial Waste Reduction Programs. Indus- 782 million pounds of material, saving participating
trial waste reduction programs initiated in the early firms more than $7.8 million in disposal costs, while
1990s are beginning to show positive results. The helping companies to earn more than $6 million
amount of industrial solid waste going to the state’s from the sale of materials.
MSW landfills appears to be slowly decreasing,
while the levels of source reduction and recycling Since RENEW began accepting listings in
activities in the state continue to increase substan- 1988, it has assisted in the successful exchange of
tially. Texas primarily relies on voluntary measures 782 million pounds of material, saving participat-
to try to achieve its waste reduction goals. ing firms more than $7.8 million in disposal costs.
s Pollution Prevention Planning—the Waste
Reduction Policy Act (WRPA) of 1991 requires
industrial facilities and businesses to develop Recycle
long-term plans to reduce the hazardous waste Recycling generally refers to the collection and
they generate or the amount of specific toxic processing of materials into new products. In addition
chemicals they release into the environment. to collecting and processing glass, metal, paper, plas-
s Voluntary Waste Reduction—industrial facili- tic, and other similar materials from households and
ties voluntarily agree to reduce their hazardous other sources, recycling includes making mulch or
waste or chemical releases in the TNRCC’s compost from leaves, grass clippings, tree trimmings,
Clean Texas Program. and other organic materials.
3 – 10
Curbside vs. Drop-Off Recycling. Residential estimated to be the source of two-thirds of all lead
recycling programs often include public drop-off in our garbage landfills.
centers, to which residents take their recyclables, Used Oil Recycling. In 1991, the Texas Legisla-
and curbside recycling, in which a truck collects ture passed the Used Oil Collection, Management,
recyclables placed in front of, or near, the residence. and Recycling Act, which banned the landfilling
Often a combination of the two is appropriate to and dumping of used motor oil and created a state
serve a wider spectrum of citizens and recover a used oil recycling program. Legislation in 1995 also
longer list of materials. prohibited the disposal of used oil filters. Thus far,
Drop-off centers are designed primarily to re- the program has registered about 2,600 used oil
cover residential recyclables, though in many cases collection centers, almost 600 Do-It-Yourself
the centers also will be used by businesses. The cen- (DIY)-only used oil collection centers, and over
ters consist of collection containers located at con- 1,500 used oil-filter collection centers.
venient sites, such as schools. Containers are labeled For a bilingual poster that informs people that it
for various recyclables, usually newspapers, glass, is illegal to improperly dispose of used oil and used
steel cans, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans. oil filters in Texas, contact the TNRCC Publications
Curbside recycling offers the greatest conve- Unit (see back cover) and ask for Recycle Your
nience to the resident and the best opportunity for Used Oil and Oil Filters (GI-170).
materials recovery. Curbside programs typically Workplace Waste Reduction and Recycling.
collect newspaper, glass, and aluminum and steel With as much as 50 to 60 percent of MSW gener-
cans. Some also collect plastic bottles. A few ated by the commercial sector (not counting C&D
programs collect additional materials such as card- waste, brush, industrial, and other wastes), the
board, mixed paper, and used motor oil. Curbside combination of waste reduction and recycling in
collection is more common in residential areas the workplace represents the greatest opportunity
served by traditional garbage service. Residents for diverting waste from landfills, as well as for
store recyclables in a container provided by the achieving significant cost savings. Many work-
local government or its private contractor. places are finding that recycling makes environ-
Recyclables can be sorted either at truck-side mental sense and economic sense. When compa-
by the collection crew or at a central facility. nies reduce waste, they can reduce disposal costs.
Composting. Using compost benefits both For more information, see Recycling at Work in
the yard and the environment. Composting can be Texas (GI-40).
nothing more than a big pile of leaves, grass, and School Recycling. A school offers a unique en-
fruit and vegetable scraps with a little air and water vironment for recycling programs because it is both
added regularly to help it along. For more informa- a workplace and an opportunity to educate young
tion see the A Green Guide to Yard Care, (GI-28). people about environmental concerns. See the Texas
Used Battery Recycling. Texas law makes it School Recycling Guide (GI-30) for information on
illegal to dispose of a used lead-acid battery in any starting a school recycling program. School districts
manner other than through a battery dealer or through also may have videos showing recycling programs
an approved collection or recycling facility. Lead- in Texas schools.
acid batteries are found in cars, boats, motorcycles, During the first year of its comprehensive pro-
and some electronic security systems. Batteries that gram, Plano ISD reduced its waste disposal service
end up in landfills may crack, allowing lead and by one day a week, saving $10,000 in one year. Plano
acid to pollute groundwater. Lead-acid batteries are ISD has 46 campuses and over 29,000 students.
3 – 11
In the 1994–1995 school year, the cafeteria at s Looking for and buying products made from
Ryan High School (Denton, Texas) switched from recycled materials or packaged in recycled or
disposable dinnerware to reusable trays and bowls, recyclable materials.
purchasing carts to help collect the dishes. Labor for As with other products in a free-enterprise sys-
cafeteria workers increased, but work for custodial tem, the law of supply and demand applies. If there is
staff decreased 75 percent. The school went from no demand, there will no longer be a supply. If no
two Dumpsters, emptied daily, to one emptied daily one buys recycled-content products, manufacturers
plus one for cardboard. These changes saved $2,000 will stop making them. Then, because they no longer
during the school year in garbage pickup fees. Com- manufacture those products, they’ll stop buying pro-
bined with a saving of $5,000 from not buying cessed recyclables. If the collectors and processors
disposables, the school recouped its investment in have no market for the materials, they won’t continue
dishes and carts, and earned $1,660 in the first year. to retrieve them, so there’s no point in setting them
Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs). Pro- out on the curb. Cities won’t collect them any more.
cessing facilities that handle more than one recy- These recyclable materials will end up in the landfill.
clable material are called materials recovery facili- Recyclable versus Recycled Materials. When
ties (MRFs). MRFs process materials that have been consumers look at packaging, they are sometimes
kept separate from MSW for recycling or other ben- confused by the terms they see. The products some-
eficial use. MRFs sort the recyclables, bale them times have the chasing arrows printed on the pack-
using high-pressure compaction (a process of press- aging. Sometimes the chasing arrows are filled in
ing material together into a small, dense volume), and sometimes they are “hollow.” Each symbol has
and shipping the baled materials to a processor or a different meaning.
directly to the end user. The end user manufactures
new products from the recovered materials.
Markets for Recycled Products. The Texas
Health and Safety Code requires the state to develop
and expand recycling markets for communities, The symbol that is filled-in is the “recycled”
businesses, and institutions. The TNRCC offers symbol. It is used when the product contains materi-
online information, publications, seminars, and als that have already been recycled. The hollow
workshops. It also provides direct technical assis- symbol is the “recyclable” symbol. It is used when
tance in locating and accessing markets for recyclable the product or its packaging contains materials that
materials using resources found through partnerships can be recycled in the future, after the consumer has
with public and private groups. finished with the product or packaging.
Products that bear the recyclable symbol are
Rebuy more desirable because that means they help close
Preferring products made from recycled materi- the recycling process loop.
als helps support demand for the materials collected Recycled content products:
for recycling. This rebuying “closes the loop,” that s are often of equal or better quality
is, it completes the recycling circle. compared to those you currently buy
Examples of rebuy include: s are often the same price or cheaper
s Asking retailers to stock products made from s conserve natural resources and protect
recycled materials and using recycled products the environment
in the workplace and at home. s influence the marketplace
3 – 12
Business Purchases. Texas businesses and in- the state’s economy by turning recycled material
stitutions influence the marketplace through their into finished products. Businesses that process re-
purchasing power. By requesting and purchasing covered materials or use them in manufacturing are
recycled products, businesses increase demand and providing 20,000 Texas jobs. These are some of the
drive prices down. Many Texas companies are pur- products these manufacturers produce:
chasing recycled-content products and giving pref- s architectural products and furnishings
erence to vendors who engage in environmentally s construction products
sound practices, integrating a “Buy Recycled” pro- s paper and office products and supplies
gram into procurement policies and procedures. s automotive and transportation products
More than 400 processing and manufacturing s landscaping and agricultural products
businesses in Texas pump almost $2.9 billion into s park and recreation products
3 – 13
Waste Lesson Plans
Title: Milk Carton Art
Author: Karen Jukes, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi TES Course, 1996
Grade level: K - 3rd grades
TEKS: science: 3.1B, 3.5A
Purpose: To demonstrate ways that easily accessible items can be recycled into fun and exciting activities.
Objective: To get students interested in recycling.
Materials: s soil
s seeds (grass or bean sprouts)
s construction paper or paint
s feet pattern
Lesson: 5. Plant the seeds inside the milk carton and wa-
1. Ask students to save their milk cartons from ter the plants according to the package.
the cafeteria. Inform students that they will 6. Within three to five days the grass will begin to
use the carton to complete an art and recy- appear. When the grass becomes long enough,
cling project. have the students give them a “hair cut.”
2. Have students cut the top of the milk carton off
and have them make small holes in the bottom. Evaluation:
3. Have them wrap their milk cartons with con- Hopefully, the students will have enjoyed this
struction paper leaving the top open. Have stu- project. You could even take it a step further and
dents draw or paint a face on the milk carton. have a recycling art contest in the class. Have the
4. Cut out the feet and glue them to the bottom of students complete an art project at home using
the carton; do not cover up the holes. recycled materials.
3 – 14
Title: Trash City
Author: TNRCC Pollution Prevention staff
Grade level: K - 5th grades
TEKS: science: K.1A, B, K.2A - E, K.3A - C, K.4A, 1.1A, B, 1.2A - E, 1.3A - C, 2.1A, B, 2.2A, B, C, E, F,
2.3A - C, 3.1A, B, 3.2A - D, 3.3A - D, 4.1A, B, 4.2A - D, 4.3A - D, 5.1A, B, 5.2A - D, 5.3A - D
social studies: 2.8D, 3.2B, 3.4C, 3.9B, 3.11A, B
Purpose: To teach students about preventing pollution.
Objective: Students will build a “trash city” and display it in the school’s cafeteria
on Friday of Pollution Prevention Week.
Materials: Encourage students to be creative, collecting items that would otherwise go into landfills.
The school’s Dumpster can trigger lots of ideas for what to bring, as well as ways to cut
back on creating garbage.
Lesson: sometimes “dirty” and sometimes “clean.” In-
Each class should build a city block. For ease in clude their pictures in Trash City as billboards
movement, it should be built on a sturdy piece of promoting clean air.
s Fourth graders and up could track the number
cardboard or something similar. At the end of the
project, all of the classes should be able to bring of ozone action days/air pollution watches/
their blocks together to form a city. Each class can warning days their city has starting from
label their block with street signs. This makes it Pollution Prevention (P2) Week until the end
easier for judging at the end of the project. of October.
Wednesday - Land Pollution
Extension: s Keep building the city.
The following is a general outline for suggested s Stress litter prevention. Make a quick trip
P2 Week lessons. Choose additional activities for around the campus to pick up litter. This litter
P2 Week from other lesson plans. (if appropriate) could be used in the Trash City.
s Discuss how litter affects a whole ecosystem by
Monday - Water Pollution hurting living things.
s Gather items for Trash City and brainstorm
ideas for your block. Stress that the Earth natu- Thursday - Source Reduction
rally recycles its water and that students are s Finish building each block and make sure it is
drinking the same water that the dinosaurs did. in place for judging.
s Display a poster on the hydrologic cycle and s Discuss the issue of excess packaging. Get the
discuss pollution scenarios. Stress how some kids thinking about why they have to have the
chemicals around the house can be bad for the toy that comes in three boxes instead of the one
students and for the environment. with a price sticker on it.
s Fourth graders and up could discuss specific
water quality issues such as recycling oil. Friday - Trash City Judging
The criteria for judging the city can change from
Tuesday - Air Pollution year to year, but here are some examples that you
s List Trash City ideas and pick the best ones; let can use:
students start putting it together. s Most Environmentally Conscious Block
s Discuss acid rain. Students could discuss ozone s Tallest Structure
action days/air pollution watches/warning days s Shortest Structure
alternatives such as car pooling and riding the s Most Sturdy Structure
school bus. Older students could do a project on s Most Creative Building
temperature inversions and smog. Younger stu- s Most Organized Block
dents could draw pictures of how the air is s Greatest Variety (of items used in a building)
3 – 15
The most creative students can receive special titles Department of Toxic Substances Control,
(Mayor of Trash City, City Council, Solid Waste 400 P Street, P.O. Box 806, Sacramento,
Manager, Water Quality Manager, and so on) California 95812-0806.
s The four-volume Regional Environmental Edu-
Additional Resources: cation Program. The P2 component was funded
These resources may be helpful when using this lesson: by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
s The No Waste Anthology: A Teacher’s Guide to They cover social, biological and physical sci-
Environmental Activities K-12 includes back- ences, and emphasize ecosystems, biodiversity
ground information, experiments, and transpar- and interdependence. As with the first source,
encies on water pollution, oil, air pollution, these binders include experiments and lesson
solid waste, the three Rs, household hazardous plans (K through 12). Call the Schuylkill Center
waste, etc. Contact: Public Education Coordinator, for Environmental Education at 215-482-7300.
3 – 16
Title: Trash Pizza
Author: Mary Dragon, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 1996
Grade Level: K - 6th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 3rd grade
science: 1B, 2D-E
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Identify items commonly sent to landfills.
2. Summarize percentages and/or fractions of different items in landfills.
3. Create a “pizza” pie graph of landfill components.
Vocabulary: landfill, municipal solid waste, recycling
Materials: s mixing bowl s 2 cups of flour s red food coloring
s spoon s 2 cups of salt s glue
s round, 12-inch pizza pan s 3/4 cup of water s paintbrush
Waste Items: s paper s glass s textiles (pieces of string, yarn, and old material)
s plastics s food waste s spray can of shortening
s yard waste s rubber s can of clear polyurethane or lacquer
s metals s leather
Background: 6. Divide pizza into sections: paper 32 percent,
Municipal solid waste is collected in landfills. The plastics 21 percent, yard trimmings 10 percent,
amount of land available for landfills is limited in metals 11 percent, rubber and leather 6 per-
many areas. Inspection of materials taking up land- cent, textiles 6 percent, wood 7 percent, glass
fill space is the first step toward reducing the waste 2 percent, food waste and other 5 percent
directed there. An understanding of landfill issues (fractions may be used as an alternative)
can lead to a discussion of recycling and reuse to 7. Apply sauce with the paintbrush and add waste
conserve landfill space. items. You may want to add a label for each
section with percent listed.
Lesson: 8. After a 24 hour period, you can paint your
Use caution when doing this lesson with younger trash pizza with clear polyurethane or lacquer.
students, particularly in step 3.
1. Mix flour, salt and water until it forms a nice Assessment:
dough. Students should construct pizza pie graph accurately
2. Spray the can of shortening onto the pizza pan according to percent of waste items in landfill.
and flatten the dough evenly on the pan.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until Enrichment:
golden brown. Have student groups use landfill data from differ-
4. Remove from the pan and let it cool. The ent areas to make more than one trash pizza and
dough should be hard. compare. Have students display trash pizza for the
5. Mix the glue with the red food coloring until it rest of the school with information about landfills
looks like tomato sauce. and recycling.
3 – 17
Title: Trash Count
Author: Tina DeBolt Pouliot, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Grade level: 1st - 5th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 1st grade
science: 1A, 5A-B
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Identify pollution around their school by picking up school yard trash.
2. Infer possible sources of pollution.
3. Categorize objects according to similar properties.
4. Discuss ways to make changes and to inform the public about pollution.
Vocabulary: pollution, solid waste, water contamination
Materials: s latex gloves
s bags to collect trash
s poster board to create graphs
Background: 4. Make a pictograph by gluing small items on
Litter on the ground can be harmful to native plant poster board. Large items can be drawn on
and animal species or may even pollute the water poster board.
supply. Surveying litter gives students a chance to 5. Discuss where the items may have come from.
realize how harmful pollution can be and how 6. Determine who might be causing the most pol-
simple it can be to prevent. lution by analyzing pictograph. (Examples:
candy wrappers come from children, cigarette
Lesson: butts come from adults, others items may come
You may want to extend this once-a-week cleanup from a local business.)
project over a six-week period to gather enough in-
formation to make conclusions. Assessment:
1. Discuss safety for cleanup project: wear gloves Students should participate in trash collection and
at all times, students should not pick up sharp sorting. Students should create pictograph and draw
items or needles but tell the teacher about them. conclusions by reading pictograph.
2. Collect trash around the school.
3. Take the trash back into the classroom and sort Enrichment:
it. (Make sure that students are still wearing Discuss how you can raise public awareness about
gloves). Have the students sort the trash by trash on your school grounds. Suggestions might be
like items for example gum wrappers, paper letters to the editor in the local paper, pamphlets
cups, etc. sent home to parents or graphs displayed in the halls
of the school.
3 – 18
Title: Worm Composting (Vermiculture)
Author: Alice James, Texas Southern University TES Course, 1995
Grade level: 1st - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 1.1, 1.2A - E, 1.3A, B
Purpose: To convert unwanted organic matter, particularly food scraps and paper, into fertile soil.
Objective: Students will be able to compost in a limited space and describe the decomposing process.
Materials: s containers (either wooden boxes or plastic bins) that are about 2 feet by 3 feet by 1 inch.
You can use a Rubbermaid tub with a lid and drainage tray, or holes in the ground; a 1-foot
by 2-feet by 3-feet box, or four 10-gallon containers that are big enough to compost the food
scraps for a medium-sized family. Punch 1/8-inch holes in the sides for ventilation. Tight-
fitting lids help keep pests out of outdoor wooden boxes, but don’t use a lid with a plastic
container unless the container is well ventilated.
s paper soaked in water (newspapers, cardboard, paper towels, and other coarse papers work
s 1/2-pound of red worms (brown-nose worms or redworms work best in containers; don’t use
night crawlers or other large, soil-burrowing worms). Composting worms are available from
various stores and catalogs that sell garden or fishing supplies.
s food scraps (almost any fruit, grain, or vegetable material other than oil is good for worm
composting). Suggestions are watermelon, banana peels, tortilla chips, tomato, and bread
crumbs. Materials to avoid: cat and dog droppings can spread disease. Meat and other ani-
mal products, fish, and oil can produce odors and attract pests. Some colored inks contain
traces of toxic metals.
s soil or fine sand to provide grit.
s leaves and other yard trimmings.
s livestock manure for worms in outdoor containers.
s drawing paper.
s overhead for a diagram of a worm.
Lesson: it, point out parts and how to distribute it. Start
1. Present an explanation of red wigglers (three with a pound of worms for each pound of food
main parts), touching on reproduction; explains scraps you plan to compost each week. For ex-
worm composting and retrieval of worm castings. ample, start with 2 pounds of worms if you
2. Point out the 1/4-inch holes in tubs. Demon- will compost 2 pounds of food scraps per week.
strate how to tear paper. Paper serves as a Unless you start composting more food scraps,
“bedding” for the worms to live in. The worms you should never need to add any more worms.
consume it along with the other materials. 6. Store food scraps in a sealed container to pre-
3. Tear the paper or cardboard into strips. Soak it vent flies or roaches from laying eggs in them.
in water, and let it drain. (It’s easier to tear Refrigerate them, if possible, until you are
cardboard into strips for bedding if you soak it ready to add them to your worm compost bin.
in water first.) Add food scraps in small amounts, especially
4. Add this paper bedding to a bin until it is one- at first, or your bin may get smelly or heat up.
third full. Keep the bedding damp (old, dry 7. Measure out one fourth cup of organic materi-
bedding can harbor pests), but don’t let it be- als. Add a 1/2-inch or smaller layer of food
come soaking wet. Add dry paper as needed to scraps on top, mix it lightly into the top two
soak up excess water. Keep your bin in a inches of bedding, and cover everything with
shaded and sheltered location where the bed- at least one to three inches of dry shredded pa-
ding can stay below 90O F. per. If you cut or mash your food scraps and
5. Mix in a little soil or fine sand. Measure out keep them damp while you store them, your
one cup of finely ground soil, with a worm in worms will eat them faster. Don’t leave any
3 – 19
food scraps at the surface. Wait two days or Modeling:
longer, and then repeat these steps as materials Students come to the front and model the steps to
are available. build a worm composter in the correct sequence.
8. When a worm bin is full, scoop out any undi- Supervise the students through cooperative group-
gested food scraps and the material that con- ing, with four to five students per group. Students
tains the most worms—usually the top two to build composting bin with materials provided. Stu-
four inches of the material. Use the rest as dents draw and label worm and compost container
compost. Put the worm-rich material back into and also write one or two sentences about how
the bin. Mix it with an equal amount of fresh composting is beneficial.
bedding, and cover with 1 inch of shredded Review the objectives and process of building
paper. With plenty of food and a good environ- and maintaining a worm composter. Students will
ment, worms can double their populations ev- discuss the process required to worm compost and
ery 90 days. the benefits of worm composting.
9. To recover more worms from the compost,
spread it thinly on a tarp in sunlight, leaving a Extension:
few small mounds. The worms will gather in Students predict items that will be consumed first by
mounds as the material dries. Be careful be- completing class graph. Compare predictions to
cause the heat and rapid drying can kill them. findings by monitoring daily. Draw conclusions to
Another method is to sift the compost gently findings, “why”?
over a fine-mesh wire screen and save the
worms that don’t go through it. Handle the
worms gently and with gloved hands or a fork
(not a shovel).
Note: Wash your hands thoroughly after you have handled fresh compost.
3 – 20
Author: Sylvia J. Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso TES Course, 1997
Grade level: 2nd - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 2.1A, B, 2.2A - E, 2.3A - C, 2.4A, B, 2.5A, 2.6A - D, 2.7A
social studies: 2.8D
Purpose: To help students learn about composting.
Objective: Students will learn, through organic decomposition, about composting in their backyard to
make richer soil with nutrients for gardens, plants, and trees. Therefore, soil, plants, and trees
will live in a sustainable manner. Students’ family and natural environment will enjoy a
healthier and safer lifestyle.
Materials: s compost bins (bins may be made out of lawn bags, plastic, wire or wood). The compost bin
should be 3.5 feet by 3.5 feet by 3.5 feet. You need two compost bins. One is needed to trans-
fer the compost from one bin to the empty one.
s hose s rulers
s watering cans or bottles s shovels
s gloves s yardsticks
Note: Do not use any of these items in the compost pile: animal bones; animal meat; animal
products such as fats or cooking oils; cat litter; coal; charcoal; charcoal ashes from barbecue
grills; colored paper; dairy products such as cottage cheese, milk, sour cream; diseased plants;
or dog droppings. Also, do not add: insecticides, pesticides, poisons, or toxic chemicals.
Lesson: plastic gloves. They sort “brown stuff”
Introduce composting at the beginning of the school (carbon) and “green stuff” (nitrogen).
year. Students in turn will teach their parents what 3. Architects–They verify the design of the com-
they learn. In the fall, when leaves dry out and fall, post pockets. They also check the measure-
teach them what to do with the abundance of leaves. ments and specify, in order, which layers are
In the spring, help prepare compost for planting new placed. The Material Supervisors, Bulldozers,
growth. In April, discuss Earth Day. In May, when and Rainmakers are told by Architects which
discussing “How Plants Grow,” teach students about layer goes where and when they (compost
compost as a fertilizer. pockets) are watered, how much water. They
review the formula with students.
Preparing the Students: 4. Bulldozers–They will add the dirt back to
During the first one to four days, review vocabu- the compost pockets when the Architects
lary words. Repeat the review and have the stu- direct them.
dents use the words in simple sentences. Students 5. Rainmakers–They have water available to
will study IQ words every two days. They are to add to the compost pockets as directed by the
take the words home, and make up individual IQ Architects request.
sentences with the help of their family members.
On the fifth day, work on a vocabulary worksheet Composting Advice:
together as a game. Do not use it as a quiz or test, The compost pile must be turned often with a
they are too young. shovel. Sawdust, straw, or wood chips may be
added to help dry the compost pile. (This is carbon.)
Building a Compost Pile: Keep the water moisture low! Do not over water!
Assign the following jobs to groups of four students If your pile smells rotten, turn the pile or add
using label tags. Break the class into these groups: sawdust, wood chips, or straw. If the compost pile
1. Excavators–they dig a hole for compost smells like ammonia, it has too much nitrogen
pockets, 18 to 24 inches deep, 12 to 18 (green stuff). Add high carbon materials such as
inches across. sawdust, straw, or wood chips.
2. Material supervisors–they collect the materials A good compost pile may be ready in one month
for the compost pockets, such as baggies and if turned over and moistened properly. When it’s
3 – 21
ready, put the prepared compost in lawn bags and composting at home. Did it work? Is it working?
close them with ties. Leave the bags in the sun to Why? Why not?
“cook” about five hours a day to kill bacteria, weed
seeds, etc. Draw and paint the process. Draw the results. Draw
If there are fire ants in the compost, you may kill and paint the students’ predictions. Hang and dis-
them by pouring hot, boiling water on them. Do not play the drawings around the school.
kill them with pesticides; it will harm the compost
pile. Pesticides will also harm the water supply; pes- Evaluation:
ticides don’t decompose. Students will:
Insects, pests, and rats indicate a presence of s produce a fertile, natural smelling compost.
meat scraps or fatty food waste. Remove the meat s be able to recite the steps to make a compost
and/or cover with a layer of soil. Have seeds, plants, pile (in their own words).
or flowers available to plant or repot to take the pro- s know what each group’s responsibility was.
cess one step further. Or take the ready-made com- s be able to identify which tools are needed
post made by students and spread it on top of trees for all jobs.
or plants on school grounds. s be able to identify the formula for “brown stuff”
and “green stuff,” air and water, and to identify
Reviewing the Project: how many parts are used.
Reteach the students by going back to check or wa- s be able to tell or show three different ways to
ter the compost. Ask for a report about their
use compost at home.
3 – 22
Title: Ready, Set, Go Recycling!
Author: Gipsy Schneider, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1994
Grade level: 3rd - 5th grades
TEKS: science: 2.2B, C, 3A, C
social studies: 2.8D
Purpose: To understand how to recycle, reuse, or reduce.
Objective: Students will be able to separate a quantity of trash into appropriate containers
to either recycle, reuse, or reduce. Then form a habit of observing the 3 Rs.
Vocabulary: Sort, reduce, reuse, recycle
Materials: s 2 boxes to hold a large quantity of trash
s 6 paper grocery bags
Note: Do not use glass containers for this activity.
Lesson: describes how that item can be kept out of a
1. Prior to this activity, students will need to col- landfill. Then player runs back to team line
lect trash like refillable containers, cloths, and and the next player goes. Teammates cannot
newspapers. yell out advice. The relay continues until the
2. Set up a relay course 50 feet or longer. Label trash boxes are empty and the players are all
two bags with each of the following words: sitting down.
“Reduce,” “Reuse,” “Recycle.” Place one set 4. List habits that students have and discuss ways
of three bags at one end of the course and one they could break these habits.
set of three on the other side with the labels
facing toward the starting line. Fill the two Evaluation:
boxes with equal amounts of trash. Place trash Restate the objectives. Ask if there were any items
boxes halfway down the course, one on each that could have been put into another bag and why.
side. Mark the starting line. Ask students the following question: How did we
3. Divide the class into two teams. Each team do? Do we need more practice?. How can we reduce
lines up at starting line. First player runs to trash in the classroom? Can we set up reuse and re-
their box, pulls out one item, runs to paper cycle containers at home? What can we buy or use
bags and places it in proper bag. Student that is made from recycled materials?
3 – 23
Title: In Search of Reused and Recycled
Author: Lydia Zambrano
Grade Level: 3rd - 6th grades
TEKS: Sample TEKS for 5th grade
science: 1B, 3B
Objectives: The students will be able to:
1. Identify recycled and recyclable products by reading their packaging.
2. Understand the impact of solid waste on landfills.
3. Relate the idea of conserving natural resources to the importance of
recycling and buying recycled products.
Vocabulary: recycle, recyclable, reuse, Mobius symbol, landfill, natural resources, nonrenewable
Materials: (glass containers are not recommended for this age group, but they can use the labels from them)
s empty plastic containers s aluminum cans
s empty cardboard boxes s empty cans
s scissors s glue
s a large piece of butcher paper to cover the blackboard or to span the length of a wall
Background: C. on the labels for the steel cans, note
Landfills across the country are full of items that the Mobius symbol and recommendations
could have been reused or recycled instead of to recycle
thrown away. Recycling and reusing products D. on the glass labels, note that not all glass
uses less energy and fewer natural resources than products have the Mobius symbol and
manufacturing items from scratch. The market circle those that do
for the recycling industry, however, is based on E. on the plastic bottles, note what number is
the demand for recycled products. The recycling inside the Mobius symbol
loop includes collecting recyclable products, F. students should list the products that come
manufacturing recycled items from the used in recycled or recyclable containers by
materials, and, finally, purchasing items made brand name and list the kinds of containers
from recycled materials. most often used in their homes.
3. Students make a large mural on butcher paper,
Lesson: titled “Buy In Recycled Containers” or “Look
1. The teacher should give a lesson on landfills, for These When You Shop.”
the importance of recycling, and the use of
natural resources in manufacturing Assessment:
2. Students are asked to bring labels from card- Students should turn in their notes from step two
board boxes, glass products, canned products, and display their mural for the rest of the school.
plastic containers, and aluminum cans. The
students should do the following: Enrichment:
A. circle the Mobius symbol in red Evaluate recycling procedures in school and identify
B. on the cardboard boxes, note how areas that need improvement. List some products
much of the cardboard comes from that are not recyclable and come up with ideas as to
recycled paper how these products can be more effectively dis-
posed of or re-packaged.
3 – 24
Title: Classroom Landfill
Author: Sunny Whittington, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1994
Grade level: 4th grade
TEKS science: 4.1B, 4.2A - E, 4.3A - D, 4.5A, B, 4.7B
social studies: 4.18A, D, 4.9A - C
Purpose: To understand disposal of litter is a major problem for cities and rural areas.
A landfill is one way of disposing of litter.
Objectives: Students will be able to describe how a landfill works and compare the decomposition rate
of different materials in a landfill. Students will observe results of a properly constructed
landfill vs. the results of leachate due to improper construction. Students will collect data
through pictures, observation, and recording observations. Students will compile collected
data, pictures, and knowledge into a report emphasizing right and wrong ways to construct
Materials: s 1 glass jar, gallon size per group s terra cotta pots s plastic bags
s straws s plastic draining trays s topsoil
s 20-oz. cups s poster board s markers
s rubber cement s rings s cardboard squares
s paper s pencils s magnifying lenses
s tape s string s jars with lids
s water s grease pencil
s litter (Suggestions: orange peels, Styrofoam cup, paper, aluminum foil, apple cores,
bones, and plastic wrap.)
Background: Activity #1: Landfill Decomposition:
Discuss the fact that a landfill is a way to dispose of 1. Cover the bottom of the jar with topsoil. Add a
many different kinds of litter, and that after a land- few pieces of trash close to the sides of the jar.
fill becomes full of litter it is covered up with soil Using the grease pencil, mark the places where
and left so that the trash will decompose, or begin to the litter is touching the side of the jar.
rot and simply disintegrate. But what if some things 2. Repeat this procedure to make another layer of
don’t decompose? What happens then? What sort of soil and trash. Finally, cover both layers with
items might not decompose? Explain to the class topsoil and add enough water so that the soil is
that as groups you are going to construct a landfill slightly moist.
in your classroom. 3. Place the lid on the jar and leave it where it
will be undisturbed.
Lesson: 4. Observe your landfill every week for one
What to do with trash: Unwrap a piece of candy in- month. Have the children describe what they
conspicuously, place it in your mouth, and throw the see happening to the litter in the landfill, and
wrapper on the floor of your classroom. A child will compare the rate of decomposition between the
invariably ask why you threw trash on the floor. items. Ask the children to explain other meth-
Ask the class what you are to do with trash. After ods of disposing of items in their landfill that
they answer that you are to throw it in a trash can, are not decomposing. Explain that this is a
ask what happens to it after it goes into the trash good reason to be conservative with items, to
can. Most children know that the trash truck picks it reuse them, and if you are unable to reuse them
up or that it is taken directly to the dump by an indi- that you should start separating your trash and
vidual. This will lead to your question, “What hap- recycle certain items.
pens to trash after it is taken to the dump (landfill)”?
3 – 25
Activity #2: Landfill construction and leachate: Landfill Visit Procedures:
Students will construct two landfills, one built ac- Before the visit, make “magic squares” from 10 1-2
cording to proper specifications, one representing an inches cardboard squares. Cut out the center, leav-
improper “dump.” Students will visit a landfill to ing a 1-2 inch border. Lace string–holes spaced two
look for evidence of leachate and the effects it has inches apart, to make a grid.
on the environment. Students will use cooperative At the landfill, place the magic square on the
groups to compile data gathered into a report. ground. Photograph the area for future reference.
Using a magnifying glass, closely observe the
1. Calculate the volume of a 20-oz. cup to deter- vegetation and soil in each square and record the
mine the amount of each type of trash. data on a matching grid drawn on paper. Collect wa-
2. Fill the hole in the bottom of a terra cotta pot ter samples to analyze later.
with clay. Line that pot with a plastic bag. After returning to the classroom, students with
3. Fill each cup (representing a “trash truck”) similar data should work together to arrange pic-
with the proper amount of each type of gar- tures, combine data, and share observations. Each
bage and empty it into the flower pot. (NOTE: group of students should document their findings in
You can also use the “garbage pizza” lesson a report.
from Keep America Beautiful’s Waste in Place
curriculum supplement to determine percent- Evaluation:
ages of each amount of material that goes into Restate the objectives and ask the children to list
the landfill.) items that might not decompose as fast as others
4. Put a layer of soil over each layer of trash. and how this could affect our environment. Discuss
Continue layering until the flower pot is full. why more stringent landfill construction and moni-
5. Insert straws to represent the different types of toring requirements are necessary to protect
methane gas vents needed in a landfill. the environment.
6. Cover the top of the pot with a thick layer of
clay and set the pot aside.
7. Fill the second pot, but do not line with a plas-
tic bag or fill the hole in the bottom with clay. s Study local areas to document how many
8. Use the same procedure as before to fill the pot landfills are operating and how many have
with “garbage.” Top the second pot with a closed since 1990 due to new regulations.
s Contact local communities to determine the
layer of soil.
9. Place both pots in plastic trays and water each effect on garbage collection fees in local
thoroughly. Observe the results. communities as landfills have closed.
s Study the work of landfill archaeologists
and report on what they have learned.
3 – 26
Title: Household Hazardous Waste Identification
Author: Ingrid Dierlam-McDonald, TNRCC staff
Grade level: 4th grade
TEKS: science: 4.1A, B, 4.2A, B, C, D, E, 4.3A, B
social studies: 4.9A - C
Purpose: To identify household hazardous waste.
Objectives: Students will be able to: identify household hazardous products; learn about reducing,
reusing, and recycling (the three Rs); and learn about less hazardous alternatives. Students
will complete an inventory of hazardous materials in a typical household.
Materials: s worksheets s vinegar
s baking soda s lemons
Background: event. Materials brought into these collections are
Almost every household in Texas has some house- properly disposed of at a hazardous waste disposal
hold hazardous product(s) in it. Paints, poison, pes- facility such as an incinerator or properly designed
ticides, cleaning agents, degreasers, automotive landfill. Call the TNRCC at 512/239-4747 for infor-
products, and many more items that have the signal mation on HHW in your area.
words “warning,” “danger,” and “caution” on their
labels can be classified as hazardous household ma- Lesson:
terials. These items become household hazardous Have students list hazardous household products in
wastes when they are no longer wanted or usable for each room of a typical home:
their intended purpose.
When these materials are disposed of in the Kitchen:
trash, contaminants can leak through the landfill and Drain openers, oven cleaners, bleach cleaners, bug
into the groundwater supply where many cities get sprays, abrasive cleaners or powders, disinfectants,
their drinking water. When these materials are ammonia-based cleaners, and household batteries.
poured into the storm sewer or on the ground, they
can contaminate drinking water supplies in our Laundry Room:
streams and lakes. (Empty containers that are not Spot removers and bleach cleaners
recyclable can be placed into the trash.)
The problem of having hazardous household Garage:
wastes can be lessened by using the reduce, reuse Paints, paint and varnish remover, rust proof coat-
and recycle principals. Households can reduce the ings, thinners and turpentine, wood preservatives,
amount of waste they have by buying only the stains and varnishes, auto batteries, used motor oil,
amount they need to do the job and reading the label brake fluid, transmission fluids, antifreeze, pesticides,
thoroughly before purchasing a product. Households fertilizers, insecticides, ant killers, weed killers.
can reuse hazardous household materials by giving
materials to a neighbor who can use the materials as Bathroom:
indicated on the label. Household hazardous wastes Drain openers, deodorizers, disinfectants, abrasive
such as used motor oil, batteries, and paint can be cleaners, prescription drugs, mirror cleaners, finger-
recycled at collection centers. Less-hazardous alter- nail polish and fingernail polish removers.
natives can work just as well as commercial hazard-
ous materials and for a fraction of the cost and at no Workshop:
danger to our health or the environment. Hobby chemicals, photographic chemicals, wood-
For unusable or unrecyclable household hazard- working chemicals, and degreasers. Other rooms:
ous wastes that have already been created, the best Household batteries, rug and upholstery cleaners,
disposal method is to bring these materials into a furniture polish, moth balls, and pool chemicals.
household hazardous waste (HHW) collection
3 – 27
Less-Hazardous Alternatives: ANSWERS
Have students match the less-hazardous alternative 1. Baking soda - a, c, f, h, i, j
on the left with the job that it will do on the right by 2. Lemons - c
drawing a line from one to the other. (Some alterna- 3. Vinegar, salt and water - h
tives may be used more than once). 4. Salt and boiling water - i
5. Borax - a, f, h, j
1. baking soda a. bathroom cleaner 6. Salt and cold water - b
2. lemons b. blood stain remover 7. Corn meal and borax - g, k
3. vinegar, salt, and water c. room deodorizer 8. Lemon oil and mineral oil - d
4. salt and boiling water d. furniture polish 9. Olive oil - d
5. Borax e. instead of moth balls 10. Cedar chips - e
6. salt and cold water f. abrasive scouring powder 11. Corn meal - g, k
7. corn meal and Borax g. rug cleaner
8. lemon oil and mineral oil h. all purpose cleaner
9. olive oil i. drain opener
10. cedar chips j. sink cleaner
11. corn meal k. carpet cleaner
3 – 28
Title: The Landfill Loafers Meet the Wise Buys
Author: Eunice Hefty, TNRCC staff
Grade level: 4th grade
TEKS: science: 4.1A, B, 4.2A, B, C, D, 4.3A, C, D
social studies: 4.9A - C
Purpose: To understand recyclable materials and proper disposal of these.
Objectives: Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of recyclable materials
and proper disposal of these items and which waste materials can be recycled.
Materials: (Students will be asked to bring these items)
s clean recyclable products such as aluminum can s plastic milk jug
s several examples of recycle–content items s newspaper
s The teacher will provide construction paper
signs for students to hold which represent
“landfill loafers” and “wise buys”
Background: Landfill Loafers
The teacher will explain to students that too many Can Make ............... Some Wise Buys
products are often used once and are then thrown Aluminum cans ....... new soda cans, siding for a
away. Some common examples are our plastic milk house, support poles for a
jugs, daily newspaper, and aluminum drink cans. playscape, roofing
These items are then deposited into a landfill with Glass containers ...... new glass packaging, decora-
all kinds of waste items. They may lie in a landfill tive tiles, reflective paint for
for hundreds of years becoming Landfill Loafers. roads, filtration systems, ag-
However, many of these products could have a use- gregate for road base
ful life after their initial use if their owner would Paper ....................... new writing paper, building in-
recycle them. Items which are recycled instead of sulation, cereal boxes, card-
being thrown away can be made into new products, board, bath and facial tissue,
The Wise Buys. Some of these new products may paper towels, paper plates, file
surprise them. folders, 3-ring binders
Plastics .................... plant pots, plastic lumber, can
Lesson: liners, lawn furniture, clothing,
Select several students who can represent the Land- car bumpers, drain pipes, pal-
fill Loafers. These students will stand in front of the lets, marine piers, decking
class and hold a sign which represents an item lumber, playground equip-
which could be recycled (such as an aluminum can, ment, park benches
a newspaper, a glass container or a plastic milk jug). Tires ........................ marine habitats, crash barriers,
The number of Landfill Loafers can be as compre- playground ground cover,
hensive as is age appropriate or as time permits. parking stops, soaker hoses,
Other students will represent the Wise Buys which roofing
are the new products made in part or completely Steel food cans ........ appliances, auto parts, con-
from recycled products. Once again the list can be struction beams, new steel cans
as lengthy as is age appropriate. The students repre-
senting Wise Buys will try to determine from which From Keep America Beautiful, Inc.’s Close the Loop.
Landfill Loafer their product was made. The Wise Buy Recycled.
Buys will take their place behind the appropriate
Landfill Loafer. (See list at end of lesson). The Note: ITW Hi-Cone offers teachers a free recycled
teacher will discuss with students about which Wise stand (tree) that holds six-pack, plastic rings if the
Buys were made from which Landfill Loafer. teacher will send the collected rings back to the
For current buy recycled information, visit the company. Call 1-800-965-RING or visit their Web
Keep America Beautiful Web site at www.kab.org. site at http://www.ringleader.com.
3 – 29
Title: The Biodegradability of Plastic Bags,
Paper Bags, and Newspaper
Author: Lillian Haynes, Stephen F. Austin State University TES Course, 1996
Grade level: 4th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 1A, B, 2A - D, 3A - D, 4A, 5A, B, 7A, B, 10A
social studies: 4.18A, D
Purpose: To introduce students to the preferred waste management hierarchy (reduce, recycle/compost,
waste–energy, landfilling) and the concept of an integrated waste management system. It is
an individual responsibility.
Objective: The students will test several types of plastic bags in different environments: direct sunlight;
a mulch pile (which simulates an active landfill); a leaf pile (which simulates a dry landfill);
and salt water (simulates an ocean).
Materials: s 4 brown paper bags s 3 nets (plastic or cotton)
s 4 pages of newspaper s wire or string
s 6 wooden posts s leaf pile–approximately three feet high
s tapwater s saltwater (15 percent by volume)
s 8 biodegradable plastic bags (use two different brands)
s 8 nonbiodegradable plastic bags (use two different brands)
s 8 plastic containers approximately 1/2 gallon each
s mulch pile–approximately 4 feet high (consisting of grass clippings and leaves with rotting
vegetable matter, fertilizer, and compost starter culture in a 6-foot diameter ring made of
wire fencing materials.
Lesson: bags, and newspapers in the different environ-
This lesson requires a period of at least three ments upon removal.
months. 5. After you have the different types of landfills
1. Fold and secure two types of biodegradable constructed, have community members visit
and nondegradable plastic bags on top of a net and discuss the importance of recycling and
with wire or string. Tie a wooden post to each the community landfill. Examples of commu-
end of the net and place each post into the nity members are the mayor, city manager,
ground, leaving the plastic bags exposed to the members of the community beautification
sun. Do the same with one paper bag and a committee. Take a field trip to the city landfill.
page of newspaper. Have students to determine if the landfill could
2. Place two types of biodegradable and be made environmentally safer.
nonbiodegradable plastic bags, a piece of
newspaper, and a brown paper bag in the Evaluation:
middle of the mulch pile. Wet the pile thor- Did any materials decompose? If so, which materi-
oughly with water. als decomposed most thoroughly?
3. Place the same types of materials that were Was the degradation greatest in the materials ex-
used in previous steps in the middle of the leaf posed to the sunlight, mulch pile, leaf pile, tap wa-
pile. Place two biodegradable plastic bags, two ter, or salt water? Did the plastic bags that were ad-
nonbiodegradable plastic bags, one paper bag, vertised as biodegradable appear any different from
and one page of newspaper into four separate the nonbiodegradable bags?
containers of tap water. Then, place these same
types of materials into separate containers of Extension:
15 percent (by volume) saltwater. Participate on a committee and take a census, get-
4. Allow all the materials to stay in their environ- ting public input on whether landfills are needed
ment for three months or longer. Record the and how they would feel if one were going to be
changes that occurred to the plastic bags, paper built near their homes.
3 – 30
Title: EGGS: A Toxic Waste Simulation
Author: Sandra Weaver, Lamar University TES Course, 1994
Grade level: 6th - 8th grades
TEKS: science: 1A, D, 2A - E, 3A - E, 4A, B, 5A, B
social studies: 6.23A, 7.20D, 7.23A, 8.32A
Purpose: To allow students to use higher-level thinking skills to solve the problem of toxic waste
Objective: Students will design, construct, and test a toxic waste transportation vehicle.
Materials: s raw egg for each team of students s meter stick
s scissors s balance
s tape s materials brought in by students (various)
Background: Note: Tell students the size of your next raise (your
Many times we think that only large companies pro- grade) will be evaluated on the following criteria:
duce hazardous or toxic wastes. Many common s Egg does not crack or break – 20 points
household products contain ingredients that are s Egg breaks, but does not leak from
toxic which makes them hazardous when used and container – 20 points
disposed of improperly. When disposed of improp- s Vehicle completed on time – 20 points
erly, household hazardous wastes can contaminate s A written description of materials used
soil, air, and water. and directions for construction of vehicle
to boss (teacher) – 20 points
Lesson: s Vehicle must fit inside 40 cubic centimeter
Hold up a raw egg for the students to observe. Ex- area – 10 points
plain to them that this simulates toxic waste that s Empty vehicle must not weigh more
must be transported by trucks across the country than 500 grams – 10 points
without any leakage. It is also very important for EGGS to maintain good
Assign each student a partner. Tell students that they public relations as an environmentally conscious
will be working together to design and test a vehicle that company. Each team may earn bonus points by
contains a raw egg (toxic waste). They will enclose demonstrating environmental concern with the fol-
the raw egg in a device/vehicle that will be dropped lowing criteria:
on concrete from the top of a second story staircase. s Vehicle is made from recycled
Tell students they have just been hired as the materials – 2 points
Chief Hazardous Waste Disposal Engineers for the s Vehicle is constructed from
Environmental Goo and Gross Stuff Company, recyclable resources – 2 points
known as EGGS. The EGGS (company) is faced with s Vehicle’s exterior is decorated to show
new government regulations for the transport of toxic that your are an environmentally concerned
wastes produced during the production of a new pes- company and safety signs are clearly visible –
ticide, yellow outdoor lice killer strips (YOLKS). 2 points
As hazardous waste disposal engineers, your
team is assigned to design, build, and test a model Evaluation:
of a new hazardous waste transport vehicle. This
Ask students these questions: How did your vehicle
vehicle will be used to transport YOLKS waste to a
rate or perform?
landfill, about 2,500 miles away from the factory.
If the egg withstood the impact, describe what fea-
Your team must bring materials from home for the
ture of your model allowed this to happen.
construction of your vehicle.
If the egg cracked or broke, what major problem did
Students will be given one class period to com-
your vehicle have and how could you correct it?
pletely construct their vehicle. It will be tested (dropped)
the following class period. Sorry, no trial runs allowed!
3 – 31
The frog does not drink up the
pond in which he lives.
— Native American Proverb
List of Lesson Plans by Grade Level ......................................... A-1
Glossary of Environmental Terms ............................................. A-2
Weights and Measures Conversion Charts ................................ A-9
Calendar of Events .................................................................. A-10
Resources for Environmental Education ................................. A-11
Recognition Opportunities for Schools ................................... A-12
Overview of Major Environmental Legislation ...................... A-14
3 – 33
Appendix A: List of Lesson Plans by Grade Level
Lesson Plans by Grade Level
Grade Lesson Title Chapter
K Is Our Water Clean? Water
K-3 Milk Carton Art Waste
K-5 Particulate Matter: The Lorax Air
K-5 Trash City Waste
K-6 Trash Pizza Waste
K-8 Water Conservation Task Water
K-8 Where Does the Water Go? Water
1-3 Oily Oceans Water
1-5 Trash Count Waste
1-8 Worm Composting (Vermiculture) Waste
2-5 Plants and Oxygen Air
2-6 Hopscotch Migration Water
2-8 Composting Waste
3 Clean Water Water
3-5 Ready, Set, Go Recycling Waste
3-6 In Search of Reused and Recycled Waste
4 Classroom Landfill Waste
4 Household Hazardous Waste Identification Waste
4 Landfill Loafers Meet the Wise Buys Waste
4 Underground Pollution Water
4-5 Ozone Pollution: Smog Alert Air
4-5 Wetlands/Watershed Model Water
4-8 Acid Rain Collection and Mapping Air
4-8 Air Pollution Letter Writing Air
4-8 Air Pollution Survey Air
4-8 Biodegradability of Plastic Bags, Paper Bags, and Newspaper Waste
5 Making a Water Filter Water
5-6 Storm Drain Dumping Water
5-8 An Experiment Testing Growth of Algae Water
6-8 Aquifers: Unlimited or Not Water
6-8 Don’t Cry Over Spilled Oil Water
6-8 EGGS—A Toxic Waste Simulation Waste
7-8 The Path of Pollution Air
Appendix B: Glossary of Environmental Terms
acid rain: rain, mist, or snow that contains high lev- benzene: a colorless, hazardous hydrocarbon emit-
els of acidic chemicals that can cause environmental ted from vehicles and through chemical manufactur-
damage. ing processes.
aerobic: having sufficient free oxygen to support biosphere: the area near the earth’s surface where
respiration. all living organisms are found.
aerosol: particles of solid or liquid matter that remain bronchitis: a potentially serious health condition
suspended in the air because of their small size. marked by inflammation of passages leading to the
lungs, a condition that can be further irritated by air
agricultural: relating to the science of cultivating pollutants.
the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.
“brown” materials: organic materials with a high
air pollution: the soiling of the atmosphere by con- carbon-to-nitrogen ratio such as dead leaves, dry
taminants to the point that may injure health, prop- hay, dry wood chips, and paper.
erty, and plant or animal life; or prevent the use and
enjoyment of the outdoors. C
canopy: the uppermost spreading, connected, branch-
allergy: a bodily response, such as sneezing and dif- ing layer of a forest, which creates a shady, cooler
ficulty in breathing, to natural and human-made air forest floor with conditions often marked by higher
contaminants. moisture and whose soil composition is characterized
by a deep layer of naturally decomposing flora.
ambient air: outdoor air.
carbon monoxide: a colorless, odorless, poisonous
ambient pollutant: a pollutants that exists in the gas produced when carbon-containing energy
environment (air, water, or land). See pollutant and sources such as coal, oil, gasoline, wood, or natural
criteria pollutant. gas do not burn completely.
anaerobic: a life or process that occurs in, or is not carcinogenic: a substance whose use has been
destroyed by, the absence of oxygen. linked to a higher incidence of cancer.
anaerobic decomposition: reduction of the net catalytic converter: an air pollution control device
energy level and change in chemical composition that uses a chemical reaction to reduce emissions
of organic matter caused by microorganisms in an from motor vehicles.
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): chemicals that were
aquifer: water-bearing underground layers of per- once commonly used as coolants in refrigerators and
meable rock, gravel, or sand. air conditioners, as well as other uses, and that can
harm the upper atmospheric ozone layer.
asbestos: a mineral, noted for its fire-retardant
qualities, that was used heavily for insulating and colonias: unincorporated, rural settlements of gener-
fireproofing homes and buildings. Airborne asbestos ally substandard housing where residents experience
fibers can be inhaled, potentially causing damage to limited or no access to public utilities such as water,
lungs, particularly through repeated exposure. electricity, or sewage.
atmosphere: the mass of air surrounding the earth. combustion: the production of heat and light energy
through a chemical process including rapid oxidation.
atmospheric ozone (O3 ): The uppermost layer of
ozone gas, which acts as a protective layer and re- compaction: the process of pressing various materi-
duces the amount of harmful ultraviolet rays penetrat- als together and reducing air pockets, such as the
ing the atmosphere and reaching the earth’s surface. layers of waste materials in a landfill.
compost: a mixture of various decaying organic mat- ecosphere: the “bio-bubble” that contains life on earth,
ter that is used for soil enriching and conditioning. in surface waters, and in the air. (See biosphere.)
conductivity: a measure of a given substance’s ability ecosystem: the interacting system of a biological
to conduct heat, sound, or electric current; for example, community and its nonliving environment.
metals generally have a high conductivity rate, while
wood or glass has a very low conductivity rate. effective recharge: the amount of water that enters
an aquifer and is available for withdrawal.
conservation: the act of consuming less, preventing
waste, and actively reusing materials. effluent: an outflowing branch of a main stream
or lake; waste material discharged into the environ-
consumer: an individual who uses economic goods ment or bodies of water, particularly containing
and services. pollutants.
contaminant: a substance, chemical, or other pol- emission: a discharge or release of pollutants of
lutant that enters surface water or groundwater, soil, high concentrations into the air, such as from a
or air in unsafe concentrations. smokestack or automobile engine.
criteria pollutants: six pollutants for which the emission standard: the highest concentration of a
EPA has set standards to protect human health and particular pollutant that can be discharged legally
welfare: ozone, carbon monoxide, particulates, sul- from a single source.
fur dioxide, lead, and nitrogen oxide.
environment: the sum of all external conditions
corrosive: a chemical agent that reacts with the surface affecting the life, development, and survival of
of a material, causing it to deteriorate or wear away. an organism.
D environmentally sensitive products: products in
decomposers: animals, bacteria, and fungi that con- which manufacturing methods reduce the impact on,
sume or chemically break down decaying matter. or lessen the damage to, the environment when
compared with manufacturing methods of other
density: a measure of how heavy a specific volume standard products.
of a solid, liquid, or gas is in comparison to water.
depending on the chemical. environmental science: the scientific study of
common, worldwide environmental conditions,
diesel engine: a type of internal combustion engine problems, and solutions from which sound envi-
in which air is compressed to a temperature high ronmental practices and management are devel-
enough to burn fuel. oped and applied.
dimictic: lakes and reservoirs that freeze over and epilimnion: upper waters of a thermally stratified
normally go through two stratifications and two lake subject to wind action.
mixing cycles a year.
estuaries: sensitive areas of water, typically
discharge: the release of a fluid (liquid or atmo- adjacent to the mouth of rivers, where freshwater
spheric) that may contain contaminants. inflows mix with ocean salt water to create an
ideal aquatic nursery for thousands of plant and
dispersion: the process of any substance changing animal species.
from a high concentration to a low concentration
through, for example, the medium of air or water. eutrophic lakes: shallow, murky bodies of water
with concentrations of plant nutrients causing exces-
sive production of algae.
ecology: the study of the connections among living evaporation: the change of a substance from a
things and their environment. liquid to a gaseous state.
fall overturn: see overturn. ground-level ozone: a naturally occurring gas (O3)
that forms low in the atmosphere and can create
fecal coliform bacteria: bacteria found in the intes- health risks for people exposed to high concentra-
tinal tracts of mammals. Their presence in water or tions at earth’s surface, particularly among asthmat-
sludge is an indicator of pollution and possible con- ics, small children, or others sensitive to it. In-
tamination by pathogens. creased levels of O3 are associated with warm ambi-
ent temperatures, sunshine, and light wind speeds.
fine particles: microscopic bits of dust, soot, mist, Oxides and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) undergo chemi-
and smog that measure 2.5 or less micrometers cal reactions to form ozone, a process that is accel-
or microns (in comparison, a human hair is about erated by release of VOCs (volatile organic com-
70 micrometers wide). See particulates. pounds) from many sources such as automobiles,
industry, and power plants. Ground-level ozone is a
fly ash: cinders, dust, ash, soot, or other partly component of smog.
burned matter that is carried in a gas stream.
groundwater: all subsurface water, as distinct from
four Rs: reference to reduce, reuse, recycle, surface water.
fossil fuel: coal, oil, and natural gas that developed habitat: the place or environment where a plant or
naturally from the remains of ancient plant and ani- animal naturally or normally resides. The character-
mal life and are a primary energy source. istics of a natural habitat can vary enormously in-
cluding extremes in elevation, temperature, and
fumes: smoke, vapor, or gas, particularly containing food supply.
irritants or harmful/offensive substances.
haze: high, ambient concentrations of fine dust,
G smoke, or light vapor that reduce visibility.
garbage: Animal and vegetable waste resulting
from the handling, storage, sale, preparation, cook- hazardous air pollutant (HAP): an air contaminant
ing, and serving of foods. (See also trash). that may increase the risk of serious illness or death
as a result of prolonged exposure.
global warming: an increase in the near-surface
temperature of the Earth. Global warming has oc- hazardous waste: a legally defined substance from
curred in the distant past as the result of natural in- industrial or municipal waste that is identified as
fluences, but the term is most often used to refer to toxic, corrosive, ignitable, or reactive or is other-
the warming predicted to occur as a result of in- wise listed in federal regulations as hazardous to
creased emissions of greenhouse gases. health. (See also toxicity, toxic pollutant, toxic
substance, and toxic waste.)
“green” materials: organic materials with a low
carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (rich in nitrogen), such as hydrocarbons: chemical compounds including fos-
green grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, and sil fuels, glues, paints, and solvents that can react
fresh manure. with other ambient pollutants to create smog.
greenhouse effect: the warming of the Earth’s at- hydrologic cycle: the water cycle, which includes
mosphere attributed to a buildup of carbon dioxide evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
or other gases; some scientists think that this
buildup allows the sun’s rays to heat the Earth while hydrology: a science dealing with the properties,
preventing a counterbalancing loss of heat. distribution, and circulation of water on and below
the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere.
greenhouse gases: any of the gases such as carbon
dioxide, water vapor, and methane that contribute to hydrostatic: of or relating to fluids at rest or to the
the greenhouse effect. pressures they exert or transmit.
hypolimnion: bottom waters of a thermally strati- lead: a metallic element used in the refining of some
fied lake. The hypolimnion of a eutrophic lake is gasolines and some batteries, which has been asso-
usually low or lacking in oxygen. ciated with health risks through prolonged exposure.
I lignite: a brownish-black coal that emits contami-
ignitable: capable of burning or causing a fire. nants such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide if
not burned properly.
impervious cover: surfaces that will not allow the
penetration of liquids. M
macroinvertebrate: multicellular organisms with-
incinerate: using extreme temperatures, substances out a vertebral column (backbone) that are large
are burned to ashes. Disposal of hazardous waste is enough to be seen by the naked eye and that are
sometimes accomplished through incineration. commonly found in or around waterways. Examples:
immature or larval forms of insects, snails, clams,
infiltration: the penetration of a portion of water or leeches, and crayfish.
snowmelt through the ground’s surface into subsur-
face soil. materials recovery facility (MRF): a processing
facility that sorts and compacts recyclable materials.
instream habitats: portions of the stream where life
exists, including pools, riffles, root mats, plants, and metalimnion: the middle layer of a thermally strati-
undercut banks. fied lake or reservoir. In this layer there is a rapid
decrease in temperature with depth. Also called
inversion: the occurrence of a layer of cool air thermocline.
trapped by a layer of warmer air above it so that the
bottom layer cannot rise and contaminants trapped meteorology: the study of the earth’s atmosphere,
in the bottom layer cannot be dispersed. including weather conditions, weather forecasting,
invertebrate: an organism without a backbone.
methane: a colorless, nonpoisonous, flammable gas
L created by anaerobic decomposition of organic com-
lake: a large body of fresh or salt water surrounded pounds. A major component of natural gas used in
by land. the home. Today, it is commonly collected from
modern landfills for energy use.
landfill: 1. Sanitary landfills are disposal sites for
nonhazardous solid wastes spread in layers, com- micrometers (or microns): measurement equal to
pacted to the smallest practical volume, and covered one millionth of a meter; see the Weights and Mea-
by material applied at the end of each operating day. sures Conversion Charts, Appendix C.
2. Secure chemical landfills are disposal sites for
hazardous waste, selected and designed to minimize mist: a dense concentration of fine water droplets in
the chance of release of hazardous substances into the atmosphere.
monomictic: lakes and reservoirs which are rela-
leachate: water that collects contaminants as it tively deep, do not freeze over during winter, and
trickles through wastes, pesticides, or fertilizers. undergo a single stratification and mixing cycle dur-
Leaching may occur in farming areas, feedlots, and ing the year (usually in the fall).
landfills, and may result in hazardous substances
entering surface water, groundwater, or soil. municipal solid waste (MSW): solid waste result-
ing from or incidental to municipal, community,
leaching: the downward movement or percolation commercial, institutional, and recreational activities,
of liquid through soil or other material, such as including garbage, rubbish, ashes, street cleanings,
landfill waste, which may cause contamination of dead animals, abandoned automobiles, and all other
underlying soils and/or underground water. solid waste other than industrial solid waste.
N pathogens: microorganisms (such as bacteria,
nitrogen dioxide: a gas that forms in the atmosphere, viruses, or parasites) that can cause disease in
often as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. humans, animals and plants.
nonpoint source pollution: refers to pollutants pathogenic: ability to cause disease in humans,
that are (1) generated by diffuse land use activities, animals, and plants.
the source of which cannot be traced to a particular
facility (point source); (2) conveyed to waterways percolation: the movement of water through the
through natural processes such as storm runoff or pores or spaces of subsurface soil layers.
groundwater seepage, rather than by deliberate di-
rect discharges into streams and rivers; and (3) permeability: the ability of porous material to allow
controllable by changes in land management or fluids to move through it.
perpendicular: at a right angle to a given line
opacity: the amount of light obscured by particulate pH: a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a
pollution in the air; clear window glass has zero material, on a scale from 0 (maximum acidity) to 14
opacity, a brick wall is 100 percent opaque. Opacity (maximum alkalinity), with 7 representing neutral.
is an indicator of changes in performance of particu-
late control systems. phytoplankton: small, usually microscopic plants
(such as algae), found in lakes, reservoirs, and other
open/outdoor burning: the uncontrolled burning of bodies of water.
wastes in an open dump; TNRCC regulations make
this practice illegal under most circumstances. photochemical process: the chemical changes re-
sulting in smog, brought about by the energy of the
organic: 1. Referring to or derived from living or- sun acting on air pollutants.
ganisms. 2. In chemistry, any compound containing
carbon. photosynthesis: a process in which organisms, with
the aid of chlorophyll (green plant enzyme), convert
organism: any form of animal or plant life. carbon dioxide and inorganic substances into oxy-
gen and additional plant material, using sunlight for
overturn: one complete cycle of top to bottom mix- energy. All green plants grow by this process.
ing of previously stratified water masses. This phe-
nomenon may occur in spring or fall, or after plume: the visible emissions from a smokestack or
storms, and results in uniformity of chemical and chimney; an elongated band of water moving under
physical properties of water at all depths. the earth’s surface.
oxygen: a clear, odorless gas produced by plants pollen: reproductive grains or spores produced by
that supports respiration in animals and is necessary plants, which become airborne and can become an
for combustion. irritant to the respiratory tract of humans.
ozone: an odorless, colorless gas (O3). See atmo- pollutant: impurities found in air, water, and soil
spheric ozone and ground-level ozone. that can create health hazards or degrade the envi-
particulates (or particles, particulate matter): air- pollution prevention: practices that reduce or elimi-
borne particles of liquid and/or solid matter including nate the creation of pollutants or wastes at the source.
dust, smoke, fumes, spray, mist, and fog. Airborne par-
ticles are either “fine” or “coarse,” depending on their polystyrene: a rigid, transparent thermoplastic of
size. Fine particles are 2.5 micrometers (microns) or good physical and electrical insulating properties,
smaller; coarse particles are 2.5 micrometers or big- used especially in molded products, foams, and
ger. For comparison, a human hair is 70 micrometers. sheet materials.
point source pollution: a source of pollution that remanufactured: a product that has been repaired,
involves a discharge of waste, often into waterways, rebuilt, or otherwise restored to meet or exceed the
from an identifiable source. original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) perfor-
ponds: bodies of water that develop where streams
have stopped flowing through old channels or where reservoir: human-made body of water created
deposits of soil prevent water from entering channels. when surface water is diverted through damming
of streams and rivers and collected in an artificial
porosity: the amount of open space or “pores” con- or natural basin.
tained in a substance.
respiratory: refers to the mechanism for gas ex-
postconsumer materials: products, packages, or change in animals; specifically, taking in oxygen
materials generated by a business or consumer that (O2) and releasing carbon dioxide (CO2).
have served their intended use.
resource: products (such as oil, minerals, water, or
precipitation: condensation forming rain, mist, hail, wood) removed from the environment to be used for
sleet, or snow. consumer goods.
preconsumer (or postindustrial) materials: ma- riffle: a shallow extending across a stream bed.
terials or by-products that have not reached a busi-
ness or consumer for an intended use (does not in- rivers: large natural streams of water that flow from
clude materials and by-products generated from high to lower elevations and deposit water collected
and reused within the original manufacturing pro- from land masses into larger bodies of water such as
cess or a separate operation within the same or a seas and oceans.
precycling: choosing products/packaging with less
smog: air pollution typically associated with oxi-
environmental impact, or doing without them.
dants. (See: photochemical process).
R smoke: the gaseous products and small carbon par-
reactive: hazardous wastes that are normally un- ticles resulting from incomplete combustion.
stable and readily undergo violent chemical change.
solid waste: garbage, rubbish, refuse, sludge from a
recharge: the addition of water to an aquifer from wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment
precipitation, streams, and lakes, either directly into plant, or air pollution control facility, and other dis-
an aquifer or indirectly by way of another aquifer. carded material, including solid, liquid, semi-solid,
or contained gaseous material resulting from indus-
recharge level: refers to the capacity of water stor- trial, municipal, commercial, mining, and agricul-
age by an aquifer. tural operations and from community and institu-
recyclable: products that can be used again in the
manufacture of new products. Unless specified, source reduction: preventing pollution and waste at
products with the recyclable label may contain no the source.
spawning: the production or deposit of eggs by an
recycled: any product that is manufactured with ma- aquatic organism.
terials recovered from wastes, either preconsumer or
postconsumer. stratification: separating into layers.
recycled materials: used materials that are substi- stratosphere: the layer of air that extends from
tuted for raw or virgin materials in manufacturing a about 10 to 30 miles above the surface of the earth.
stream banks: areas that are home to many plants V
and animals and, under natural conditions, help pro- vapor: the gas given off by substances that are sol-
tect the stream from outside influences. ids or liquids at ordinary atmospheric pressure and
stream channels: areas created as runoff from the
watershed seeks a path of least resistance. vector: an agent, such as an insect, snake, rodent,
bird, or animal capable of mechanically or biologi-
stream systems: the area that includes surrounding cally transferring a pathogen from one organism to
watersheds, streams, stream channels, rivers, in- another.
stream habitats, stream banks, and ponds, lakes,
and reservoirs. volatile organic compounds: contaminants that
help form ozone near the ground and can be harmful
sulfur dioxide: a colorless gas that can bother the to health.
lungs and is formed when fossil fuels that contain
sulfur are burned.
T watershed: the land area from which water drains
toward a common body of water, such as a river
thermocline: the middle layer of a thermally strati- which in turn flows into the ocean/sea.
fied lake or reservoir. In this layer, there is a rapid
decrease in temperatures in a lake or reservoir. water treatment: the process of removing organics
and other contaminants from wastewater through a
topography: the physical features of a surface area series of clarifying processes, including chemical
including relative elevations and the position of treatment and aeration, until the water is safe for
natural and human-made (anthropogenic) features. release or reuse.
toxic pollutants: Materials that cause death, dis- wellhead: source of a spring or a stream; the top of
ease, or birth defects in organisms that ingest or ab- or a structure built over a well
sorb them. The quantities and exposures necessary
to cause these effects can vary widely. wetland: an area that is saturated by surface water
or groundwater, with vegetation adapted for life un-
toxic substance: A chemical or mixture that may der those soil conditions, such as swamps, bogs,
present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or fens, marshes, and estuaries.
toxic waste: A waste that can produce injury if in-
haled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. yield: the measurement of how much water is avail-
able for use as a water supply.
toxicity: the ability of a substance to cause adverse
effects (that is, to be toxic) in living organisms; a Z
high toxicity means that very small amounts of the zone of aeration: area in an aquifer above the zone
substance can cause adverse effects. of saturation where porous layers are partially filled
by moisture and partially by air.
transpiration: the direct transfer of water from the
leaves of living plants to the atmosphere. zone of saturation: area in which the hydrostatic
pressure in the water-filled interstices of the perme-
troposphere: the innermost part of the 12-mile able rocks of the aquifer is equal to or greater than
layer of air encircling the earth. atmospheric pressure.
turbidity: deficiency in clarity or purity.
Appendix C: Weights and Measures Conversion Charts
Converting U.S. and Metric Measurements
When you know… multiply by… to find…
teaspoons 4.93 milliliters
tablespoons 14.78 milliliters
liquid (fluid) ounces 29.57 milliliters
cups 0.24 liters
pints 0.47 liters
quarts 0.95 liters
ounces 28.35 grams
pounds 0.454 kilograms
gallons 3.79 liters
milliliters 0.20 teaspoons
milliliters 0.06 tablespoons
milliliters 0.03 liquid (fluid) ounces
liters 4.23 cups
liters 2.12 pints
liters 1.06 quarts
liters 0.26 gallons
inches 2.54 centimeters
feet 30.48 centimeters
yards 0.91 meters
Abbreviations Common U.S. and Metric Equivalents
Measurement Abbrev. 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 liquid ounce = 29.57 milliliters = 1 fluid oz
gram ............................................. g
1 meter = 1.0936 yards
kilogram ....................................... kg
1 kilogram = 2.204 pounds
liter ............................................... l
1 liter = 1.0567 quarts
millimeter ..................................... mm
1.609 kilometer = 1 mile
centimeter .................................... cm
1 lb. = 454 grams
meter ............................................ m
1 teaspoon = 5 ml
milliliter ....................................... ml
1 tablespoon = 15 ml = 1/2 fluid ounce
inch .............................................. in
1 pint = 473 ml
feet ............................................... ft
1 quart = 946 ml
yards ............................................. yd
teaspoon ....................................... tsp
tablespoon .................................... tbp
liquid (fluid) ounce ...................... fl oz
cup ............................................... cp
pint ............................................... pt
quart ............................................. qt
gallon ........................................... gal
Appendix D: Calendar of Events
Yearly Events Pollution Prevention (P2) Week
(Third Week in September).
Earth Day (April 22). Throughout the week, federal, state, and local envi-
To learn about Earth Day activities in your area call the ronmental agencies, universities, and industries
TNRCC’s environmental hot line, 800-CLEAN-UP. across the country highlight efforts to reduce waste.
For information about Pollution Prevention Week
Blue Thumb Project/ activities in Texas, visit the TNRCC’s web site at
Drinking Water Week (First Week in May). http://www.tnrrc.state.tx.us and search for “National
The Blue Thumb Project is an international public Pollution Prevention Week.”
awareness campaign designed to enhance the under-
standing that water is an essential element of life, Texas Recycles Day (November 15).
and that we need to manage it for the good of all. TNRCC invites every school, business, local gov-
A yearlong effort highlighted by Drinking Water ernment, and civic and environmental group to
Week, the project is led by a group of partnering participate in Texas Recycles Day, which encour-
nonprofit and governmental organizations, each ages all Texans to start or expand recycling efforts
having water awareness as part of its mission. The and to buy recycled-content products. To create an
American Water Works Association (AWWA) has exciting Texas Recycles Day event at your school,
developed a water materials packet to provide ideas order The Texas Environmental Event Planning
for community education activities. For more infor- and Resource Guide (GI-157), a how-to guide on
mation on the Blue Thumb Project or AWWA’s planning this event.
youth education program, call 303/347-6140 or refer
to AWWA’s Web site at http://www.awwa.org. A Special Events
catalog of Blue Thumb products and AWWA youth Texas Recycling Summit.
education materials can be obtained by calling 800- The summit is an annual Texas conference that pro-
926-7337. vides experts and training on large-scale and back-
Breathe Easy Month (May) and
Clean Air Week (Last Week in May). Environmental Trade Fair.
Breathe Easy Month is part of a national clean air A three-day event offering 12 educational tracks for
public awareness campaign conducted by the local government managers, industry professionals,
American Lung Association (ALA). Clean Air engineers, and environmental consultants, the trade
Week signifies the beginning of a series of ozone fair features more than 200 exhibits by firms that
health advisories, in conjunction with TNRCC’s supply environmental products and services.
Ozone Action Days and the Texas news media. This
series of announcements on public health was cre- Partnerships for a Livable Texas Conference.
ated to enhance public awareness of the lung disease This meeting is the first Texas-sponsored confer-
risk posed by ozone air pollution. For a list of clean ence exploring economic development and environ-
air activities in your area, contact your local Ameri- mental partnerships for the 21st century.
can Lung Association of Texas at 800-LUNG-USA
or visit the ALA’s Web site at www.lungusa.org.
A – 10
Appendix E: Resources for Environmental Education
Remember: Be sure to read and follow the instruc- making informed decisions affecting environmental
tions carefully when preparing a grant application. quality. Since 1992, EPA has provided between $2
Contact the organization offering the grant to be and $3 million in grant funding per year and has
sure you have the most current information about it. awarded about 1,700 grants. Grants of $25,000 or
less are awarded in EPA’s 10 regional offices, and
Texas Funding for School MSW Projects. Cur- grants of more than $25,000 are awarded at EPA
rently, a large portion of certain fees collected by Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year EPA’s
the TNRCC is distributed among the 24 regional Office of Environmental Education releases a Solici-
Councils of Governments (COGs) to support re- tation Notice in the Federal Register that provides
gional planning and implementing efforts. The instructions for obtaining a grant. For details, call
COGs grant program is an excellent source for the EPA at 202-260-8619 or visit its Web site at
schools seeking funding for local and regional http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/grants.html.
MSW management projects that will reduce solid
waste. Local governments, such as school districts, CLEAN TEXAS Program. CLEAN TEXAS is a voluntary
must apply for COG grants; individual schools or environmental leadership program to protect our
teachers are not eligible. state’s air, water, and land. Members commit to im-
proving the environment and sustaining a quality of
EPA Environmental Education Grants. The EPA life for future generations. The program is open to
supports environmental education projects that (1) schools, universities, nonprofit groups, and other
enhance the public’s awareness and knowledge about organizations as well as to industries, businesses,
the environment and (2) provide them with skills for cities, counties, and military bases.
More Sources for Environmental Information
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Texas General Land Office Brazos River Authority
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 1700 N. Congress Ave. P.O. Box 7555
Washington, DC 20460 Austin, TX 78701 Waco, TX 76714
http://www.epa.gov http://www.glo.state.tx.us http://www.brazos.org
Soil and Water Conservation Board Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Lower Colorado
P.O. Box 658 4200 Smith School Rd. River Authority
Temple, TX 76503 Austin, TX 78744 P.O. Box 220
http://www.texas.gov/agency/592.html http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us Austin, TX 78767
Texas Agricultural Extension Service Texas Railroad Commission
http://www.agextension.tamu.edu P.O. Box 12967 Sabine River Authority
Austin, TX 78711 P.O. Box 579
Texas Department of Agriculture http://www.rrc.state.tx.us Orange, TX 77630
P.O. Box 12847 http://www.sra.dst.tx.us
Austin, TX 78711 Texas Water Development Board
http://www.agr.state.tx.us P.O. Box 13231 Trinity River Authority
Austin, TX 78711 P.O. Box 60
Texas Department of Health http://www.twdb.state.tx.us Arlington, TX 76004
1100 W. 49th Street http://www.trinityra.org
Austin, TX 78756 Local Councils of
http://www.tdh.state.tx.us Government (COGs)
A – 11
Appendix F: Recognition Opportunities for Schools
Remember: Before putting together any proposal, schools are eligible for grants of $100 to $750. Con-
be sure to contact the organization offering these tact your regional H-E-B office for more information.
opportunities to ensure availability and find out
about program changes. National Environmental Awards for Sustainability.
Renew America recognizes programs that show
Poster and Art Contests how we can make our communities more livable by
National Poster Contest. Sponsored by National integrating environmental protection, social equity,
Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and and economic progress. Contact Renew America at
the NACD Auxiliary, this contest is for kindergarten 1200 18th Street, N.W., Suite 1100, Washington,
through 12th-grade students who show their knowl- D.C., 20036; 202/721-1545, fax 202/467-5780, or
edge of stewardship through art. Contact the Texas email@example.com.
State Soil and Water Conservation Board at 254/
773-2250 for information. contact your local Soil National Recycling Council and Buy Recycled
and Water Conservation District for deadlines. Business Alliance. Awards recognize achievement
in recycling. Government programs, schools, com-
Texas PTA-EPA Poster Contest. This contest is munities, nonprofit organizations, and individuals
coordinated through local PTA districts across the are eligible. Programs may involve source reduc-
state for pre-K through 8th grade. Finalists are se- tion, recycling, composting, or education. Nomina-
lected in late summer and announced in the fall. tions are due July 11 to Lisa Skumatz; contact her at
The PTA number in Austin is 512/476-6769. 206/624-8608 or fax 206/624-2950.
Treasures of the Texas Coast Children’s Art Con- Phillips Environmental Partnerships (PEP). PEP
test. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) annu- offers a variety of environmental programs open to
ally sponsors this art contest for students grades K teachers and students nationwide, as well as region-
through 6. Its purpose is to encourage young artists ally. See its Web site at http://www.phillips66.com/
to learn about natural resources along the Texas about/flyway/ for more information.
coast, and to help send the message, “Don’t mess
with Texas beaches.” Pledge and a Promise Awards and Environmental
Excellence Awards. Anheuser-Busch Theme Parks
Project-Based Awards presents financial awards, in cooperation with na-
Conservation Education Awards. Syngents Ag tional conservation organizations including the cen-
Products and the National Association of Conserva- ter for Marine Conservation, The Izaak Walton
tion Districts (NACD) recognize teachers for out- League of America, the National Fish and Wildlife
standing work in conservation education. Contact Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, and
the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. These
at 254/773-2250 for information and deadlines. awards honor the outstanding efforts of school
groups that have made contributions to the environ-
Environmental Awareness Project. Sponsored by ment. Awards range from $2,500 for third place to
the National Junior Horticultural Association (NJHA), $12,500 grand prize. For more information, call toll-
this project provides an opportunity for youth to free 1-877-792-4332.
help improve their natural environment. There are
two age categories: 15 to 17 and 18 to 22. Both indi- President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA).
viduals and groups can enter. Contact Michael This EPA award recognizes students in grades K
Rethwisch at 14465 W. 14th Ave., Blythe, CA, 92225; through 12 for planning and implementing environ-
760/921-7884; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or go mental projects. Applications are due by July 31. For
the NJHA Web site at /www.njha.org/environ.html.
more information, call 404-562-9900, toll free 800-
241-1754, or send e-mail to email@example.com.
H-E-B Grocery Co. Environmental Challenge. In
partnership with the Texas General Land Office,
this program encourages students to expand their Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and
knowledge of environmental issues. All Texas Mathematics Teaching. The awards (a $7,500 grant
A – 12
to the awardee’s school and a trip to Washington, science education. Forty grants for a total of up to
D.C.) are open to teachers in grades K through 12. $50,000 are available. The deadline is in January
Contact the National Science Teachers Association, each year. Contact NSTA/Tapestry at 1840 Wilson
1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22201- Boulevard, Arlington, VA, 22201-3000; 703/243-7100;
3000, 703/243-7100. fax 703/243-7177; or go to http://www.nsta.org.
Ruthe Jackson Youth Leadership Award and Sadie Texas Association for Environmental Education.
Ray Graff Education Award. Keep Texas Beautiful One individual award and one organizational award
(KTB) awards its Ruthe Jackson Youth Leadership to those who have promoted environmental educa-
Award and Sadie Ray Graff Education Award to rec- tion in the state of Texas. Contact the Texas Asso-
ognize individual and group efforts of youth, schools, ciation for Environmental Education at Route 2,
and other youth organizations. Call 1-800-CLEAN- Box 25-H, Trinity, Texas 75862 or 409/594-5554.
TX or go to www.ktb.org for applications. Awards
are presented at an annual convention every summer. TNRCC’s Texas Environmental Excellence Award.
The TNRCC yearly recognizes the state’s most out-
Tapestry Awards. Cosponsored by the National standing environmental projects that are innovative,
Science Teachers Association and Toyota Motor beneficial, measurable, educational, and cooperative.
Sales, USA. Grants to science teachers in grades Contact the program coordinator at 512/239-3100.
6 through 12 for innovative projects that enhance
A – 13
Appendix G: Overview of Major Environmental Legislation
Federal Legislation Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).
Water Pollution Control Act. Gave the federal gov- This 1970 act charged the EPA with assisting state
ernment the ability to enforce pollution laws for and local governments in developing disposal sys-
waters that are shared by multiple states. Passed in tems. RCRA, which amended the federal Solid
1956 and amended in 1961, 1965, 1972, and 1977. Waste Disposal Act, addresses numerous aspects
of solid waste management. Subtitle D of RCRA
Clean Air Act. Signed into law in December 1970, has had significant effects on MSW management
it gave the federal government the same kind of nationwide. In 1990, amendments increased the
jurisdiction for air pollution and increased the fed- stringency of standards and requirements for the
eral government’s role in the development of pollu- design, construction, operation, monitoring, and
tion control technologies. The act may also apply to closure of MSW landfills. RCRA also set regula-
certain solid waste management activities, such as tions for the generation, transportation, and disposal
landfill gas emissions and the control of incinerator of hazardous waste.
particulate emissions. In 1990, amendments to this act
mandated emission reductions, established a compre- Solid Waste Disposal Act. It was passed in 1965
hensive permitting system, and placed a cap on sulfur and was designed to encourage better ways of dis-
dioxide emissions from utilities and other sources. posing of solid waste.
Clean Water Act. This 1972 act to “restore and Texas Legislation
maintain the chemical, physical, and biological in- Clean Air Act. First enacted in 1965 and amended
tegrity of the nation’s waters” gives the U.S. Envi- in 1971, 1991, 1993, and 1995, it established a state
ronmental Protection Agency legal authority and program for the control of air contaminant emis-
funding to control water pollution at the national sions to protect the environment and human health.
level. The Clean Water Act led to significant
progress in cleaning up the nation’s waters Clean Rivers Act. The Legislature adopted this act
in 1991, directing river authorities to conduct re-
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Com- gional water quality assessments for each river basin.
pensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). This 1980
act is commonly known as the Superfund law and Coastal Coordination Act. This act calls for local
sets aside funds to pay for emergency cleanups of and state authorities to coordinate and protect
hazardous waste. coastal resources through regulating land use, water,
and coastal development.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act. This 1986 act focused on toxics reporting and re- Comprehensive Municipal Solid Waste Manage-
duction and included both Community Right-to-Know ment, Resource Recovery, and Conservation Act.
provisions and emergency planning requirements. This act provides for waste reduction efforts and
solid waste management planning at the state, re-
Environmental Policy Act. Passed in 1969, the Envi- gional, and local levels.
ronmental Policy Act requires U.S. government agen-
cies to prepare and submit an environmental impact Edwards Aquifer Authority. In 1993, the Legisla-
statement, assessing their effect on the environment. ture created this body to protect endangered species
whose existence depends on the water quality of the
National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Edwards Aquifer.
In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed the
National Environmental Protection Act and created Omnibus Recycling Act. This 1991 act set statewide
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA recycling goals and directed several state agencies,
combined the functions of 15 federal agencies to including what is now the TNRCC, to conduct a
maintain clean air and water, pesticide control, and comprehensive market development study to create
radiation monitoring programs. a strategy to stimulate markets for recycled goods.
A – 14
Texas Groundwater Protection Committee. This statewide solid waste management permitting and
committee was created by the 71st Texas Legisla- control functions.
ture in 1989 as a means to bridge the gap between
existing state groundwater programs and to optimize Texas Water Code. This code authorizes the
water quality protection by improving coordination TNRCC to protect the quality of all water bodies in
among agencies involved in groundwater activities. the state and to set state water quality standards in
accordance with the federal Clean Water Act.
Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA). This
1969 act, amended in 1993, authorizes the creation Waste Reduction Policy Act. This 1991 law re-
of a statewide regulatory program for solid waste, quires certain facilities that generate hazardous
including hazardous waste. The TSWDA establishes waste and toxic chemicals to establish source reduc-
the principal requirements for solid waste manage- tion/waste minimization plans and report annually
ment facilities and operations in the state, and as- on the progress of those plans.
signs responsibility to the TNRCC to administer
A – 15
Obtaining TNRCC Publications
You can view the TNRCC’s publication catalog
and print an order form at www.tnrcc.state.tx.us.
Click on “Publications,” then click on “How to Or-
der Publications,” then click on “order form” to
view a printable version of the order form.
Single copies of publications are free of charge.
Multiple copies may have a cost assigned; refer to
the TNRCC Publications Catalog (PD-001) for
Ordering Single Printed Copies
By Fax: fax to 512/239-4488
By Mail: TNRCC Publications, MC 195
P.O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
By Phone: call 512/239-0028
Ordering Multiple Printed Copies
Orders for multiple printed copies require prepay-
ment. Please make checks payable to the Texas
Natural Resource Conservation Commission and
mail the order form with payment to:
P.O. Box 13088
Austin, TX 78711-3088
Ordering Camera-ready Art
Generally, the TNRCC will provide up to 100
printed copies, with appropriate costs assigned, of
any publication. However, because agency publica-
tions are not copyrighted, you may request camera-
ready art to produce more copies yourself or at a
local printer. Preparation of camera-ready copy for
printed publications that are more than two pages
in length will require a charge. For more informa-
tion, call 512/239-0010.
The TNRCC is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. The agency does not allow discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or veteran status. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this document
may be requested in alternate formats by contacting the TNRCC at (512)239-0028, Fax (512)239-4488 or 1-800-RELAY-TX (TDD), or by writing
P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087.