Contact Sara Heilman, email or phone 512-974-3540.  Allow at least 2 hours for field trips (caving and creek testing).  Bus fees will be reimbursed.

Contact Sara Heilman email or phone 512-974-3540.  Our training kit contains 6 sets of the following kits: Dissolved oxygen, pH, TDS, nitrate, and E. coli.  The kit may be checked out and we provide training for your students if required.  You may also request one free complete test kit.

Water test kits are available for teachers and classes for educational use. General use kits may be requested through Keep Austin Beautiful

Contact Sara Heilman for specific information about your school's watershed, maps and curriculum on non-point source pollution and land use.

Part 1 View the presentation, then illustrate your concept of point source and non point source pollution

Part 2 Use the information on the site Protecting Water to answer the questions on the student sheet.

Part 3 A. Spills data

Follow directions on the student sheet and answer questions 1-6

B. Contour maps Permitted business data Use the contour map of your watershed, 2000 land use map of your watershed, and the data to answer questions 7-8.

Part 4 Use information from the Watershed Viewer  Follow directions on student sheet and answer questions 11-16.

Land use and Water Quality in your Watershed

Goal Students learn how land use affects water quality.

Objective Students will:

  • Define watershed;
  • Identify land use and water quality impacts;
  • Research and identify pollutants associated with particular types of land use found in their watershed.

Time Two to three, 45 minute class periods (may need another class period to finish research)

Science TEKS Biology 2(A, C, D) Environmental Systems 2(A,C,D); 4(C); 5(A,B,F); 8(A,D) Aquatic Science 2(A,D,E); 3(B,D); 5(D); 8(A,B,C); 10(C)

Student Vocabulary

Watershed - An an area of land that drains water into a particular creek, river, lake, or aquifer. Water drains downhill, so hills, ridges and other high points define the boundaries of a watershed.

Land Use - the human activity or economic function associated with a specific piece of land; the way the land is used in a watershed (e.g. residential, industrial).

Headwaters - the source of a creek or where the creek begins.

Mouth - the point where a creek enters a larger body of water.

Runoff - water that flows over the surface of the land into a creek, river, or lake; may carry a variety of pollutants.

Pervious Surface - a land surface such as grass or soil which allows water to filter through the ground.

Impervious Surface - a land surface such as a road, parking lot, sidewalk, rooftop, or other surface that does not allow water to filter through.

Point Source - a single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment (e.g. sewer, ditch, pipe).

Non-point Source Pollution - pollution that cannot be traced to a single point because it comes from many individual sources or a widespread area.

Lesson 1-Part I: Land Use and Flow Paths in Your Watershed

Materials Some materials are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing


Facilitating the Activity

  • Define a watershed- A watershed is an area of land that drains water into a particular creek, river, lake, or aquifer. Water drains downhill, so hills, ridges and other high points define the boundaries of a watershed. The water that flows over the surface of the land and drains into a body of water is called runoff. The cleaner the land (i.e. watershed) the cleaner the runoff and the receiving body of water. If the land (i.e. watershed) is polluted, then runoff is polluted and the receiving body of water becomes polluted.
  • Do Watershed Model demonstration- Allow students to rain on the watershed using the watering can. Focus on the downhill pathways the water follows to drain to the creek, and the cleanliness of the water as it flows over the land. Tell students the red food coloring represents pollution. Allow students to drop one drop of food coloring on different areas of the watershed. Rain again and discuss the flow of pollutants from the land (i.e. watershed) to the creek.
  • Define Land Use- Land Use is how land has been changed for human use, e.g. for a school, road, park, preserve, etc. Studying land use is a quick, practical method of locating the source of pollutants found within a watershed. Watershed scientists are particularly interested in studying land use to determine the impact it will have on water quality. The first step in assessing land usage in a watershed is to observe how the land surrounding the waterway is being used. Different types of land use generate different types of pollutants, which can runoff into the local body of water. Land use practices in the Austin area can affect the quality of our creeks and ground water in various ways that you will research and identify.
  • Identify Land Use Impacts to Water Quality- Discuss student handout #1 Land Use and Pollutants:Causes and Effects. Students will use this handout to answer questions on the student sheet.
  • Student Land Use Map Activity- Arrange students in groups and give each group 1990 and 2000 Land Use maps of their watershed. Show transparency of 2000 map. Locate and define the headwaters, mouth, and the different kinds of land use. Give groups time to complete Lesson #1: Land Use and Water Quality In Your Watershed.

Lesson 2: Point and Non-Point Source Pollution

MaterialsSome materials are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing


  • Arrange computer (internet) access for each group or produce hard copies of the websites.
  • Copy Lesson 2 for each student.(above)

Facilitating the Activity

  • Introduce point and non-point source pollution - There are two types of pollutant sources that enter waterways, point and non point sources. Point source pollution is a single identifiable source that discharges pollutants at specific locations through pipes, ditches or sewers into bodies of water. Typical point sources of pollution include industrial waste discharge, sewage plants, chemical spills, oil spills, illegal dumping, and construction sites where 5 or more acres are disturbed. Typically, this type of pollution results from the wastes or by products of public and private commercial facilities, which are purposely deposited into the water. Because point sources are at specific sites, they are fairly easy to identify, monitor and regulate. In the City of Austin, point sources of pollution include businesses that require a permit to discharge their chemicals (Stormwater Discharge Permit Program), and documented spills (Spills and Complaints Response Program). The City of Austin’s Stormwater Discharge Permit Program conducts inspections of specific commercial and industrial operations to ensure compliance with a City Code that protects water quality. Inspectors check materials handling, waste storage, and disposal practices from these businesses. These wastes must be disposed of properly, not on the ground or to a storm drain or waterway. The Spills and Complaints Response Program conducts investigations, assesses the potential environmental impact, determines the responsible party, identifies the pollutant, achieves compliance with environmental regulations, and ensures that corrective actions and preventative measures are taken.  Non point sources of pollution are scattered, diffuse sources of pollution that cannot be traced to any single point of discharge. Non point sources can be hypothesized by observing the land use surrounding the water source. Generally, non point source pollution is created through everyday occurrences in places where there is an increase in impervious surfaces and human activity. Examples include: lawn care chemicals, household hazardous products such as paint, petroleum products from cars and lawn mowers, and bacteria and nutrients from pet waste. When rain falls, these substances mix into storm water and eventually make their way into creeks, rivers, and lakes. The concentration of non point source pollution may be enough to degrade water quality and impact aquatic organisms and human health.
  • PowerPoint Presentation - Present slide show OR allow students to view it on their own using computers. Give each student a copy of the student activity worksheet, Lesson 2-Part 1: “PowerPoint Presentation” to fill out after the presentation.
  • Student Group Activity Two- Arrange student groups for use on computers with Excel and internet access. Give each student the handout Lesson 2-Part 2: "Point and non point pollution in your watershed”. Instruct students to use links on the Student Page for “Spills In Your Watershed”, Contour Map, and Student Handout #2: “Pollution Permitted Facilities”, and the 2000 land use maps from lesson 1.

Note: If your students have a question about a spill in their watershed or you are interested in having a spill investigator give a presentation to your class, contact Eric Kaufman at 974-3512

If your high school is not listed here and you would like this lesson adapted for your watershed, please contact Sara Heilman at 974-3540