"There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed."

2015 United Nations Water Annual International Conference Report
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This free ESL lesson plan on water has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Could there be a more valuable substance in the world than water? Well, if you have easy access to water then there probably is. On the other hand, if clean water is difficult to come by, then water could be more valuable than the most expensive diamond. We need water to live, not just to drink, but also to water the crops we eat. Water can also provide us with the energy we use to produce the products we rely on in our day-to-day lives. Some people take water for granted; others face a daily challenge accessing it. In this ESL lesson plan on water, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the importance of water, the uses of water, and why some people don’t have access to it.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Water Day, which takes place in March. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

World Bank | Why a human rights based approach to water and sanitation is essential for the poor

The article looks at commitments made by the United Nations to ensure all people in the world have access to clean water, and the developments that have happened since to achieve this aim. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is a called “Are we running out of clean water?” by TED Ed which looks at the reasons why the availability of fresh water is beginning to deplete despite the volume of fresh water remaining constant.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how much water to drink per day, water sports and activities, and ways to save water.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with water such as drought, sanitation and dehydrated. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about political ideologies. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how water is being polluted, whether access to water should be considered a human right, and conflicts that may occur in the future over access to water.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of water. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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