Hydropower, which is a part of water science, is energy created from fast-moving water. Just like other forms of alternative energy, such as solar power, hydropower can be reused again and again with no ill effects toward the planet.
In order to understand hydropower, you must first know how the water cycle works: The sun heats water in lakes, oceans, and streams. This causes water to evaporate. The water vapor condenses into clouds. It then falls back down to Earth as precipitation and is collected into the lakes, oceans, and streams. The process then repeats over again.
The more water there is, the greater amount of hydropower you can use. The volume of water available and how fast it moves determines how much energy it produces. More energy is produced when the water moves faster — when it falls from a high elevation. Water then moves through pipes and flows into blades of a turbine that powers a generator.
Hydropower has been used for centuries — even before we had electricity as we know it today, water was used to turn watermills.
Fun Facts about Hydropower
- Hydropower is the most common form of renewable energy
- Much of the United States’ hydropower plants are in the western part of the country
- Hydropower costs less money than other energy sources; if you live in a state that uses a lot of hydropower, your electricity bill is likely cheaper
- The first hydropower plant in the U.S. was in Wisconsin, and it opened in 1882
- Hydropower provides about 17% of the entire world’s energy
- More power is generated when more water is available
- Some cities buy water from other places
- Tidal power is a type of hydropower; it uses the water’s tides to create electricity
- 97% of the world’s water is found in oceans (as opposed to lakes or streams)
Water Science Activities for Kids
Below are some fun activities for your child to perform to see exactly how water science and hydropower works.
- Have some Legos? Use them to build a Lego Dam! This is a fun activity to show your kids how dams control the flow of water. All you need is enough Lego pieces, some water, and a bin to catch the flowing water (or you can do the activity outdoors).
- Create your own water cycle. All you need is a tall glass water bottle, some blue food coloring, water, and a sharpie. Using these tools, you can engineer your own water cycle that demonstrates the different stages of the water cycle. You can even draw your own clouds, too!
- An important part of learning about water is also the ill effects of water pollution. This experiment teaches kids about how water pollution works and whether its effects are reversible. This experiment involves something we all have in our homes: trash.
- Another water cycle experiment, this one simply utilizes a pot, water, and some salt. This is an excellent way to show how salt is not evaporated with the water.
- Does an egg float in water? What about if it’s salt water? This experiment illustrates how buoyant (or not) that an object can be in water using water, salt, a glass, and an egg.
- This last hydropower experiment is a bit more involved than the others and requires more tools. But it is an excellent way to show how water can power objects. Using skewers and a cork, this experiment shows how a mini-watermill can spin because of water.
Hydropower Kits for Kids
- Thames and Kosmos Hydropower Kit: This hydropower kit is relatively inexpensive and provides a multitude of activities for kids to learn the ins-and-outs of hydropower. This kit has 12 experiments to illustrate how hydropower works and includes the ability to build a mini-watermill, saw mill, and hammer mill, among other things.
Kids will also learn how to light an LED using the power of water. The plastic parts are not the highest quality, but for the price, this kit is perfect for kids who are just starting out in learning about hydropower. This kit is perfect not just for older kids but younger ones, too, and the step-by-step manual is in full color.
- 4M Salt Water-Powered Robot Kit: Combining robotics and hydropower, this simple robot teaches kits to utilize multiple facets of STEM-learning to build a cool bot. At only $10, this is an extremely affordable option in comparison to much more expensive kits.
This robot is powered by the chemical reaction of combining charcoal and salt water. Once it’s powered up, this little bot will move and show your kids how powerful water has the potential to be. This is a small, fragile robot, so kids should be careful, but with parental assistance it’s appropriate for almost all elementary school-aged children.
- Clean Water Science Kit: This kit has a focus on another part of water: the importance of clean water. Using this kit, kids will be able to filter water and learn why it’s important that we have clean water.
They’ll learn what sort of water is safe to drink and how to clean up unhealthy water. Almost everything needed is included in this kit — you just need to provide the water.
Note that kids are not instructed to not drink the water from this kit; the filtration is just for educational purposes.
Hydropower YouTube Videos
If you’d like to learn more about hydropower, how it’s used, and show your child examples of it, we’ve curated some excellent videos.