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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Water quality is everyone's business, and on October 3, seventh-grade students from Brody Middle School in Des Moines got a personal lesson in protecting water from EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks. Students tested water samples at the Des Moines Water Works after a role-play exercise at the middle school in which different groups of students represented different stakeholders. Brooks says both activities help to keep conservation in context.

"The role-playing that students do gives them a better feel for where different perspectives are on a complicated problem like water quality. Take the Waters of the United States rule: you have agriculture, you have people living in cities, you have people responsible at the state and local level." He says, "So, seeing the other guy's viewpoint is really helpful in role-playing. And then doing a little bit of science at the water's edge reminds us that the science we use guides the laws that we enforce. We make better decisions when we have good science."

Iowa State University PhD student Andrea Basche works closely with Brody Middle School science teacher Amy Kissel, and says the opportunity for a hands-on experiment gave students a dose of real-world water science.

"What I was the most excited about, and I think that they did respond well to, is that they got to see, kind of, the social, political, economical context of their science, because not all of the student in the classroom are going to become scientists, so to be able to expose them to, kind of, the real-world issues around some of the science they're learning, I think, is really neat, and hopefully they learn more through that hands-on activity."

EPA estimates about 60 percent of streams along with millions of acres of wetlands across the country are not clearly protected from pollution, meaning roughly one hundred 17 million Americans or one in three get their drinking water from vulnerable sources.

EPA is currently attempting to clarify its role in protecting waters of the United States through a proposed rule which critics allege is more confusing than helpful.

The comment period on the proposed rule ends October 20th.

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