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  • A water catchment area is land that is bounded by natural features such as hills or mountains, from which all surface water, run-off water and groundwater flows to the lowest point in the landscape.

    In this activity, students use everyday materials to simulate water flows in a catchment. It provides practice with the science capability ‘Interpret representations’.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • discuss the role of relief (mountains, hills, valleys and flat areas) in water flow
    • observe and compare slope steepness and velocity of water flow
    • observe and discuss the role of tributaries to larger streams and rivers
    • observe and discuss the connections between surface water systems (streams, rivers, wetlands and lakes)
    • compare their model catchment with their local water catchment area
    • discuss the similarities and differences between a model catchment and a real catchment area
    • discuss why scientists use models.

    Nature of science

    This activity provides a useful context to discuss models in science – why scientists use them, the similarities and differences between the model catchment and a real catchment and the benefits and drawbacks of using a model.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    Use this interactive to find out more about river catchments – both large and small – and our place within our local water catchments. It contains useful background information and additional hands-on activities, inlcuding Mapping my local water catchment.

    Useful link

    NZ Topo Map is an online topographic map that allows users to view their water catchment area in significant detail.


    This activity has been developed in partnership with the Waikato Regional Council as part of the Rivers and Us resource.

      Published 5 March 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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