Nitrates And Water Quality (Part 2: Analyzing & Visualizing Data)

Nitrates And Water Quality (Part 2: Analyzing & Visualizing Data)

Subject: Chemistry,Environmental Science
Time: 45-55 minutes
Level: High School


Students will use Google Sheets/Excel to analyze public water data to to inform decision making regarding nitrate water pollution. Students will develop skills in analyzing and visualizing of data from a large public dataset.

Student Outcomes:


  • Know Google Sheets/Excel is a computational tool that can be used to analyze data sets.

  • Know a few computational tools can be used to create visualizations.


  • Use computational tools (counting and statistical tests) to analyze large data sets.

  • Use computational tools to create data visualizations.


  • Understand that computational tools make it possible to analyze much larger, data sets (seeing patterns, trends).

  • Understand that computational tools allow us to represent large data sets in ways that are interactive and dynamic, and reveal patterns we might not otherwise be able to notice.

Compatible With




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What's Next?


Next Generation Science Standards
  • Life Science
    • [HS-LS2] Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • Physical Science
    • [HS-PS2] Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
  • Earth and Space Sciences

Computational Thinking in STEM
  • Data Practices
    • Analyzing Data
    • Visualizing Data

Comments, Feedback, and Quesitons

Nitrates And Water Quality (Part 2: Analyzing & Visualizing Data)

Teacher Notes

This is part 2 of a lesson series on using computational tools to understand water quality and nitrate pollution data. If you chose to skip part 1 where students collected the data, you can download it below.

Assign site locations to students. When dividing up work among students, consider how many sites you want to cover and students’ comfort level with using Excel-like interfaces. 

Group 1) Turkey River at Garber, IA (# USGS 05412500)

Group 2) Maquoketa River near Green Island, IA (# USGS 05418720)

Group 3) Mississippi River at Clinton, IA (# USGS 05420500)

Group 4) Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, IA (# USGS 05455100)

Group 5) Cedar River at Blairs Ferry Road at Palo, IA (# USGS 05464420)

Group 6) Hoover Creek near 2nd Street at West Branch, IA (# USGS 0546494205) (Usable but less complete data)

Group 7) Iowa River at Wapello, IA (# USGS 05465500)

Group 8) Boone River near Webster City, IA 9 (# USGS 05481000)

Group 9) Des Moines River at 2nd Avenue at Des Moines, IA (# USGS 05482000)

Group 10) North Raccoon River near Sac City, IA (# USGS 05482300)

Group 11) North Raccoon River near Jefferson, IA (# USGS 05482500)

Group 12) South Raccoon River at Redfield, IA (# USGS 05484000)

Group 13) Raccoon River at Van Meter, IA (# USGS 05484500)

Group 14) Little Sioux River at 300th St near Spencer, IA (# USGS 06604440) (Useable but less complete data)

Group 15) West Nishnabotna River at Randolph, IA (# USGS 06808500) (Useable but less complete data)

Group 16) Nodaway River at Clarinda, IA (# USGS 06817000)

After students complete step 3 (analyzing data) have them share their results
To fill out the percentages column in the data file (step 4: visualizing data) students will be using to create their map of water collection sites in Iowa, each student group will need to report the percentages of unhealthy nitrate levels at their site and share this with the class. You can write the percentages up on the board, create a shared document (e.g. Google Doc) where students can input their group’s percentages, or choose any other method that would allow students to share their site analysis results with the class.