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Water Quality & Distribution Activity for Kids

Water Filtration DIY

  • Duration: 30-60 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Cost: $0 to $15

Make your own water filtration system to make muddy water clean again!

Material List

  • 1Large plastic soda bottle
  • 2Cotton balls
  • 1Cup of sand
  • 1Cup of rock/gravel
  • 1Cup of activated charcoal
  • 1Pair of scissors
  • 1Plastic cup
  • 1Mallet and a plastic bag (optional)
  • 1Liter of muddy water (make your own by mixing dirt or mud into water)


  • 1Cut off the bottom of the plastic bottle with scissors (keep the cap on).
  • 2Stuff cotton balls into the neck of the bottle.
  • 3Crush the activated charcoal (optional, but it will work best this way).
  • 4Pour it into the bottle.
  • 5Next add the sand to the bottle.
  • 6Then add the gravel.
  • 7Loosen the cap and set your water filtration system on top of the plastic cup
  • 8Gently add muddy water into the top.
  • 9Observe what happens as the muddy water is filtered.
  • Warning:Do not drink this water, it is not filtered enough for that.
  • Tip:Activated charcoal is available at pet stores or can be bought online.

How It Works

Muddy water goes through three different stages of filtration in our system. First, large particles are separated from the water as they pass through the rocks. Then, smaller particles are removed when they pass through the sand. Finally, the water passes through the activated charcoal, where the smallest particles are removed and some chemicals are removed as well. The cotton balls make sure that the activated charcoal stays in the bottle. By going through each of these steps, the muddy water gets cleaner and cleaner. However, in order to make drinking quality water it has to go through more steps, so don't drink this water.

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