Topic Suggestions

Topic Suggestions from the Mass Envirothon Steering Committee

Your Mass Envirothon Steering Committee volunteered to offer their ideas and advice for team research and presentations this spring.  You are welcome to take them up on these ideas, or to blaze your own path.


I’d like to see teams look at the current issue, safe sustainable water sources, and think about how those sources will need to be adapted going forward.  Climate change needs to be taken into account on how it casts a shadow over all other areas of the environment and will only exacerbate existing issues we have and bring them further to the forefront.  I’d also like to see teams think specifically about the current pandemic, and how that will effect access to safe water and other resources.


Consider the consequences of rapidly changing environmental conditions to your water supply.

Explore the consequence/s that you deem most critical and collaborate to develop a video that explains the cause and effect of the consequence and how people should respond to mitigate it.

Where applicable, consider the influence of, or ramifications to soils, wildlife, and forests/vegetation.


Water is the stuff of life.

All living organisms need it.

Use it, don’t waste it, don’t pollute it, don’t sell your rights to it.

Educate others about its importance and value, its conservation and protection.

What would happen if on short notice your town suddenly had NO USABLE WATER?

A major pipe broke, a major toxic waste event happened polluting it, a deadly disease contaminated it?

What if there were NO plastic bottles of water available…..even in adjacent towns because they had been banned years earlier.

What if you had a good water well but no one else did. How would you share it?

((think of the present run on toilet paper during the virus pandemic ))

What is the future of water in your town/state?

How do we waste it now?

How do we pollute it now?

How can we better conserve it and how do we better protect it from pollution.

How should we pay for that?


Scientists have predicted a rise in waterborne infectious disease outbreaks due to climate change. Based off of society’s reaction to the introduction of the global pandemic Covid19 (including a lack of sanitizers and toilet paper, flushable wipes causing clogging of wastewater systems) and how fast an infectious disease spreads, what steps do you think your community could take to plan for a waterborne disease outbreak, protect the public and also provide safe drinking water? Would this change your thoughts on having a bottled water ban in your community?​


My thoughts on water via the hydrologic cycle – both as a research and problem solving activity:  focus on the impacts of climate change to our water/wastewater infrastructure.


How will climate change affect the area where you live?  The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) has predicted record temperatures, more extreme precipitation events; and coastal flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge.  Focus on the potential impacts and the safeguards that are necessary to protect the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure so they remain operable and safe from climate change.​


Massachusetts Envirothon 2020 Community Issue Project

-Demonstrate an understanding of the water cycle and how it is manifested in the local community.

-Map your community’s water supply network including the water sources and the distribution system.

-Quantify how much precipitation contributes to your community’s water consumption.

-List all the ways that your community consumes water.

-Report on the quality of your community’s current water supply by reviewing the most recent Consumer Confidence Report.

-Who is responsible for maintaining the integrity of your community’s water supply?

-Report on how your community safeguards its water supply.

-What problems have occurred in the past with your community’s water supply, including threats to water quality and quantity.

-Report on your community’s water conservation policy.

-How resilient is your community’s water supply in the case of natural or human-caused crises?

-How might climate change impact your community’s water supply?

-How can your community maintain its water supply for the future?


Two questions:

  1. What will we need to know and be able to do to cope with crises like climate change and pandemics?

The pandemic this spring is a new situation to ALL of us.  While listening to the science is critical, the older generation does NOT necessarily have the best ideas or vision to cope with the crisis or to make the most of the possibilities.  What really matters in family and community life?  Can we save energy without sacrificing quality of life?  Can we waste/discard less?  Reuse more?  What does this all mean for protecting water supply?  Keep coming back to that word:  Resilience.  Are we going to bounce back? Or bounce forward?

  1. What are the best ways to learn these things?

One daily reality of the pandemic for high school age young people this spring is that they are not gathering in schools.  I wonder how that is going.  Are they undertaking their own education without the familiar school structures?  What are they learning about the variety of ways that people learn (for example, what’s the right balance of face-to-face/hands-on vs. online for optimal learning)?  How can teachers, coaches, and other adult advisors help?  What conclusions are teams drawing about what’s important to learn?  What are the fun/recreation/learning opportunities we hadn’t noticed?  Should we go back to school as normal, or are there other ways to prepare for the future that we should include?  What environmental impact do these choices have?

Two more thought-provoking ideas:

  • What coronavirus could teach us about the climate crisis (Source: CNN)

  • “There are times in history when sudden events—natural disasters, economic collapses, pandemics, wars, famines—change everything. They change politics, they change economics and they change public opinion in drastic ways. Many social movement analysts call these “trigger events.” During a trigger event, things that were previously unimaginable quickly become reality, as the social and political map is remade. Coronavirus is a historic trigger event ….” Paul Engler, March 16, 2020


Download the Invitation as a .pdf

This document and background information was written and assembled for the Mass Envirothon Steering Committee by Will Snyder, UMass Extension, with extensive input from members of the Steering Committee and Council.

Please contact Will Snyder and Brita Dempsey