Science Experiment: Edible Aquifer

Edible Aquifer

Did you ever wonder where all of the water you use comes from? Or where the water from Cave of the Mounds goes?  In Wisconsin, most of us get our water from under the ground. Groundwater doesn’t flow like an underground river. Instead, groundwater is stored in and moves slowly through layers of soil, sand, and rocks called aquifers. It has been theorized that the groundwater from Cave of the Mounds leads to the Wisconsin River.  Now, this can be kind of hard to imagine how this works, so to help you out, we’re going to make an aquifer. In this case, it will be an edible aquifer. (Which is AWESOME!) This will show you how groundwater is stored and how what we do above ground can affect the water underground.

You will need: Clear Cups, Drinking Straws (Plastic Disposable), Spoons, Colored Soda (Pepsi, Cola, Dr. Pepper), Clear Soda (Sprite, 7-up), Vanilla Ice Cream, Different Size Chips (peanut butter chips and mini chocolate chips), Spinkles, Colored Sugar (Optional)

  1. The first step to making our edible aquifer starts with filling a small, clear cup about one-third full with your chocolate chips. This represents all of the sand, gravel, and rocks in the aquifer. 
  2. Now, cover the chocolate chips with clear soda. This is supposed to be our groundwater. See how the “water” fills in the spaces around the “gravel, sand, and rock.” We are now finished with the bedrock layer.
  3. The second layer of our aquifer is called the confining layer, which is usually clay or dense rock. The water is confined below this layer. Today our confining layer is going to consist of ice cream! Spread a layer of ice cream over the bedrock layer. Top the ice-cream with another layer of “gravel and sand,” chocolate chips.
  4. The next layer is our porous, top layer of soil. Using sprinkles and some colored sugar can be used to represent this layer. Now add a small amount of colored soda. The coloring represents pollution. Can you think of some pollutants that can affect groundwater? Watch what happens when we pour it on the land.
  5. Now, using your straw, “drill a well”. To do this, push the straw down toward the bottom of the cup into the center of your aquifer. Slowly begin to pump the well by sucking on the straw. Watch as the water table goes down. But watch out for those water contaminants! See how much has seeped into the groundwater.
  6.  Continue the cycle by pretending it’s raining and replenish the aquifer by adding more soda. A real aquifer takes a lot longer to recharge. When you’re done playing with your aquifer, dig in!