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This page first made public: Aug 17, 2010

Pollution control and hydrologic Modeling

Eugenio Y. Arima, Hobart and William Smith Colleges


This assignment will introduce students to surface hydrologic modeling in GIS and derived products such as stream power and wetness indices.


Type and level of course
This lab assignment can be used in a second-level GIS course that emphasizes hydrologic modeling or terrain analysis. With a few modifications it could be used in a hydrology class.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
This assignment does not address a particular geoscience problem but could be adapted to address surface hydrology, water quality monitoring, nutrient loadings, etc.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Students should know basic ArcGIS commands such as open/close, add/remove layers, zoom in/out, change symbology (e.g. colors, categories, etc) and have notions of cartography. This lab also assumes students have used flow direction and flow accumulation functions in ArcGIS.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcGIS 9.3 or higher with Spatial Analyst Extension, Winzp or Izarc or similar software to unzip compressed files.

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
60 min


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Students will learn to use hydrologic functions in ArcGIS, use the raster calculator to generate hydrological indices, and interpret results.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Students will learn to identify surface hydrological features such as streams, wetlands, and areas subject to runoff.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Students are asked to relate those terrain features with potential pollution problems. With some adaptations, same exercise can be used to inquire about nutrient loadings downstream.

Description of the activity/assignment

Prior to the assignment, students have a 3-hour equivalent lecture about surface hydrological models in GIS and derived products such as wetness and stream power indices and examples of applications in a few disciplines. In this lab, students are asked to provide information to support decision making and to coordinate response to environmental disasters in a NY County. Students task is to identify areas where a chemical plant should not be allowed to be built and assess appropriateness of a particular site.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students prepare a lab report answering the questions and including maps to illustrate their answers.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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