Hydrologic Cycle and Water Balance Equation
Eric W. Peterson,
Illinois State UniversityAuthor Profile
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The assignment works with the mass balance equation in concert with the hydrologic cycle. Students create both a conceptual model and a mathematical model to represent the hydrologic cycle for a basin.
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The assignment is designed for either an undergraduate hydrology or hydrogeology course. Modifications to the assignment could be made in order to be more appropriate for graduate students.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Students should have an understanding of the hydrologic cycle and the mass balance equation. Complete mastery of those concepts is not required. Familiarity with Excel is suggested, but again not required.
How the activity is situated in the course
The exercise is introduced after a discussion of both the hydrologic cycle and the water budget (mass balance) equation.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Through modeling, both conceptual and mathematical, students will analyze the roles of the various water pathways on the reservoirs within a basin.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Students will create a conceptual model of the hydrologic cycle for a basin. Using the conceptual model, students will design a mathematical model using Excel. Through variations in the input (or output) parameters, students will evaluate how various changes in the hydrologic cycle affect the basin.
Other skills goals for this activity
Students will gain experience in using Excel.
Description of the activity/assignment
This exercise is designed to evaluate the students' understanding of both the hydrologic cycle and the water budget (mass balance) equation. In my course, the exercise is the students' first exposure to models in the course. While the exercise may seem basic, students gain experience in creating conceptual models and then generating mathematical models from the conceptual model. The exercise provides students with an introduction (or refresher) to some basic Excel formulas. Finally, the exercise can be modified to include more "what if" scenarios that require critical thinking and analysis from the students.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Students submit the conceptual model, the Excel spreadsheet, and answers to the questions for grading.More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Microsoft Word 22kB Aug5 05)
- Example of Excel Spreadsheet - Solution (Excel 27kB Aug5 05)