Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Water Resources

Constantin Cranganu
The City University of New York, Brooklyn College
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This activity will demonstrate how water quality and environmental health issues can be analyzed together, how hydrologic information can be built up, and how decisions can be made using GIS.

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This activity can be used in an undergraduate hydrogeology course, or in an introductory GIS class.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

I have used this exercise in my undergraduate hydrogeology class. The very first session students were introduced to the basic concepts of GIS. This activity is self-explanatory and provides an opportunity for students to learn new concepts as well as apply known concepts. All this by way of saying, there is no single background required. Students apply the skills and concepts they know and learn new skills and concepts along the way.

How the activity is situated in the course

I have used this activity as a short-term project (two classes per week).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goal is for students to understand how the water quality is related to environmental health and to business decision, such as home purchasing.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Use of a GIS-based software (ArcExplorer), performing specific GIS tasks (buffering, adding layers, using MapTips, modifying layer properties, etc.), assessing water quality, evaluating flood potential, choosing the house properties.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals are pretty broadly based and dependent on the availability of data and level of individual students and

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise posits a hypothetical situation: you would like to purchase land that will provide your family with opportunities to fish and swim in a stream on your property. Additionally, you would like the land to afford some privacy. In order to find such a place, you need to locate land for sale that has a stream running through it and you want to confirm that the stream water is clean. The following activity illustrates how one can locate land with particular characteristics and also assess surface water quality for local bodies of water. The data you will use might pertain to any location where streams flow through residential areas.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I have evaluated the utility of this exercise through grading the solutions (Table 1 and Table 2) and through exams (the standard way).

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

This activity is based on "Exercise 8: Water Quality and Environmental Health", by M. E. Stuart, M. A. Cunningham, J. S. Schneiderman, and L. Gold, "Exploring Environmental Science with GIS", 2005, McGraw Hill.

The following URL is needed for downloading the free version of ArcExplorer software:

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