GETSI Teaching Materials >Eyes on the Hydrosphere: Tracking Water Resources > Student Materials
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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The student materials for this module are available for offline viewing below. Downloadable versions of the instructor materials are available from this location on the instructor materials pages. Learn more about using the different versions of InTeGrate materials »

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For the Instructor

This material supports the Eyes on the Hydrosphere: Tracking Water Resources GETSI Module. If you would like your students to have access to this material, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing GETSI teaching materials.

Welcome Students!

We all need water so understanding Earth's hydrosphere is very important. This module will introduce you to the basics of the hydrologic cycle but grounded in better understanding societal challenges related to water and methods for measuring the water system. The data used in the module includes both traditional (ex. stream gages) and geodetic methods (ex. gravity satellites). You will use real data to identify trends and extremes in precipitation and water storage. In the final exercise, you will get to investigate the water resources a region of interest to you so you know better the threats and opportunities. By the end of the module you will be able to:
  1. Analyze the major reservoirs of the hydrosphere and the traditional and geodetic means of measuring their relative contributions to a water budget.
  2. Interpret real geodetic and traditional data sets from watersheds with different hydroclimatic regimes and assess short- and long-term trends in water availability for these watersheds.
  3. Use real data to evaluate the societal effects of changing water supply and demand related to both natural and anthropogenic forcings.

More about Student Materials Formats

Unit 1: Exploring the Reservoirs and Pathways and Methods to Measure the Hydrologic Cycle

How does water move throughout the Earth system? How do scientists measure the amount of water that moves through these pathways? In this unit you will identify the major reservoirs and fluxes in the hydrosphere as you complete a schematic diagram. You will work in teams of different "experts" to identify traditional and geodetic techniques that are used to measure parts of the water cycle and how they change over time. Measurement methods include stream gauges, groundwater wells, snow pillows (SNOTEL), vertical GPS changes, reflection GPS for snow depth, and GRACE satellite (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment).

Unit 1.1 Introduction to the water cycle

Preparation prior to class

Unit 1.2 Traditional and geodetic methods for measuring water resources

Preparation prior to class

Technique 1-pagers - you will be assigned to read one of these and watch the associated short video

During the class meeting:

You will now be paired with classmates who researched different methods for measuring parts of the hydrologic cycle. Your group should have a representative for stream gaging, depth-to-groundwater, vertical GPS, GRACE, reflection GPS, and SNOTEL. First, each person should provide a ~5 minute summary of his/her/their method, including the items that you just discussed with your previous group. If you have any questions about a particular method, please ask during the presentation of that method. Once you have completed the presentations, please complete together as a group.

Unit 2: Monitoring surface and groundwater supply in central and western US

In Unit 2, you will learn how the techniques for measuring the water system (covered in Unit 1) can be used to monitor both groundwater (High Plains Aquifer) and surface water (western mountain watershed) systems. You will investigate the impact of drought years and wet years on underground water storage in the High Plains Aquifer and on snowpack and surface runoff in Colorado. You will also consider the societal implications of droughts and how climate change may impact the water cycle.

Unit 2.1 High Plains Aquifer (central USA)

Preparation prior to class

Reading & homework

In class exercise
  • Unit 2.1 Student Exercise (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 3.1MB Jul17 20)
  • Unit 2.1 Student Data Spreadsheet (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 2.2MB Jul8 20) - the exercise is written assuming that the students will use Excel to view and interact with the water data. The graphs were not importing well into Google Sheets as the time of writing, so it would be best to steer away from that program.

Unit 2.2 Western Mountain Watershed (Colorado)

Preparation prior to class

Reading & homework

In class exercise
  • Unit 2.2 Student Exercise (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 7.2MB Jul13 20)
  • Unit 2.2 Student Data Spreadsheet (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 2.5MB Jul8 20) - the exercise is written assuming that the students will use Excel to view and interact with the water data. The graphs were not importing well into Google Sheets as the time of writing, so it would be best to steer away from that program.

Unit 3: What's in YOUR watershed?

In this unit, you will get to investigate the water resources for somewhere you live or that is of personal interest. You will apply what you learned in Units 1 and 2 to find out the water reservoirs most important to "your watershed". You will also consider interests by different stakeholder groups in relation to water resources and how these potentially competing interests could influence water policy, infrastructure, and distribution in a community.

Unit 3.1 Stakeholder analysis

Preparation prior to class

Unit 3.2 Local watershed

This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »