Initial Publication Date: June 22, 2017

Carey Gazis: Using Measuring Water Resources with GPS, Gravity, and Traditional Methods in Hydrogeology at Central Washington University

About this Course

Upper division and graduate (MS) course

Three 50-minute lecture
One 3-hour lab
per week, 10-week term
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 116kB May11 16)

A Case Study of Groundwater and California Drought in a Hydrogeology Course.

I teach a hydrogeology course each year for undergraduate seniors and Masters students. In this course, students learn the fundamental concepts about groundwater, how it enters the subsurface, is stored, and how humans use and rely on this resource. Each year, we use the same textbook and the same concepts are taught. Current concerns about groundwater availability and quality are often discussed, but are rarely examined in detail. This year, through the GETSI module, we had the opportunity not only to discuss a current groundwater concern but to examine it in detail, looking at data collected using emerging methods to quantify terrestrial water budgets.

My students were excited to become experts in the California drought and to learn about GRACE and GPS methods of quantifying terrestrial water storage. The module prompted them to think about large-scale water budgets and, in particular, the challenges of quantifying changes in groundwater storage. This was a stimulating learning experience for my students because they were using new data and new methods to study a very current concern.

"Everybody has heard about the California drought. My students were excited to become experts in this current issue and how it is affecting groundwater storage."

My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials

I did not modify the module. I put it into the course throughout the term.

Relationship of GETSI Materials to My Course

The course is ten weeks long. I introduced the first unit in the first week. Units 2–4 were introduced during lab periods throughout the remaining nine weeks.

I changed the final class research project assignment so that it was also related to the California drought. Students gave individual poster presentations on their research.


I decided to try this out just a few days before the term began, so used all of the assignments and suggested assessments as they were given to me. These assessments generally give up to 5 points for every question. They were very easy to use but do not end up quantifying the quality of the students' work very well. If I were to use the module again, I would modify the assessment so that not all questions are equal and also so that it has some points related to how thoughtful and thorough the students' answers are. Students generally received these assessments well; they were easy to understand and they knew what they needed to do.

The final report, which is the overall assessment for the module, was particularly problematic for me because the students ran out of time and did not put very much effort into it. As a result, their reports were incomplete and their scores were very low. I think that they were frustrated that they had to write a report after already spending a lot of time on the questions in the unit. I would suggest that the final report be pulled out from unit 4 and assigned separately.


My goal in including this module in my course was for my students and me to learn about the California drought and how GPS is being used to monitor groundwater storage in California. I had a vision of them looking at new data and discussing it in terms of what it means to water use in California. I also wanted them to recognize that the same scenario could happen in parts of Washington.

The students performed well in relation to my vision and goals, but they did get a bit frustrated by the end of the quarter because the units in the module pushed them out of their comfort zone. This is because it was not always clear to them what was expected of them and they were especially uncomfortable with questions that asked them to estimate or generalize. However, they did become more knowledgeable about the California drought and modern methods to quantify terrestrial water storage (GPS, GRACE).