GETSI Teaching Materials >Measuring Water Resources
GETSI's Earth-focused Modules for Undergraduate Classroom and Field Courses
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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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Summary

Measuring water resources such as groundwater and snowpack is challenging, but the advent of satellite gravity measurements and hydrologic GPS applications can augment traditional methods. This module gives students the unique opportunity to learn these newer methods alongside more traditional ones of groundwater wells and SNOTEL stations. They determine the pros/cons, uncertainty, and spatial scales of different methods. Droughts in the High Plains Aquifer and California are used as case studies. In the summative assessment, students pull together what they have learned and write a report with recommendations for policy makers.

Strengths of the Module

  • The students learn about the water cycle in a concrete, nontheoretical way. They learn the challenges and methods of measuring different aspects of the water cycle and gain a better understanding of the very real societal hurdles to providing sufficient water for agriculture and communities—especially during droughts.
  • The module emphasizes large time-series data sets that the students need to display, manipulate, analyze, and integrate. These include traditional methods of precipitation, groundwater well-logs, and SNOTEL pillows, as well as geodetic methods of total water storage (TWS) from gravity data (GRACE satellites), TWS from GPS vertical position, and snow depth from reflection GPS. Students find it fascinating to learn that geodetic methods such as GPS were not intended for water resource measurement. These applications were discovered later after GPS were installed to measure things such as tectonic motions.
  • Unit 4 serves as a summative assessment in which students distill the main points of a longer lab exercise into a report that is intended for California policy makers or nonprofit organizations.
  • The module can be used in traditional laboratory sessions, as part of a lecture/lab combination, or in a flipped classroom. The units may also be modified to combine various portions and delete others.
  • Students gain significant experience applying a variety of quantitative skills from time-series analysis to graphing and uncertainties.

Great fit for majors-level classes in:

  • Hydrogeology
  • Hydrology
  • Earth System Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Introductory Geoscience for Majors

Instructor Stories: How this module was adapted
for use at three different institutions »



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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.
Explore the Collection »