For the InstructorThis material supports the Measuring 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.
This module gives you the unique opportunity to learn these newer methods alongside more traditional ones. You will consider 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 the final unit, Unit 4, you will pull together all you have learned and write a report with recommendations for policy makers.
By the end of the module you will be able to
- Analyze and integrate observations that describe the state of the hydrosphere at regional scales.
- Quantitatively compare and contrast different data types, and their uncertainty, for use in the context of the water balance equation.
- Critique/evaluate the utility of traditional versus geodetic data for quantifying fluxes and storage.
- Compare the magnitude of human use in the basin to deficits associated with drought.
Unit 1: Introduction to the hydrologic cycle
Unit 1 introduces the hydrological cycle but gives special focus to those portions of the cycle that take place on land and thus form the basis for water used by society. In one part of the unit will conduct a stakeholder analysis to better understand societal issues around water. The scientific exercise emphasizes quantitative approaches to describing critical portions of the hydrological cycle that humans have access to - surface water and shallow ground water. You will calculate residence times and fluxes between reservoirs, track water on an annual basis, and explore available data sets for specific reservoirs such as snowpack and rivers. To place this work in a societal context you will be asked to create a water budget for one of the various water user groups (e.g. households, rancher/farmers, conservation/ecological) and analyze the relative status and basis for establishing allocation priorities.
Students find it particularly interesting to learn that the geodetic methods featured in this module were not necessarily intended for hydrologic purposes. In particular, high precision GPS stations were initially installed to measure tectonic plate motions and give insights into geohazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Only later did researchers realize that the vertical GPS positions and even GPS signal reflected off the ground before hitting the receiver could give information on different components of the hydrologic cycle.
- Unit 1 student exercise PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 3MB Jan24 22)
Unit 2: Characterizing groundwater storage with well and GRACE data
In this unit you will be analyzing both traditional (depth to water table measured in a well) and geodetic (GRACE: Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) data for monitoring changes in groundwater storage in the High Plains Aquifer. Variations across timescales are compared, from seasonal to interannual to decadal. This comparison highlights some of the challenges associated with quantifying changes in groundwater storage at the regional scale. Aquifer properties are used to consider changes in terms of both 'depth to water table' and water storage. You will develop explanations for the observed variations and compare your results to longer-term trends.
- Unit 2 student exercise PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 898kB May21 17)
- Unit 2 student exercise data files (Zip Archive 4.8MB May15 18)
Unit 3: Monitoring groundwater storage with GPS vertical position
We are used to thinking about GPS in our phones and other devices to help us know where we are. This unit explores another application of GPS that few people are aware of. High precision GPS stations were originally installed to help us measure tectonic motions on the scale of mm per year. However, more recently researchers have realized that vertical movement of these high precision GPS stations can be used to monitor groundwater changes. You will calculate trends in the GPS time series and then use the original and detrended records to identify sites that are dominated by the elastic response to regional groundwater changes versus those dominated by local subsidence from groundwater removal. You will then compare the magnitude and timescales of fluctuations in Earth's surface elevation that result from sediment compaction, regional groundwater extraction, and natural climatic variability. This unit provides hands-on experience of the challenges and advantages of using geodetic data to study the terrestrial water cycle. The case study area is in California and the GPS records include the period of the profound 2012–2016 California Drought.
- Unit 3 student exercise PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 416kB Dec5 17)
- Unit 3 student data file (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 2MB Jun3 17)
- Student exercise data: GPS position time series from nine sites in California. Includes the Summary Plot table that you are asked to copy into their exercise write up.
- Unit 3 GPS Station locations and basin boundaries Google Earth files (KMZ File 109kB Jun7 17)
- Google Earth station locations and watershed boundaries. Use this to become familiar with their GPS station locations and regional physiography.
Unit 4: Water budget assessment of a California drought
The California Drought of 2012-2016 had significant social and economic consequences. During the height of the drought (2014-2015) more than half of the state plunged into an "exceptional" drought. This final unit focuses on this drought as a case study for measuring the hydrologic system so that we can better understand fluxes, variability, uncertainties, and methods to measure them. You will analyze a variety of data that are relevant to basin-scale water budget: precipitation, terrestrial water storage, and snow pack. Traditional monitoring systems used are precipitation and snow pillow sensors. The newer geodetic methods are GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite) and Reflection GPS. You will use these data to consider water storage changes during the drought and how these changes compare in magnitude to human consumption. You will then take the step-by-step exercise results and synthesize then into a report for California water policy makers to highlight the findings and pro/cons/uncertainties for the different methods.
- Unit 4 student exercise
- Unit 4 student exercise PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 633kB Mar7 18)
- Unit 4 student exercise data files (Zip Archive 15.7MB Mar7 18)
- Includes Sacramento-San Joaquin basin map, precipitation spreadsheet, snow data spreadsheet, Google Earth map of snow anomalies, and GRACE total water storage anomalies.
- Final report for California policy makers
- Unit 4 student final report for policy makers PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 336kB Jun10 17)
- Unit 4 student final report for policy makers grading rubric PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Jun10 17)