Unit 4: Women and Water
Unit 4 activities support the module goals of being able to articulate the principles of environmental justice as they relate to examples of water scarcity and contamination in varied geographic locations and proposing potential solutions to inequitable access to clean water based on principles of the hydrologic cycle. It foregrounds science in relation to gender equity issues. The specific learning objectives for this unit are as follows:
- Students will compare and contrast water scarcity issues facing women in developing countries of the Global South.
- Students will be able to explain why some populations lack access to a adequate supply of fresh water.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Although the issue of water quality in developing countries is technically outside the purview of the US environmental justice movement, the concerns of social justice activists in developing countries whose work centers on access to clean water overlap with those of US environmental justice activists. The lack of significant infrastructure to piped fresh water in drought-prone areas causes millions of people—especially the poorest in all societies—to have limited access to safe drinking water. Therefore, it is fair to say that water crises are both environmental crises as well as crises of social inequality.
PowerPoint and Google Earth activities are interactive and convey information about access to fresh water on a global scale. The presentation contains notes that the instructor can use to help explain the visual materials. In addition, it provides links to three additional Google Earth KML files (for Trinidad, Kenya, and India).
We suggest the following lesson plan for a 50-minute class. However, these materials would also work well for a longer class period up to 75 minutes. In that case, the instructor should allow an additional 10 minutes for the exploration and 5 minutes each for the jigsaw, PowerPoint, and set-up of the homework assignment.
This activity will provide students with an opportunity to compare and contrast water scarcity issues facing women in developing countries (Learning Objective 1).
Unit 4 Pre-class Homework: Fresh Water Availability and Quality of Life
Common Interest of Earth Science, Feminism, and Environmental Justice." This will alert them to the need to consider fresh water availability and its relationship to the quality of life, especially for women and children.
Also prior to this class, assign students to one of three teams (Trinidad, Kenya, India). Each student should use the Google Earth file for their assigned country to acquaint her/himself with the water issue in that country.
- Google Earth file Trinidad and Water (KMZ File 6kB Jul12 14)
- Google Earth file Kenya and Water (KMZ File 4kB Apr20 15) (Note that the video embedded in the Google Earth project on women and water in Kenya is also available on YouTube)
- Google Earth file India and Water (KMZ File 3kB Jul12 14) (Note that the video embedded in the Google Earth project on women and water in India is also available on YouTube)
Have the students record their answers to the following questions and bring them to class:
- What was the water scarcity or quality issue faced in the area you investigated?
- Describe the kinds of people who were negatively impacted and the ways that they were negatively impacted.
- How did the scarcity or quality issue get remedied?
- What hydrologic principles do you think are relevant to solving these types of problems in other places?
Activity 4.1: Exploration — Your Water Sources (5 min)
To get students thinking about water scarcity and access issues represented as Learning Objective 2, ask class members for a "show of hands" on how many of them know where their water comes from. Water use statistics for the United States are available from the USGS Water Science School and you may want to have this information written down in preparation for class. Ask students to write down answers to the following questions:
- Do you know the source of water for your home community? If so, what is that source?
- What proportion of Americans get their drinking water from groundwater (e.g. wells)? From surface water sources (e.g. rivers)?
- How do you know that your water is safe to drink?
- Describe a situation where you did not have access to fresh water. How did the actions of others affect your access? (Write these on the board)
Activity 4.2: PowerPoint Presentation on the Hydrologic Cycle and the Global South (10 min)
This PowerPoint, Hydrologic Cycle and the Global South (PowerPoint 5.9MB Jul5 15), includes embedded comments and questions that help students relate water scarcity and water quality issues in Trinidad, Kenya, and India to components of the hydrologic cycle. In particular, the PowerPoint helps students focus on rainfall as a means to recharge groundwater. It also highlights the importance of tracing the path of contaminants between portions of the hydrologic cycle.
After the presentation, ask students to identify which components of the hydrologic cycle are involved in the examples discussed. Possible answers are as follows:
- Trinidad: precipitation to runoff to streams
- Kenya: stream flow to infiltration to groundwater
- India: human influences on biosphere to surface runoff
Administer this ConcepTest on the rainshadow effect, developed by David McConnell et al., to determine if students understand why dry areas often occur on the leeward side mountain ranges. Such a concept test links Unit 4 to materials presented in Unit 2 and Unit 3 of the module.
Activity 4.3: Jigsaw — Comparing Countries (25 min)
This activity utilizes the jigsaw pedagogy. If you are unfamiliar with this technique, you can learn more about the jigsaw method.
Ask students to arrange themselves in groups according to country (India, Kenya or Trinidad). Students should then talk to one another about what they learned about the particular country they explored for the pre-class activity. Each group should discuss group members' answers to the questions in the pre-class activity. The group as a whole writes a paragraph addressing the question, "What are some of the key issues relevant to your country?"
Next, students split into differently arranged groups so that there is a representative from each country present in each group. Have each person in the group teach the rest of the group what they know, and the group should then create a Venn diagram Venn Diagram (Acrobat (PDF) 23kB May23 13) that provides a thorough picture of water issues for these women in the Global South. Using a provided list of potential water-related issues (see below) or asking the students to come up with that list from their own investigations, have students look for commonalities and uniqueness to water-related issues present in the various countries.
Student groups work together to fill in a copy of the Venn diagram. In theory, all groups will have similar findings.
Phrases that students might use for Venn diagram detailing water issues in each country include but are not limited to the following:
- involves major infrastructural changes
- requires consideration of permeability
- deals with wastewater
- requires control of streamflow
- affected by groundwater depletion
- landscape interferes with improvements
- affects water quality
- causes back problems
- high illiteracy may be impediment to change
- high population growth and density exacerbate problem
- makes girls and women vulnerable to sexual violence
- impacts educational opportunities
Student groups should present their diagrams to the class. Based on the student diagrams, the instructor will then create a master Venn diagram. The instructor should ask the class: "Were there any surprises in learning about water-related issues in other countries?" What phrases did they come up with that were not on the original list?
Activity 4.4: Questions and Answers (10 min)
Have students complete the following questions:
- What did you find interesting? What did you find most challenging?
- What did you learn from the assignment?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, rank the level of your understanding of the importance of the hydrologic cycle to remedying environmental inequity. Please explain your answer.
Use the answers to these questions (collected as an "exit pass") to determine whether your students are making the connection between the hydrologic cycle and environmental justice.
Homework assignment: Comparing countries
- United Nations resolution: (Downloadable Version) Homework (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 138kB Jun15 15) Homework_PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 39kB Jun15 15).
Instructions for homework assignment: Have students read the hypothetical United Nations Resolution regarding the need for safe drinking water in Pakistan. Then each student should write a two-paragraph essay (minimum 250 words) that addresses the expectations of the United Nations Resolution by offering recommendations to meet the need for safe drinking water in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The two paragraphs should also explain the relevance of the recommendations to the hydrologic cycle. Have the students hand in their paragraphs for a grade as a summative assessment and in order to see if they are able to use the hydrologic cycle to explain why some populations may be helped to obtain access to a reasonable supply of fresh water and why this is a matter of environmental justice.
This homework assignment provides students the opportunity to use their recently acquired knowledge of water issues in Kenya, Trinidad, and India to suggest remedies to a water problem in Pakistan that impacts negatively women, children and the poor. The activity addresses both of the unit's learning objectives. Students will use the knowledge of the hydrologic cycle gained from the lecture period and the environmental situations in India, Kenya, and Trinidad to analyze the situation in Pakistan and write a two-paragraph essay that provides recommendations to meet the need for safe drinking water in Pakistan.
Tell the students that in response to a United Nations Resolution recognizing the imperative of access to clean water and sanitation, they will use what they have learned from the situations in Kenya, Trinidad, and India to suggest remedies to a water problem in Pakistan.
Provide students with the following rubric by which you will assess the homework:
Scoring rubric (Acrobat (PDF) 60kB Jul10 15) for Two-Paragraph Essay
Teaching Notes and Tips
In order to complete this activity, during class you will need a chalk/white board or big sheets of paper for group note-taking as well as a computer with Internet access and Google Earth.
For activities involving groups, depending on class size, there could be many groups of three students. The instructor can choose to make the groups larger but should be sure to have each of the three countries represented in each group.
You may need to explain a Venn diagram. That is, explain to students that there are water-related issues that are unique to a country, there are issues that overlap with one other country, while other concerns pertain to all three countries. The Venn diagram records the relationship of the issues in all three countries.
For activities that use Google Earth files for an assigned location in the Global South, each student team needs to examine a Google Earth KML file for their assigned location. The file will load in the Temporary Files section of Google Earth. Each KML consists of geolocated placemarks with photographs, text, and in some cases, short videos. Google Earth can be downloaded for free to student and university computers.
- Students compare and contrast water scarcity and water access issues, especially as those issues impact women, in three countries in the Global South: India, Kenya, and Trinidad. This assessment is linked to the pre-class activity. Students will look at a Google Earth project file for India, Kenya, or Trinidad, and at the provided photos, read the placemarks, and watch any videos that are on the placemarks to answer the questions listed above. This work prepares students for the jigsaw activity by asking them to explore water issues in each country using Google Earth and to compare and contrast the situations in all three countries. The Venn diagram allows students to see unique, similar and overlapping issue pertaining to the three countries.
- Students have been asked to identify portions of the hydrologic cycle relevant to the countries discussed in the PowerPoint. They have also been shown a schematic of a rain shadow as a check for understanding the materials. This assessment aligns with Learning Objective 2 and materials are provided in the PowerPoint. Students will also have additional background material from the Google Earth pre-class activity.
- Students review the hypothetical United Nations Resolution that acknowledges the imperative of access to clean water and sanitation with a focus on Pakistan. Students use the knowledge of the hydrologic cycle gained from the PowerPoint presentation and discussions about the environmental situations in India, Kenya, and Trinidad to analyze the situation in Pakistan. They write a brief report that provides recommendations to meet the need for safe drinking water. The Pakistan situation negatively impacts women, children and poor people. A grading rubric is provided.
- The stated learning goals are linked to the assessments. That is, "students will compare and contrast water scarcity issues facing women in developing countries of the Global South" is addressed with the Venn diagram formative assessment. "Students will be able to use the hydrologic cycle to explain why some populations lack access to a reasonable supply of fresh water" is addressed with ConcepTest/Question activities for formative assessment and through the homework activity.
References and Resources
- Students interested in water issues in Trinidad may access the following paper: Water, women and community in Trinidad, West Indies
- Two excellent websites from nonprofit organizations dealing with these issues include: Website of Women's Environment and Development Organization and WaterAid