Instructor Materials: Overview of the Water Sustainability in Cities Module
Summative Assessment: Formative assessment is accomplished at the unit level using classroom assessment techniques and individual learning opportunities. Summative assessment of student learning is accomplished using a team project assignment. The units are designed to achieve student learning across Bloom's Taxonomy, with higher level goals achieved through the team project. The team project is the most important assessment, and the learning activity that will require the greatest instructor oversight. Based on past instructor experience and experience delivering the module, students will be challenged by the independent nature of the team project. They also will be challenged to learn using the flipped classroom approach. Learn more about assessing student learning in this module.
The Water Sustainability in Cities Module consists of nine units of instruction with each unit comprised of one 75-minute classroom session. The module includes aspects of hydrologic sciences, atmospheric sciences, sustainability, and engineering design. Most units are comprised of a pre-class homework assignment and one or more in-class learning activities, and some include a post-class homework assignment. The module culminates in a group design project.
The introduction unit presents definitions and concepts from a systems thinking perspective. This is followed by units describing geoscience concepts and techniques in hydrologic and atmospheric sciences. Subsequent units introduce applied skills and tools (e.g., spreadsheets and computer models) to quantify impacts of sustainable design features on the urban water cycle. The module concludes with a unit on planning for sustainable water design.
Units are structured to be delivered using one of two pedagogical formats, flipped classroom or traditional lecture. Activities and exercises employ active learning, project-based learning, and data-enabled learning in both individual and team formats. Although the module was created to be delivered in its entirety to upper-level undergraduate students, the units may be modified to be offered at the introductory level or to graduate students. The designers provide notes and tips to help instructors to apply and/or modify the units.
In Unit 1, students are introduced to water sustainability definitions, concepts of sustainability (e.g., triple bottom line, cradle to grave, systems thinking), and how they relate to water sustainability in cities. Pre-class videos and reading build knowledge of challenges and solutions to water sustainability in cities. In-class activities help to reinforce definitions and concepts and stimulate critical thinking with a mind map exercise. Students return to the water system mind map activity throughout the module to continue to reflect on their conceived water system and key elements needed for sustainability.
In Unit 2, students are engaged in topics related to the water cycle, both from natural and urban system perspectives. Students are assigned approximately 30 minutes of reading (short article) and are required to watch a 15-minute video before class to gain a basic understanding of the natural and urban water cycles, their components, and the impact of urbanization on runoff. Through short lectures, discussion questions, solution of example problems, and a group activity, students gain comprehension of the water cycle components, their spatial and temporal variability, water budget calculation, and the impacts of urbanization on surface water.
In Unit 3, concepts related to urban atmosphere interactions are addressed. The content explores how urban landscapes and atmospheric constituents modify or interact with the atmosphere to affect temperature, clouds, rainfall and other parts of the water cycle. Fundamental concepts of weather and climate are established and then the unit transitions to a focus on the "urbanized" environment and its complex interactions with the atmosphere. Students will learn about interactions such as 1) urban modification of surface temperature and energy exchanges, 2) water cycle components, 3) cloud-rainfall evolution within urban environments, and 4) applications to real societal challenges like urban flooding. The unit integrates basic meteorological/climatological analysis, geospatial thinking, and integration of scientific concepts within a real-world context.
In Unit 4, students are introduced to evapotranspiration (ET) and how ET varies with meteorological and plant factors. A pre-class video and worksheet introduce students to estimating landscape water needs from ET and precipitation data. In class, students design low water-use landscaping and calculate the water savings of water-efficient landscaping compared with turf grass.
In Unit 5, the focus shifts to buildings and the concept of Net Zero Water. The paradigm of Net Zero Water buildings is explained and set as the framework for a water budget analysis of a building. Students are presented data on indoor water use to complement the outdoor water use introduced in Unit 4. A spreadsheet exercise provides students the opportunity to explore indoor water conservation and its impacts on achieving Net Zero Water in buildings. The activity is also used to reinforce the concept of water budgets introduced in Unit 2, and how it can be used for Net Zero Water analysis. Additional ideas such as graywater reuse, ecological wastewater, stormwater treatment, and rainwater harvesting are noted as potential solutions for Net Zero Water.
In Unit 6, students are introduced to rainwater harvesting techniques and methods to size a cistern. Pre-class videos highlight rainwater harvesting, which is reinforced by discussion questions in the class session. Students are then guided through learning activities to apply a monthly spreadsheet analysis to size a rainwater cistern for a building.
In Unit 7, students are introduced to stormwater green infrastructure. Students are introduced to an online tool from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to analyze stormwater runoff impacts of implementing rainwater harvesting and other green infrastructure practices. Students are guided through an exercise applying the tool.
In Unit 8, students are introduced to the basics of hydroclimatic extreme events with a focus on floods and droughts. Topics include introduction to floods and droughts, impact of urbanization on extremes, how to understand and predict extremes, how to tackle them (management strategies), and elements of urban climate resilience. The teaching strategy is designed with short and divided lectures filled with discussion questions and a group activity. Students will be working with time series flow data for statistical analysis of extreme events.
Unit 9 is a group activity that requires students to apply the material they have learned in Units 1–8 in a design project. Students are presented with a scenario and are required to select options to design a feasible and sustainable urban water system and present their design to the class. These activities can be used as a summative assessment for the entire module.
Making the Module Work
This module requires pre-class assignments for each unit. Instructors should prepare students ahead of time for this paradigm. Some of the units do have some homework, but the pre-class assignments generally will require more time than the homework. Instructors should emphasize to students how important the pre-class assignments are to successful achievement of the module learning goals.
To adapt all or part of the Water Sustainability in Cities module for your classroom you will also want to read:
- Instructor Stories, which detail how the Water Sustainability in Cities module was adapted for use at three different institutions, as well as our guide to
- Adapting InTeGrate Modules and Courses for Your Classroom, which outlines how to effectively use InTeGrate modules and courses.