Module 8.1: Cities in Peril: Dealing with Water Scarcity
- compare land use in areas with contrasting access to freshwater;
- calculate the water needed to support a given population and compare with available resources;
- analyze water supply (scarcity) problems and solutions in the western United States;
- evaluate the policy of annexing water rights from both scientific and ethical perspectives;
- assess the sustainability of water banking as a solution to water scarcity in the event of sustained drought;
- assess the long-term effectiveness and scientific basis of the Colorado River Compact.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
All materials for students are available online using the Student Materials link below. These can be implemented entirely in the context of distance learning, with students completing any discussion questions in the form of a blog or discussion group. In a traditional or blended classroom setting, students can complete the online unit as homework, using class time to address the discussion questions and the Summative Assessment.
Teachers can find documentation of the activities as well as rubrics for students at this location. Rubrics for teachers are compiled under Assessment on this site. Suggestions for teaching and a list of the assessments are found below.
Teaching Notes and Tips
What works best for the module?
This module provides an overview of water allocation policy, some history on the evolution of water law and treaties, and provides several examples from the western United States. The module discusses major differences in water allocation between the eastern and western United States, but instructors may want to provide additional information and more detailed history that is specific to the state of interest (wherever the students live). The Big Thirst is mentioned in several places, especially with reference to Chapters 3, 5 and 6. These are excellent complements to the module content and can be assigned as stand-alone chapters even if the instructor has decided not to use the entire text. In addition, the Summative Assessment utilizes freely available footage from Cadillac Desert. Strongly encourage your students to watch both of these as they provide useful perspective that builds on module content.
What students found difficult
This module contains a lot of detailed discussion about policy and regulations. Some students struggled with sorting out all the details about how water law has changed over time. Some in-class discussion summarizing the key points and differences between Riparian Doctrine and Prior Appropriations may help. Also there are many details in the Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Colorado River Compact case studies. The instructor needs to be clear about identifying the important take-home points. The formative and summative assessments are designed to emphasize the key generalizable points.
Note that the capstone project builds directly on the Module 8.1 Summative Assessment, so preparing students for the Summative Assessment is important, and instructors are encouraged to follow up with substantive feedback on the Module 8.1 Summative Assessment to help prep students for the capstone. Peer review of the water plans may be useful. If the instructor opts to incorporate peer reviews, they should be incorporated into the rubric. The Summative Assessment is one of the more extensive formal writing assignments of the course and therefore is a good opportunity to improve students' writing skills (structure, topic and supporting sentences, grammar, etc.). Taking a small amount of time in class to set expectations and point out good examples may go a long way toward improving the papers here and later in the course. Here are some style suggestions:
- Use a direct writing style. After you have stated what the article is about, there is no further need to reiterate "the authors say," "the authors conclude," or "this study shows" etc.
- Avoid non-informative lead-ins or sentences such as "This aspect and the other are discussed . . . ." Directly state trends, observations, etc. (this is a great place to save words).
- Avoid excessive words and overly complicated sentence structures. Keep sentences relatively short, simple and direct. Read your paper out loud; if a sentence or word sounds awkward, it is!
- Apply punctuation: Remember that every word in this paper counts, as you do not have much space. Use punctuation to separate ideas within a sentence.
- Use your own words. Citing directly from the paper is plagiarism and also adds too many words. Rather than directly citing text from the paper in quotes, try to paraphrase using your own voice.
- Keep your language accessible, read your paper out loud to a friend, your mother, your spouse, your neighbor. Ask them afterward what you wrote. If they can repeat what you intended to say, you have achieved your goal. If not, go back to the drawing board!
- Formative Assessment 1: Sustaining Las Vegas
- Formative Assessment 2: Lake Mead and Las Vegas
- Formative Assessment 3: Water Rights
- Formative Assessement 4: The Colorado River Compact?
- The Summative assessment for this module is Revising Phoenix.
References and Resources
- Readings from Student Materials — Module 8.1: Cities in Peril: Dealing with Water Scarcity
- The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman: Chapters 3, 5, and 6