Assessment of Course Goals
Establishes students' understanding of and attitudes toward water usage going into the course. Will provide a benchmark for reflection throughout the modules.
Section 1. Fresh Water: Scarcity or Surfeit?
Module 1. Freshwater Resources: A Global Perspective
Formative Assessment 1: Human Water Use - Students respond to short-answer questions about the relationship between population centers and natural water sources.
Formative Assessment 2: Water Use Quantity - Students perform simple calculations to convert between units and calculate water usage in high and low density population centers.
Formative Assessment 3: Water and Agriculture - Students analyze a USGS Map of water extraction for agricultural use in the United States.
Formative Assessment 4: Deficit Solutions - Students assess various "solutions" to fresh water deficits.
Formative Assessment 5: Commodity or Right? - Students write a short essay considering the question of whether fresh water is a commodity or a right.
Summative Assessment: Water Use Project - Students record their personal water use for one week and report on their findings.
Module 2. Climatology of Water
Formative Assessment 1: The Water Cycle - Students analyze inputs and outputs in the global water cycle through a series of short answer questions.
Formative Assessment 2: Relative Humidity and the Dew Point - Students respond to a series of short answer questions regarding relative humidity and the dew point.
Formative Assessment 3: The Orographic Effect - Students watch an animation of the orographic effect and calculate relative humidity at various longitudes across the western United States.
Formative Assessment 4: Hadley Circulation - Students interpret a graph of relative humidity vs. temperature and use this information to explore precipitation patterns in the context of atmospheric circulation.
Summative Assessment: Hadley Cells and the Orographic Effect - Students plot relative humidity and precipitation data on a series of graphs and maps and use this information to deduce the relationship between topography and patterns of precipitation.
Section 2. Physical Hydrology
Module 3. Rivers and Watersheds
Formative Assessment 1: Watershed - Students use Google Earth to analyze the watersheds in which they live.
Formative Assessment 2: River Flow - Students use stream gage data from waterdata.usgs.gov to analyze current conditions in streams and rivers near their homes.
Formative Assessment 3: Channel Systems - Students use Google Earth to identify various stream channel geometries.
Summative Assessment: Topographic Maps and Surface Water - Students interpret a topographic map in the context of surface water flow. They create a cross-section and predict stream flow patterns.
Module 4. Flood and Drought
Formative Assessment 1: Peak Flow Data - Students interpret a graph of annual peak flow data for the Lehigh River and respond to short answer questions.
Formative Assessment 2: Flood Risk - Students assess flood risk at various properties from the perspective of an insurance broker.
Summative Assessment: Floods - Students draw a channel-floodplain diagram and use it to answer short answer questions regarding flood risk. They listen to an NPR Report on the 1972 Rapid City flood and its long-term effects. A metacognitive component is brought in at the end of the exercise when students are asked to write a short essay reflecting upon what they have learned about floods and how their new knowledge will affect their future decision-making.
Module 5. Dam It All
Formative Assessment 1: The Nile's Sinking Future - Students read a Science Magazine "News Focus" article about the Aswan High Dam and its affects on the Nile River Delta. They are asked to write a short essay outlining the positive and negative impacts of the dam.
Formative Assessment 2: Three Gorges Dam - Students read selected articles on the Three Gorges Dam. They are asked to write a short essay taking a position on whether the benefits of the dam outweigh the costs and consequences.
Formative Assessment 3: Dam Removal - Students interact with a clickable map of dam removals from 1936-2014 at the American Rivers website. Based upon their observations of past events, students are asked to weigh the negative impacts of dam removal against the risks of leaving aging dams in place.
Formative Assessment 4: Regulating Construction - Based upon what they have learned about the hazards associated with large dams, students are asked to write a short essay expressing their opinion on whether international regulation led by developed nations should be allowed to restrict future dam building by developing nations.
Summative Assessment: Dam Debate - Students stage a series of in-class debates weighing the pros and cons of dam building in specific locations. The debates assume that the Aswan High, Three Gorges, and Glen Canyon dams have not yet been built. The premise is that the outcome of the debates will determine whether the benefits of the dam significantly outweigh the hazards such that construction should proceed.
Module 6a. Groundwater Hydrology Part 1
Formative Assessment 1: Aquifers - Students answer short answer questions that require interpretation of a cross section of an aquifer.
Formative Assessment 2: Permeability and Porosity - Students verbalize the difference between permeability and porosity in a short answer question.
Formative Assessment 3: Hydraulic Conductivity - Students fill in a table predicting how porosity, permeability, and hydraulic conductivity will vary with changing rock properties.
Formative Assessment 4: Fracturing - Students interpret a graph and respond to a short answer question about the relationship between fracturing and well productivity.
Summative Assessment: Flow in Aquifers - Students use a Darcy Tube to demonstrate Darcy's Law. Flowrates are measured for materials of various permeabilities (sand, small gravel), data are plotted, and hydraulic conductivity is calculated. If no Darcy Tube is available, the same calculations can be performed using the original dataset collected by Darcy in the 1850s.
Module 6b. Groundwater Hydrology Part 2
Formative Assessment 1: Hydraulic Gradient - Students use a potentiometric surface map to draw flowlines and interpret hydraulic gradient.
Formative Assessment 2: Well Hydrograph Records - Students compare hydrograph records for Centre County, PA and Sacramento, CA. They analyze the short-term and long-term trends in a series of short answer questions.
Formative Assessment 3: Cone of Depression - Students compare potentiometric surface maps for Long Island, NY prior to and at the peak of pumping (1903 and 1936, respectively).
Formative Assessment 4: High Plains Aquifer - Students listen to an NPR report on overdraft in the High Plains Aquifer and write a short essay exploring what should be done about the problem and why.
Summative Assessment: Hydraulic Head and Aquifers - Students sketch the water surface in several examples of confined and unconfined aquifers. They use their sketches to interpret water flow direction.
Section 3. Social Science of Water
Module 7. What Is in Your Water?
Formative Assessment 1: Arsenic Poisoning - Students read a Science Magazine article about the slow response to a mass arsenic poisoning in southeast India and write a short essay outlining their idea of a more appropriate response.
Formative Assessment 2: Dead Zones - Students write a short essay arguing for or against the use of chemical fertilizers in the midwestern United States. Considerations include the need for agricultural food production vs. deterioration of fisheries along the Gulf Coast due to eutrophication.
Summative Assessment: Contaminant Fact Sheet - Students compile a comprehensive fact sheet for a possible U.S. drinking water contaminant selected from a list of compounds provided. They are then asked to reflect upon their level of comfort with the drinking water they typically consume.
Module 8a. Cities in Peril: Dealing with Water Scarcity Part 1
Formative Assessment 1: Sustaining Las Vegas - Students consider the allotment of Colorado River water given to Nevada vs. standard U.S. water consumption for a population of 2 million residents.
Formative Assessment 2: Lake Mead and Las Vegas - Students read an op-ed article "Lake Mead Levels Not Just Vegas' Problem" and write a short essay detailing the reach and implications of falling water levels in Lake Mead.
Formative Assessment 3: Water Rights - Students read a series of articles from the Las Vegas Sun and write a short essay analyzing the extent to which annexing of water rights is scientifically sound.
Formative Assessment 4: The Colorado River Compact - Students write a short essay arguing whether the acquisition of water from distant sources is an acceptable long-term solution to the water shortage crisis in the southwestern United States.
Summative Assessment: Revising Phoenix - This summative assessment introduces a concept that will be carried through to the Capstone Project for the course. Students imagine that they are back in the year 1915 and are tasked with developing a water plan for Phoenix, Arizona's next 100 years of growth. They are encouraged to use what they now know about the way those 100 years actually transpired as a guide. Background research includes watching two segments of the documentary Cadillac Desert (available on Youtube). Deliverables include a one-paragraph overview of the water plan supported by at least 4 specific components of the plan. Rationale and potential problems must be given for each component. For blended classes, Water Plans are presented in class and critiqued by fellow students.
Module 8b. Cities in Peril: Dealing with Water Scarcity Part 2
Formative Assessment 1: Climate Change Debate - Students watch a video clip and read an op-ed piece "Why Are We Still Debating Climate Change?" available at cnn.com. They outline and analyze the six viewpoints on climate change presented in the piece.
Formative Assessment 2: Climate models - Students watch Gavin Schmidt's TED talk on patterns of climate change and climate models and respond to a series of short answer questions analyzing the speaker's stance.
Formative Assessment 3: Future Scenarios - Students choose two places with which they are familiar that currently have very different climates. They write a short essay describing what prevalent climate models predict for those two places in the future and predict what impacts these changes may have.
Summative Assessment: Local Impacts of Climate Change - Students research what current models predict for the future climate of their own hometown or region. They write a short essay explaining the changes that are predicted and anticipating their possible consequences. Students are asked to reflect upon how what they have learned about the future predictions for their hometown or current location affects their plans to remain there as a permanent place of residence.
Module 9: Water and Politics
Formative Assessment 1: Water and the Nile - Students read the online article "Who Owns the Nile? Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia's History Changing Dam" and research water conflict in Africa between the years of 1958 and 1978 using the Water Conflict Chronology Timeline available at worldwater.org. They then respond to a series of short answer questions regarding international conflict over the Nile River.
Formative Assessment 2: Water in India - Students read the online article "Contributing Factors in the Ongoing Water Conflict Between Bangladesh and India". They then write a short essay describing water sources and distribution systems in Bangladesh and India. They are asked to speculate upon the potential consequences of monsoon failure in the region.
Summative Assessment: Water Sharing - Students research water sharing along the Rio Grande and write a two-page paper synthesizing the recurring problems associated with sharing of water resources across national borders as presented in the case studies in Module 9.
Module 10: Solving the Water Crisis
Formative Assessment 1: Water Re-Use - This formative assessment contains three components. 1) Students write a short essay assessing their own feelings regarding water re-use. 2) Students interview two friends or family members about their feelings regarding water re-use. If the interviewees are opposed to the idea, students are asked to use scientific arguments to try to persuade them that water re-use is a good idea. 3) Students write a short self-assessment considering whether their feelings regarding water re-use changed as a result of any new considerations brought up during the interviews they conducted.
Summative Assessment: A Water Portfolio - This summative assessment is designed to serve as a lead-in to the Capstone Project, due the following week. Students select the city for which they will develop a Water Portfolio and register their selection with the instructor (this is done to avoid the possibility of everyone picking the same city). They begin to outline the major components of the proposed Water Portfolio, including estimated costs, risks, benefits, and potential sources of resistance.
Capstone ProjectThe final presentation assignment is a 10-slide presentation (no more) and 2-page written summary (extended abstract with at least five significant references) to develop a Water Portfolio for a water-critical urban area.
A key element of the presentation will be an independent evaluation and analysis of: 1) data collected from the scientific literature, publicly accessible databases (e.g., USGS or USDA, city/county or state data); or 2) economics, cost/benefits, or pros and cons of active or proposed policies.
- Pick a city from the list below or propose one.
- Los Angeles
- Las Vegas
- Mexico City
- Addis Ababa
- Develop a water portfolio for the future that you believe will solve the problem of water scarcity. Note the percentage of water from each of the sources (including reuse or conservation), and provide a rationale for each component using bullet points or brief text.
- Outline the estimated costs, the risks (financial, natural, environmental, political), the benefits, and any issues (e.g. cultural, psychological, religious) you anticipate you will need to confront.
The presentations should follow a standard overall structure as shown below:
- topic overview, identification of problem
- study location
- data or policies that form the basis for analysis
- independent analysis and discussion
- recommendation(s) or statement of position supported by the analysis
- list of references (minimum of five; the majority of these should be peer-reviewed)