This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:
- team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
- multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
- real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
- multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
- review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.
This page first made public: Mar 31, 2017
Section 1: Fresh Water: Scarcity or Surfeit?
Summary and Overview
In this section:
We begin this course by providing an outline of water resources on a global basis—where resources are abundant or limited and why. We first ask questions regarding the "value" of water and consider whether having access to fresh (uncontaminated) water for drinking and other household uses is a fundamental right as opposed to water being a commodity subject to profit-taking. We are concerned with projected population growth, its regional distribution, and resulting demands for water in the future. This helps us appreciate the two-way relationship between water and human society: how water availability and quality affect economic opportunities and human well-being, and how human activity affects water resources.
A major consideration is why some regions have a surplus of water and others have less than necessary to support local populations in various activities. In order to understand this, we examine the operation of Earth's climate system in some detail. This involves discussion of the global "hydrologic cycle" that reflects the cycling of water from ocean to atmosphere to land and its ultimate return to the sea. We also outline some of the important properties of water that determine its behavior in the climate system, flowing water, and sustaining life.
Strengths of the Section
- It is perhaps unsurprising that water allocation and policy lie at the heart of economic and political tensions between communities, states, and nations. As populations in many water-stressed areas continue to grow, and in the face of climate changes that affect where and when water may be available in the future, these challenges continue to mount. Students will study examples of these challenges.
- Water is a resource that is subject to privatizations and price fluctuations, but should water be provided by benevolent governments at reasonable cost? We are concerned with projected population growth, its regional distribution, and resulting demands for water in the future. This helps us appreciate the two-way relationship between water and human society: how water availability and quality affect economic opportunities and human well-being, and how human activity affects water resources.
- This section examines the operation of Earth's climate system in some detail: the roles of global wind systems, proximity to an ocean, and topographic features (especially mountain belts) in determining patterns of rainfall, a first-order control on water availability. This involves discussion of the global "hydrologic cycle" that reflects the cycling of water from ocean to atmosphere to land and its ultimate return to the sea, and uses large geoscience data sets to do so.
- Systems thinking is integral to the modules in this section. Students will examine simple models of Earth's surface hydrologic system and learn the importance of mass-balance considerations.
ContextThis section serves as a two-week introduction to the semester-long course Water Science and Society. Although it is intended for use as a component of the full online or blended course, it could potentially be used on its own as a component of a different course and its modules can be used individually.
Upon completion of Section 1 students will be able to:
- describe the two-way relationship between water resources and human society;
- explain the distribution and dynamics of water at the surface and in the subsurface of Earth;
- interpret graphical representations of scientific data;
- identify strategies and best practices to decrease water stress and increase water quality;
- communicate scientific information in terms that can be understood by the general public;
- predict how availability of and demand for water resources is expected to change over the next 50 years.