Section 2: Physical Hydrology Summary and Overview
In this section:
This section outlines the distribution of water on land and its organization into watersheds and major river systems. Rivers are one of the major concentrated sources of fresh water that can be extracted for human use for agriculture, industry, and drinking water, prior to flowing into the oceans. Another potential source of fresh water is so-called "groundwater," which consists of water held in subsurface rock units with varying potential for storage and yield. This helps us explain the distribution and dynamics of water at the surface and in the subsurface of Earth. At times the water distribution through river systems is either subject to a deficit of water (drought) or surfeit (flood), subject to variations in climate or to unusual meteorological events. Humans attempt to control these variations by constructing dams to regulate river flow and store water for use, particularly in dry regions. However, although dams provide water and power, they have consequences for the environment.
This section provides a more detailed overview of water transport and availability and highlights issues with water storage in reservoirs and in the subsurface. In subsequent modules we learn how water availability influences civilizations, both past and present.
Strengths of the Section
- The section begins with a detailed overview of Earth's surface water.
- The second module in this section discusses floods and droughts, which will be increasingly common in the future.
- The third module in this section presents how humans manage surface water systems through dams.
- Finally this section introduces students to the physical behavior of water with a detailed two-week module on groundwater hydrology.
This section serves as the five-week core of 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 2 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;
- synthesize data and information from multiple reliable sources;
- interpret graphical representations of scientific data;
- identify strategies and best practices to decrease water stress and increase water quality;
- thoughtfully evaluate information and policy statements regarding water resources;
- communicate scientific information in terms that can be understood by the general public.
- Module 3: Rivers and Watersheds
- Module 4: Flood and Drought
- Module 5: Dam It All
- Module 6: Groundwater Hydrology