For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Water Science and Society Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Potential Solutions to Problems with Water Scarcity and Quality
In The Big Thirst, Charles Fishman repeatedly notes that while water problems are universal, they are fundamentally local and not global problems, in the sense that the issues are specific to a particular area, and excepting major water transfers, can most effectively be solved locally or regionally. Put another way, if you think back to Module 1, you'll recall that if it were evenly distributed in time and space, the total precipitation that falls on Earth as part of the hydrologic cycle would be sufficient for water supply and dry land farming. The problem is not that there is not enough (or clean enough) water on the planet; it's that the water does not fall when and where we need it. The fact that there is enough water globally does not help us all that much, because it is simply too expensive, impractical, and energy intensive to move large volumes of water across oceans or between continents – though recent developments may challenge this mindset. Furthermore, the problems that face different areas are different: in Delhi, the major problems are related to water quality and infrastructure (i.e. Chapter 8 in The Big Thirst); in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the problems are related to water scarcity and supply (Chapter 3); and in the Murray Basin or Perth, Australia, the problems are related to major shifts in supply and allocation in the face of changing climate (Chapter 7). Therefore, viable solutions are by nature local or regional – to obtain, manage, or treat water for a particular need and place.
Here, we will briefly describe some of the most promising solutions on the horizon, many of which have been implemented as trials or in specific regions where the balance between demand and cost have made them feasible. We will also draw heavily upon readings from the textbook that you've completed for previous modules. For the assignment and activity linked to the module, we will ask you to develop a "portfolio" to secure future water supply for one of the population centers we've discussed in class (e.g., Las Vegas, Dubai, Los Angeles, etc...). This will require that you integrate much of what you've learned over the semester about precipitation patterns, surface water and groundwater systems, water quality, water management and demand, cost, and infrastructure.