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Geography 574 Water Resources


Dr. Trent Biggs

Course Description

Water is vital to the functioning of both regional economies and ecosystems. Population growth, climate change, pollution, and persistent poverty all present challenges for the management of water resources. What are the major problems facing water resources in different regions of the Earth? What are the consequences for human health, food production, and ecosystems? What should be the roles of different management strategies such as dams, groundwater development, adaptive management, and integrated basin management? This course will include multiple ways of viewing water as a resource, including hydrology, ecology, socioeconomics, politics, and history. We will cover water resources modeling in urban and agricultural environments, climate change impacts on water resources, water in international economic development, and water quality.

The main question of the course: Is there a water crisis? The overall goal of the course is to begin to construct a theory of water resources problems and management. Elements of this theory will include the science of hydrology and aquatic ecosystems, and management paradigms that allow for learning in an uncertain environmental system. Common themes will include the role of uncertainty, learning in complex systems, and the importance of scale in identifying and addressing problems of water quality and quantity.


Geography 101


Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

The three homework assignments will combine quantitative and qualitative analysis, and will critically address questions relevant to water resource analysis and policy.
For quantitative analysis components of the labs, there will be several computer labs during class lecture on select Fridays in the SAL Lab. The dates and times of these labs will be announced at the beginning of the week.

Each student will be responsible for leading two class discussions about a reading for the week. Students will be evaluated on their preparation to lead the discussion. In some cases two students will co-lead.

The responses to readings are very short (1 paragraph) typed summaries of and responses to readings that identify 1) the main question posed, 2) the methods used to answer that question, 3) the main answer to the question and 4) the student's response to the reading. They are designed to focus reading and prepare students for the in-class discussions.
There are a total of 14 weeks of reading; the student must hand in one response per week, but may miss four for a total of 10 responses required for full credit.
Each week has more than one reading. The student chooses one reading for their response for the week.

The research project is designed for the student to go into greater depth on a topic and river basin of their choice. The student may meet with the professor in advance to discuss project ideas and to obtain feedback.

Grading will be the standard 90-100 A; 80-90 B; 70-80 C; 60-70 D; 0-59 F

Books and Materials

Required: Pearce, F. (2006), When the Rivers Run Dry: Water—the Defining Crisis of the 21st Century, Beacon Press, Boston.
Additional articles will be posted on Blackboard

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Introduction to global water resources and water resources problems
Week Two Water cycle and water accounting
Week Three Water and health: Critical examination of Malthus
Week Four Urban water in CA
Week Five Urban use of groundwater: Quality
Week Six Water balance, agriculture, and poverty
Week Seven Hard Path: Dams
Week Eight Soft path: Water productivity, water harvesting, virtual water
Week Nine Integrated water management
Salt and pollution
Week Ten Allocation strategies
Week Eleven Overview of ecosystems and water
Week Twelve Climate change; snow
Week Thirteen Uncertainty, values, and adaptive management
Week Fourteen Colorado River Delta; Video and discussion
Week Fifteen Video and discussion

The statements found on this page/site are for informational purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the university publications.