B CUSP 116
Addresses an important social issue through an interdisciplinary perspective; builds creative and critical skills of writing, analysis, and quantitative reasoning; and explores, through scientific methods, one aspect of the natural world. Offered: W.
This course explores both the physical and social dimensions of the Earth’s water resources, with a focus on the role of water in the development and growth of the western United States. Ensuring safe and sustainable water resources requires not only a firm understanding of the physical-chemical characteristics of water, but also of its social and economic importance. This interdisciplinary course will look at water and the many places it touches our lives, including the unique properties and importance of water for human life and ecosystem function and the ways we use, abuse, revere, ignore and fight over water in human societies. The class will cover the intersections among our scientific understanding of water, our technological developments in controlling water, and our cultural attitudes and subsequent behavior toward this elemental resource. We will focus on case studies of a variety of environmental and human health problems resulting from human impacts on water resources, including power generation on the Columbia River and sewage disposal in Lake Washington, and contextualize them both in terms of their physical, chemical, and biological underpinnings and in terms of the societal needs and pressures that arise from the use of these water resources. Additional topics include floods, droughts, domestic water supply, dams and dam removal, habitat degradation, and climate change. Field studies of local streams and lakes will be used to introduce hydrological field methods and to illustrate fundamental principles and phenomena.
Student learning goals
Students will be able to develop hypotheses and identify critical variables in scientific studies of water resources.
Students will be able to critically evaluate scientific, economic, and public opinion data to develop well-supported arguments for or against public policies around water resource use.
Students will gain skills in the collection, presentation, and interpretation of quantitative data.
Students will critically examine case studies of water resource conflicts, explaining and evaluating multiple perspectives and opinons.
General method of instruction
Lecture, group discussion, small group "mini-lab" activities
Class assignments and grading