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Colorado River Supply

Patricia Mynster, David Hassenzahl, Encyclopedia of Earth

This activity addresses climate change impacts that affect all states that are part of the Colorado River Basin and are dependent on its water. Students examine available data, the possible consequences of changes to various user groups, and suggest solutions to adapt to these changes.

Activity takes about one-two class periods and homework assignments. Computer access required.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Providing learners with appropriate data sets for this or other regions will help them gain a quantitative handle on the topic of climate change and freshwater resources.
  • Because of the length of the activity, it could be used as an entire unit on the Colorado River watershed or customized for other watersheds.

About the Science

  • Students research the impact of climate change on the Colorado River Basin by analyzing snowpack data sets and satellite images of land and vegetation.
  • Some data sets and images are presented to support the activity, source citations are not available.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Addresses key issues of water quantity across Colorado River Basin and potential impact based on historical changes.
  • Need to address potential water quality concerns as CRB also serve for drinking water supply.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a structured, problem-based learning module using the impact of climate change on the water levels in the Colorado River Basin and as a case study. The authentic final assessment asks students to use their research and analysis of data and images to suggest revisions to the 2007 Colorado Basin water allotment agreement.
  • Activity provides background information and guiding questions for students to work through the data.
  • Instructors may want to customize this activity for their own area of interest and assessment needs.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Teacher notes are not included because this is a college-level module and thus assumes the expertise of the professor. However, the four parts of the module are scaffolded enough to enable 11th and 12th grade students to successfully use the module.

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