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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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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate information can be used to reduce vulnerabilities or enhance the resilience of communities and ecosystems affected by climate change. Continuing to improve scientific understanding of the climate system and the quality of reports to policy and decision-makers is crucial.
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Actions taken by individuals, communities, states, and countries all influence climate. Practices and policies followed in homes, schools, businesses, and governments can affect climate. Climate-related decisions made by one generation can provide opportunities as well as limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation. Steps toward reducing the impact of climate change may influence the present generation by providing other benefits such as improved public health infrastructure and sustainable built environments.
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ans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts.
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mate varies over space and time through both natural and man-made processes
About Teaching Principle C
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Climate plays an important role in the global distribution of freshwater resources. Changing precipitation patterns and temperature conditions will alter the distribution and availability of freshwater resources, reducing reliable access to water for many people and their crops. Winter snowpack and mountain glaciers that provide water for human use are declining as a result of global warming.
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mate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives
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Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
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Energy affects quality of life .
Water plays a major role in the storage and transfer of energy in the Earth system.
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2.4 Water stores and transfers energy.
Physical processes on Earth are the result of energy flow through the Earth system.
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Physical processes on Earth are the result of energy flow .

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Scientists can bring information, insights, and analytical skills to bear on matters of public concern. Acting in their areas of expertise, scientists can help people understand the likely causes of events and estimate their possible effects.
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In a fluid, regions that have different temperatures have different densities. The action of a gravitational force on regions of different densities causes them to rise or fall, creating currents that contribute to the transfer of energy.
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The global environment is affected by national and international policies and practices relating to energy use, waste disposal, ecological management, manufacturing, and population.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
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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