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Water: A Zero Sum Game

Learn More About Climate, University of Colorado Boulder

This video takes viewers high into the Rocky Mountain snowpack, where researchers dig snow pits to explore the source of Colorado's water supply. Highlights the importance of snowpack on the supply of fresh water available in western and southwestern states. Snowmelt dynamics are discussed, including the impact of a warming climate.

Video length is 5:03 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

  • Although focused on Colorado, the video is a good resource for teaching about the effects of global warming on US citizens. This video would serve best as a prompt to begin a lesson or unit on the water cycle and/or local water supplies if living in a region supplied by snow melt.

About the Science

  • Video shows scientists measuring snowpack in Colorado mountains and discusses the importance of snowpack to water storage and water supply to lower elevations. A smaller snowpack means less water storage and less water available.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The video presents researchers working in the field and explains how the scientific knowledge originates from this work. The underground lysimeter installation is a great example of this. The connection and explanation between snowmelt and the subsurface flow (how water actually gets into the stream) is weak. The conclusion that the climate-driven transition from snow to rain, causing increased evapotranspiration, is not supported by anything presented in this video.

About the Pedagogy

  • Shows scientists (both male and female) at work in the high mountains. Although the resource is light on science content, it illustrates the practice of science, which ties in nicely to NGSS.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Good-quality video

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

MS-ESS2.C1:Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.A1:Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS2.C1:The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks.

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

HS-ESS3.A1:Resource availability has guided the development of human society.

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