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Water, Water Everywhere?
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Water, Water Everywhere?
 
Grade Level  6-10
Subject Area  geography

Curriculum Focus
  environmental studies, geography, contemporary issues
Duration  two class periods

Objective
  Students will—
  1. manipulate a data module showing the relationship between population growth and water availability, and answer questions about what the chart shows;
  2. draw a bar graph showing the relationship between population growth and water availability in the United States;
  3. draw a similar bar graph for a country facing water scarcity; and
  4. research and write an action plan for how that country can tackle its water scarcity problems.

Materials
  copies of theWater, Water Everywhere? handout
  computers with Internet access

Procedure
  As the world’s population grows, access to fresh water declines. This relationship is evident in both industrialized and developing countries and in both arid and wet climates. This activity will introduce students to the relationship between population growth and water availability, asking them to analyze data and report on the water situation in a developing country with an arid climate.
  1. Introduce the activity by defining the wordscarcityand asking students to provide examples of scarcities with which they’re familiar. Then ask students if they’ve ever experienced water scarcity, such as a drought. If so, what was it like? What did they have to do to conserve water? What was the cause of the scarcity? If no students have been through a water shortage, ask them what they think it would be like and what they think they’d have to do in such a situation.
  2. Tell the class that in some places around the world, water scarcity is a way of life. Why might this be the case? Do people always settle in places that have abundant water supplies, or do some people live in dry, desert climates? Suggest that even in places where water scarcity isn’t a problem today, it might become a problem in the future. Ask them what might happen if a country’s population increased. Might there be changes to water availability? Have students hypothesize answers to these questions and discuss their ideas.
  3. Give each student a copy of theWater, Water Everywhere? handoutand ask them to look at theWater and Population data module. Explain the units on the data module (population in thousands and per capita water availability in cubic meters on the graph; freshwater scarcity, freshwater stress, and freshwater sufficiency on the pie chart).
  4. Ask your students to manipulate the data module so that it shows different world population and water data for the four different years. Ask them to examine the data, then answer the questions on the handout. Students may work on their handouts individually, in pairs, or in small groups, depending on your computer availability and your time frame.
  5. Discuss your students’ answers as a class. Were their hypotheses concerning the relationship between water availability and population (from step 2 above) confirmed? Why or why not?
  6. Next, ask students to look at the population and water data for the United States athttp://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-table8.htm. Tell them that the data module they’ve been looking at took its data from this Web site. Ask them to write down the numbers for population and per capita water availability for 1950, 1995, 2025 (UN medium projection), and 2050 (UN medium projection) for the United States. Then ask students to use the data they have copied from the site to create a bar graph indicating the relationship between population growth and water scarcity in the United States. As on the data module, the x-axis of the bar graph should be labeled with the years 1950, 1995, 2025, and 2050—students should write the appropriate population figure beneath each year. The y-axis will represent per capita water availability (rounded to the nearest 100 or 500).
  7. Ask students to analyze the graphs they have created. Do they notice any resemblance between their graphs and the graph on the data module? Which parts look the same? Which parts, if any, look different?
  8. Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair one of the following countries: Namibia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, or Sudan. These countries all face water shortages and are involved in conflicts over how to use or where to obtain their water.
  9. Next, tell your students that they’re going to research their assigned country and create a “water action plan” for their assigned country. Their action plans should include the following information:
  • A water and population bar graph for their assigned country, using the parameters outlined in step 6 above. Again, the necessary data are available athttp://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-table8.htm.
  • A description of the country’s biome. Students can find this information on the Biome Map athttp://mbgnet.mobot.org/biome/map.htm.
  • Information about the population growth rate of the region in which their country is located. Students can find this information athttp://www.imcglobal.com/cropnut/over3.htm.
  • Case studies concerning water availability. For Namibia, students can visithttp://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-case1.htm. For Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, students can visithttp://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-case2.htm. For Egypt and Sudan, students can visithttp://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-case3.htm.
  • Answers to the following questions (this step may require students to conduct additional research): What is the country’s climate like, and how might that climate affect water availability? Does the country have a high or a low population growth rate compared with those of the rest of the world? How might its growth rate affect water availability? What are this country’s main concerns regarding water availability? What are the most serious water problems this country faces? Is the country arguing with any other countries about water usage? If so, which other countries are involved, and how are they involved?
  • Steps that students think their assigned country should take to help its water situation. Students should list as many ideas as they can think of (e.g., “reduce its population growth rate”), then choose one idea and make suggestions as to how the country can act on it (e.g., “set a legal limit on the number of children a family can have”).


Closure
  When students’ action plans are complete, give them time to share their reports with the class, then lead an in-depth discussion about the practical water shortage solutions that students came up with. Which ideas might be easy to implement and why? Which would be more difficult—or more expensive? What can students do themselves to ease worldwide water shortages? How might a lack of water affect the way humans live?

Extension
  1. Have your students research and report on water scarcity issues in the United States. They can also compare the situation in the United States with that of the country for which they’ve written the action plan. The following Web sites will be helpful for their research: Cadillac Desert athttp://www.kteh.org/cadillacdesert/home.htmland Water Science for Schools athttp://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu(see Water Use in particular).
  2. The United Nations has recently reevaluated its projections for population growth over the next few decades. This is discussed on the Sustaining Water, Easing Scarcity: A Second Update page (http://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-toc.htm). Explain this change in its predictions to the class, then hold a discussion about how changes in population growth rate might affect changes in water availability predictions.
  3. Have your students look up the population growth rates for various countries at the World Factbook (http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html), then compare these numbers with those athttp://www.imcglobal.com/cropnut/over3.htm. Discuss the implications of high and low population growth rates and the reasons some countries have much higher rates than others.

Related Links
  Water Science for Schools
http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu

Population Action International
http://www.populationaction.org

Cadillac Desert
http://www.kteh.org/cadillacdesert/home.html

“What’s It Like Where You Live?”
http://mbgnet.mobot.org/sets/index.htm

Sustaining Water, Easing Scarcity: A Second Update
http://www.popact.org/why_pop/water/water-toc.htm

World Factbook
http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html


Credits
  Betsy Hedberg, former middle school teacher and current freelance curriculum writer and consultant.