Module 10: Solving the Water Crisis?

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Through the course of the semester and the first 9 modules of the class, you’ve learned about the science of water – including the distribution of fresh water; the demand for water and its relationship to geography, uses, population growth, and climate; and the physical principles that govern surface water and groundwater replenishment and movement. You’ve also considered some of the historical, political, ethical, and economic issues with water allocation and management, for example by considering the impacts of dams, or the annexation of water rights to support cities in arid regions.

In Module 10, the culmination of the course, you will explore potential solutions to the problems of water quantity and quality, especially in the face of population growth, increasing energy and food demands, and greater awareness of (and sensitivity to) the environmental impacts of water development. As major population centers, many of which are not ideally located with respect to water resources, continue to grow, we are faced with serious questions about sustainability: How can water supply and quality be assured, and balanced between the demands of irrigation and cities? Is there a technological panacea, or is a mixed portfolio of approaches required? Is it possible to hedge against climate change and predicted shifts in the timing and spatial distribution of precipitation? How can cost be managed, while minimizing impact on the environment? Can diverse cultural and political entities work together to implement solutions, or deal with side effects, that cross state and national boundaries?