Home || EES Department || Courses || Research || Links || Contact Prof Arabas

ENVR 327W: Water Resources (Taught in the Spring)

Course Description

This course examines water resources from a variety of scales and disciplines. Emphasis is placed on evaluating water resources from a multidisciplinary perspective. We will begin by looking at the physical aspects of water resources through an introduction to hydrology. In this first section we will cover the basic hydrologic principles: water cycle, evaporation, precipitation, storage, runoff, and streamflow, with attention to forest hydrology and climate change. In this section of the course students will be expected to solve quantitative problems to explore the interface of hydrologic processes and human activity. Then we will turn to some of the institutional factors governing water resources, including law, economics and policy. Finally we will combine the physical and institutional issues as we focus on case studies of the Colorado, Columbia and Klamath River basins. This second part of the course is reading intensive: students are expected to complete all reading assignments and contribute to class discussion based on the readings. Students will integrate course materials in an original research paper.

This is a writing-centered course in an interdisciplinary topic and so we will examine different styles of writing about water resources. Examples of writing from the media, popular texts, journal articles, government documents, and textbooks are used as source material in the course. We will focus on evaluating such sources for their relevance and appropriateness in defining the issues and on understanding a variety of discourse conventions. In addition to examining published works, students will be asked to prepare assignments in various styles. For example, more formal scientific writing will include responses to problem set questions and the research paper. Informal writing will include responses to readings. Both formal and information writing will be utilized in the research paper. The main goal is for students to learn how to write and communicate to an interdisciplinary audience.

Course Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes

At the completion of this course, students will:
1) Understand and integrate the basic principles of hydrology
2) Obtain and critically evaluate hydrologic, social, economic, and political information on water resources
3) Employ appropriate methods of data analysis and interpretation
4) Integrate quantitative and qualitative information to define and explore a water resources issue
5) Effectively communicate complex water resources issues to an interdisciplinary audience

At the completion of this course, students will have improved their skills in:
1) oral and written communication
2) accessing, reading, and critically evaluating interdisciplinary materials
3) accessing and evaluating hydrologic data Student outcomes will be by measured through standard assessment instruments including problem sets and unit exams that incorporate targeted questions that address the learning objectives. All course materials may be accessed on WISE by students enrolled in this course.


(Note that texts may vary from year to year)

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia River. Harden, B. 1996. W.W. Norton.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water. Reisner, M. 1993. Penguin.

Encounters with the Archdruid New York, McPhee, J. 1980. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Fundamentals of Hydrology. Davie, T. 2008 Routledge.

Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and the Growth of the American West. Worster, D. 1992. Oxford.

Water War in the Klamath Basin: Macho Law, Combat Biology and Dirty Politics. Doremus, H.D. and A.D. Tarlock. 2008. Island Press.

Course Requirements

There are two exams.

Each student will write a major (12-15 page) research paper, on some water resources issue. The purpose of the paper is to synthesize physical hydrologic and geographic data with social, economic, and/or legal factors, as well as to go through the process of writing a multidisciplinary research paper. The final paper will be due on the last day of class, however a paper proposal and two paper drafts will be due during the semester. Each student will also present his/her research to the class during the last few weeks of the semester. Finally, each student will create a web page with a summary of his/her research to be displayed along with previous student research papers from the course.

Particularly during the last 2/3 of the course students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned materials. To prepare for discussion students will prepare short summaries of the reading material ten of which will be collected and graded. Students who are absent more than FOUR times during the semester without a valid excuse (legitimate medical condition or mandatory university activity) will be penalized 5% from their total grade. I have final discretion on what is considered a legitimate absence.

Three problem sets related to the hydrology section will be assigned. The purpose of these assignments is to help illuminate some of the hydrologic concepts and to introduce you to working with empirical data. A good grasp of algebra and the ability to manipulate data in electronic spreadsheets is required to complete the problem sets.

Questions or comments on this site? webmaster@willamette.edu
Last Updated 01/13/2011