Fun with GIS 321: World Water Day

3 weeks ago
Esri Regular Contributor
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Wednesday March 22, 2023, is World Water Day. It seems a bit curious, having a special day about something so critical for humanity. But how willing are we to go a day without it? The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 is about clean water and sanitation, but, truly, water is life.

Too much. Too scarce. Too erratic. Too far away. Too polluted by "other people's waste." Too useful for flushing away the unwanted. Too hard to "keep clean and pure for me." Too fun to splash and play in, until too fast, too hot, too cold, too crowded, too dirty, too many beasties -- both macro and micro -- that are too dangerous. Too powerful, too warm, too acidic, too toxic. Too precious. Too cheap. Too easy to squander. Too cyclic. Too everything.

With that characterization, how can you help your students think about water, talk about its meaning and value, map it, analyze it, and support its future which is tied so intimately with our own?

What is the value of water? Ben Franklin is credited with the phrase "When the well is dry, you know the worth of the water" (in Poor Richard's Almanac, ca.1746). How much do you consume in drinking, cooking, washing? What would you give up to ensure enough water for those? What if you had to carry all of it, from a long way? Many people are forced to do this to survive. What could help? ("Enough questions!")

Hippo Roller is one option: Instead of carrying heavy buckets, use a larger container specially made to hold a lot of water and roll. What can communities do with the time and labor saved? What can you do, thousands of miles away? (See Hippo Roller USA.) Provide one. Challenge your school to provide more than one. Write a lesson that translates the impact for those who don't need to carry water. Explore how GIS helps contemporary communities in urban, suburban, and rural areas provide clean water, manage wastewater, and handle interruptions.

What happens even in USA when water and the conditions influencing it trend farther away from optimal? What might that look like? How can we model that, and even prepare for it?

US federal agencies partnered with Esri to develop a website, "Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation" (or CMRA, pronounced "cam-ra"; see this 5-min video). Climate and water are different views of a single system, just like blood and breathing. But the conditions, causes, effects, and opportunities to build systemic resilience are varied and complex. We can turn away, pretend all is well, and live on hope. Or we can pay attention to data, examine models, see trajectories, and explore strategies.


CMRA is the focus of the "Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS" webinar for March 2023. This is a chance to learn about a model, its many roots and branches, and how to incorporate it into teaching. The T3G webinars are open to educators with registration, and recordings are available afterward.

What will you do for World Water Day, Wednesday, March 22, 2023?

About the Author
** Esri Education Mgr, 1992-today ** Esri T3G staff, 2009-present ** Social Studies teacher, grades 7-12, 1977-1992 (St. Paul, MN) ** NCGE Distinguished Teacher Award 1991, George J Miller Award 2016 ** ** ** ** Only education can save the world.