ENVS 190: Water in Crisis

Our supply of fresh water, critical to our survival and the ecosystems that sustain us, is in crisis. Some critical water issues include providing a stable municipal and agricultural water supply, detecting and removing water pollutants, and building resilience to the impacts of storms, floods, and droughts as our climate changes. Meeting our water resource demands can have negative impacts on natural hydrologic and ecological systems.

This course begins with understanding how water cycles through the Earth’s atmosphere, surface, subsurface, and ecosystems. We will then explore how traditional ways of controlling water resources through costly infrastructure are being reevaluated; we will study examples of water resource management that works with natural systems, rather than radically changing fundamental processes.

The course includes a visit to the Carlos Museum to explore objects related to the scarcity and excess of water in cultures across time and around the globe and the ways in which water shapes social structure and religious ritual.