Water-Earth Dynamics, Challenge 2: Know Your Watershed

Research and Revise

Now that you have shared information and viewed multiple perspectives about the unique properties of water and the connection between water and life on Earth, it is time for you to research and revise your ideas, using the Web.  Please complete the vocabulary exercise and then visit the Web sites listed to advance your knowledge about water and carry out activities designed to help you focus on the important dimensions of the challenge.

Vocabulary List

Watershed Stream channel Hydrograph
Drainage basin Gradient Discharge
Divide Floodplain Wetland
River/stream Flood Fluvial
Tributary Erosion Delta
Valley Load Drought
Runoff Deposition Pollution (point-source pollution and nonpoint-source pollution)

Labs/Homework Activities

Most regions in the United States experience drought, including Texas.  The Drought Module found at EarthLabs for Educators contains two activities that are relevant to this challenge on watersheds.  The first you will do in the classroom/lab; the second your teacher may assign as homework.

  • In Lab 2, What's a Watershed?  You will work in a team to build simple physical models of a watershed, then add model rain to observe and understand the flow of water across land.  After working with the physical model, you will use Google Earth to explore a rich data set that characterizes the watershed in which you live.  For this lab, you will need a pan, a plastic sheet, a spray bottle, and a computer with Google Earth installed.
  • Lab 3, Normal Climate Patterns allows you to explore your location's climate by generating a variety of graphs, charts, and map images.  The activity gives you practice in interpreting a broad range of data visualizations to develop an understanding of normal climate.  For this activity, you will need a computer with a Web browser.
  • Create a Google Earth fly-through tour of your watershed (KMZ file).  Each stop on the tour should be marked with an icon, and must contain a photo and short description.

Field Activities

  • Floodplains in the Field is a field exercise developed by Mary Savina in Starting Point - Teaching Entry Level Geoscience.  In this lab you will measure a topographic and geologic cross section across a floodplain by simple surveying and augering techniques.


Interactive Mapping Tools/Data

  • The Texas Water Development Board's Water Data Interactive (WDI) is an interactive mapping tool that allows users to zoom in on areas throughout Texas and view layers including aquifers, rivers and river basins, reservoirs, U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, and the locations of wells that are used to monitor groundwater conditions.  Information about individual reservoirs and monitoring wells can be accessed through the maps.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System Mapper has the locations of surface water, groundwater, springs, and weather monitoring sites on a Google-based mapping system.  Zoom in on a location and you can link straight to the data from any site.
  • EnviroMapper for Water is a web-based Geographic Information System (GIS) application that dynamically displays water quality and other environmental information about bodies of water in the United States.  This interactive tool allows you to create customized maps that portray the nation's surface waters along with a collection of water-quality-related data from the national level down to the community level.