Study Abroad and Exchanges



GEO3117 : Global Water Resources

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


•To explain how, while water is an essential natural resource that shapes regional landscapes and is vital for ecosystem functioning and human well-being, in the newly-defined Anthropocene epochat the same time it is a resource under considerable pressure.

•To introduce students to important physical and biotic interactions in catchment ecosystems and to illustrate the intensity of impacts these systems endured.

•To introduce important issues and complexities (e.g. water allocation, hazard management, pollution control, monitoring, stakeholder participation, and climate change) relating to conservation management of river systems, and to examine what actually constitutes sustainable water management.

•To examine global pressures on water resources and assess legislation designed for their protection.

Water is the basis of all life, and our planet faces deepening challenges related to water purity and availability. Increased environmental awareness have amplified calls for sustainable river basin management and restoration projects that are more scientifically based, grounded as much in the earth and ecological sciences as in engineering, and are geomorphologically 'correct'. This module identifies key issues in the science of water management, the uncertainty in design of sustainable catchment restoration projects, and describes a range of challenges for the sustainable management of what will become more and more precious water resources internationally.

Worldwide, water policy and management are beginning to reflect the fundamentally interconnected nature of hydrological resources, and Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is, based on the understanding that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. IWRM has recentlyis emerge as an alternative to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that has dominated in the past.

This module will commence by examining how catchments function, emphasising how the inter-relationships between hydrology, geomorphology and ecology give rise to healthy rivers. You will discuss a number of paradoxes e.g. how, while floods are the most common natural disaster and cause more deaths and damage than any other type, they also sustain aquatic life and riverine biodiversity; how aquatic systems are especially prone to species invasion; and how dams designed to supply water can end up devastating the systems they influence. The module will examine pressing issues and challenges for the 21st century in terms of development issues and water supply, water rights and governance, geopolitical issues fostering and hindering international river management, including practical ways we can restore degraded rivers and wetlands and wider challenges of IRWM.

In terms of assessment the module promotes active engagement via a group debate (25%). This is aimed at instilling a more active approach to learning along with a greater recognition of your responsibility for your own learning. The mixture of informal discussion, group work, self-teaching, peer-to-peer learning, self-reflection and formal debate is designed to suit students with a range of preferred learning modes. Lectures are specifically designed to support this and feed into the knowledge base for the debate and written report.

Outline Of Syllabus

River systems:
1. Introduction – sustainable water resource management
2. China's rising water crisis
3. The river as an ecological continuum
4. The Riverine Ecosystem Synthesis
5. The sustainable development goals
6. Natural disturbance – the flood pulse
7. Regulation and impoundment
8. Dams – silenced rivers?
9. Invasive aquatic plants
10. Water and sustainability
11. Freshwaters and ecosystems services
12. When the rivers run dry...
13. Large Rivers: transboundary management of water resources
14. Transboundary management of the River Nile basin
15. European Water Law and the Water Framework Directive
16. Monitoring and management
17. Environmental flows
18. Rethinking water management – innovative approaches
19. Practical rehabilitation techniques
20. Wetland creation
21. Equitable access to water resources
22. River conservation and management – the next 20 years

NB some of these (e.g. Large Rivers, IWRM) may run for more than one lecture session)

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity17:007:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1147:00147:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce, develop and illustrate the theory and practice of (a) interactions between hydrology, geomorphology and ecology in river environments, (b) impacts of human activity on such environments, (c) innovative approaches to water resource management and (d) examples of policy frameworks for managing river basins and their water resources in a variety of geographical settings. Seminars reinforce learning in a formative fashion and also provide practice in oral presentation, while field visits will provide examples of regional issues related to sustainable water resource management.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation901M25Group assessed debate. Date/time to be scheduled by School.
Written Examination901M50Seen exam consisting of 2 questions
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report1M25Policy Brief/Poster (1000 words max if brief)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Coursework assessment (individual written report) will allow the student to focus on an aspect of global water resource management that is of interest to them. The group-based debate will allow students to gain experience of working together to develop a knowledge base share research objectives and cooperate to a team-based in-depth debate on a subject decided by the students themselves. This will intrinsically depend on knowledge and material provided in the lecture but should be significantly enhanced in depth and critique by engagement with the wider literature (web-based materials and reports and journal articles are of equal relevance here).

Reading Lists