Teacher’s Corner: Groundwater

Integrating Survey Notes Articles in the Classroom
By Nancy Carruthers and Sandy Eldredge

Looking for current and relevant geologic information to use in your class? In the first of a series, we will provide discussion items on Survey Notes articles and suggest ways to integrate these articles into your teaching, focusing on appropriate grade level and core curriculum standards. This approach can build synergy between field-based science and classroom education.

The timely geologic topics of Survey Notes articles can be integrated into several curriculum areas including Utah history and social studies.

For example, the article “Proposed Groundwater Withdrawal in Snake Valley, Nevada and Utah” in this issue is particularly relevant to topics taught in 7th-grade Utah Studies and 9th-grade Earth Systems.

Possible Discussion Points


• Relate surface and ground-water availability and use to population growth in the U.S.

• What measures regarding water use will future population growth require?

• How might Utah be affected by the Las Vegas proposal to pump and pipe large amounts of ground water from just west of the Utah/Nevada border (e.g., potential impacts to groundwater levels in western Utah)?


• What is a hydrologic basin? What is an aquifer? Where/how are the Snake Valley aquifers recharged?

• Discuss the relationships between various Earth systems. How is the geosphere related to the aquifer beneath Snake Valley? What is the relation between the atmosphere (particularly the climate in the two driest states) and the hydrosphere?

• When is Las Vegas estimated to exceed existing water supplies relative to projected water demand? See diagram on page 2.

• Discuss the long-term viability of states sharing ground-water resources. Will ground-water resources need to be allocated via interstate compacts in the future (similar to surface-water allocations, such as Colorado River water)?

• See a related article on a wetlands ecosystem, “Tooele Valley Wetlands– A Valuable but Potentially Endangered Resource”,
in this issue of Survey Notes.

• Read about “Earth Fissures in Escalante Valley, Iron County, Utah,” in the September 2005 Survey Notes (v. 37, no. 3). Use the information in that article to discuss the impacts of ground-water withdrawal in this area, including a decline in ground-water levels that in part likely contributed to earth fissures (cracks up to 1300 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 6 feet deep) that became noticeable after widespread flooding in January 2005.

7th-Grade Utah Studies

Standard 1, Objective 3, 4th indicator –  Assess the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources.

9TH-Grade Earth Systems

Standard 4, Objective 1e –  Analyze how communities deal with water shortages, distribution, and quality in planning long-term water use.

Survey Notes, v. 38 no. 2, May 2006