View Learn.Genetics Materials

Model Earth

Here you'll find classroom activities that accompany the Learn.Genetics Model Earth module.

Water Allocation


Learning Objectives

  • Public policy is a complex process influenced by science, social demands, and economics.
  • Water is a limited resource.


Students decide how to allocate a limited amount of water to multiple stakeholders.


Students work individually or in small groups to read through descriptions of stakeholders, decide how much water to allocate to each, and create a bar chart or pie chart that represents their allocation.


Stakeholder Groups


Bar Chart


Pie Chart

Includes a copy master of correctly-sized protractors to print on transparency film, and cut out for student use.

Students compare and contrast their allocation charts with others and discuss. (As a whole-class gallery walk, in small groups, or with partners.) Suggested follow-up questions while students share their allocations:

  • Explain the reasoning behind your water allocations.
  • Were there any major differences between your water allocation and your classmates'?
  • Research and prepare reports on ways each stakeholder group can feasibly decrease their demand for water.
  • Were any allocation decisions particularly difficult to make?


  • Mock Water District Meeting: Assign small groups of students a stakeholder to represent. Task them with preparing a short presentation to deliver to a "Water District Board" made up of 3-4 students. The students on the Water District Board will decide how much water to allocate to each stakeholder group and explain their reasoning.
  • Climate Change: Once the students on the Water District Board have decided on their allocations, introduce a "climate crisis" where the actual amount of available water is less than what was predicted.


Look up the water usage totals and projected needs in your area or state.

Research the process that water districts use to allocate water, including the doctrine of prior appropriation.

Research and prepare reports on ways each stakeholder group can feasibly decrease their demand for water.

Using Existing Data Sets

Exploring websites that compile existing weather, climate and various other data sets are an excellent way to introduce students to the complexity of water issues, connect them with real-world science, and familiarize them with how models can be useful in forecasting and decision-making.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

WISDOM (Wyoming Interagency Spatial Database and Online Management System)

This website provides landscape-level disturbance, habitat, and wildlife data for the state of WY.

This PowerPoint presents a suggested progression for familiarizing students with the website, and it includes hypothetical questions that can be used for exploration or application:


Credit: Colleen Collins-Burridge, Casper, WY

SNOTEL and Snow Survey Water Supply and Forecasting

This website contains real-time snowpack and related climatic data, plus water supply forecasts for 13 western states. The data is gathered by over 2000 sensors maintained and operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Explore historic and current data for an area of interest.

Create scenarios that task students with using these data to make decisions such as:

  • Production decisions for agricultural land
  • Drought response and water diversion
  • Flood (from snowmelt) diversion
  • Preparations for recreational use in a watershed

National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Browse weather and climate data by map, ZIP code, city, state, or county.

Prepare a report on climatic trends for your area over the past 5 years.

Investigate and respond to common statements such as:

  • "There are more severe weather events today than there used to be."
  • "It used to snow a lot more than it does now."
  • "Summer seems to come earlier than it did ten years ago."

Graph monthly or yearly trends in weather for your area.


This work was supported by awards from the National Science Foundation to both the CI-Water Project: A Utah-Wyoming Cyberinfrastructure Water Modeling Collaboration (EPS-1135482) and iUtah: innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability (IIA-1208732). Both projects are NSF EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research)​ grants for Utah.