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“Hydro-literacy”: Not a New Term, but Timely

July 17, 2013Patrick NunnallyRiversComments Off on “Hydro-literacy”: Not a New Term, but Timely

One of the people we learn the most from is Michael E. Campana, whether we see his stuff through @WaterWired or read his Aquadoc blog.  Currently at oregon State, Campana offers an enormous amount of thought-provoking information, links to out-of-the-way sources and (note, this, students and early career professionals) a list of jobs from all over.

Aquadoc’s post from Tuesday July 16 should be required reading for water courses all over.  Titled “Misinfographic,” it dissects the misleading facts and omissions contained in a graphic representation of New Mexico’s water crisis.  Water crises are real enough, and severe enough, not to need exaggeration.

The lessons strike home particularly hard for us at River Life, where a big part of our work is devising new and better ways of communicating science to nonscientists,, of finding better ways to frame arguments and positions about water, and of getting people to “see water’ with fresh eyes.  The reminder from “Misinfographic’ is the potential to distort information by focusing too much on access, or on understanding.

And here’s where I think the concept of “hydro-literacy” comes in.  A quick check shows the term to have been in use for a decade or more, and for it to mean pretty much a full range of things, from the simple notion that water doesn’t just come from the tap all the way to sophisticated awareness of how water offers specific ecosystem services.

Frankly, I’m not exactly sure how I would use the term hydro-literacy in the class I am preparing, which will offer planning and engagement contexts to undergraduate science students.  But it will be in te course, to be sure, and will provide a critical foundation for the understanding we want students to gain of the Mississippi River as “more than meets the eye.”

What do you think–what should be components of a “hydro-literacy” education for undergraduates, both in the sciences and in non-science disciplines?  Let me know through the “comments” feature and we’ll keep the discussion/wiki going!

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