Water Resources Professional Project Reports

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Voting-aged, freshman-level university students attending college in urban Southwest US cities are living in what is considered one of the most 'climate-challenged' regions of the entire country. Such students may not understand the issues and ways to manage an urban watershed. For instance, the Southwest faces climate change drought predictions and naturally occurring water scarcity. Urban populations continue to climb, pushing up demands on already scarce water resources. Urban watersheds present specific challenges, such as impermeable surfaces. Students need to understand these urban watershed management challenges and climate change stressors. I conducted a study in an introductory environmental science class at an urban, very high research university in the arid Southwest. I used a pre / post design to assess student preconceptions about their urban campus watershed. The post-test was administered following a brief, experiential learning exercise, carried out over two instructional class periods. I developed a coding scheme to analyze the pre- and post-test responses. Results showed that students held both normative and non-normative preconceptions. There was minor growth in students' conceptual understanding between the pre-test and post-test, and this growth was significant, (t(33) = -2.25, p < .05), with a small to medium effect size, d: -0.393. This finding supports the use of experiential learning as a means to teach students about water resources. Understanding students' preconceptions of arid, urban watersheds can assist in how to better design curriculum. Improvements in curriculum design can empower students with more accurate knowledge to make better decisions about urban watersheds. This knowledge will help students make more informed voting decisions related to water resources policy for the Southwest.

Language (ISO)



watershed, southwest, urban watersheds, student preconceptions


A Professional Project Proposal submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.