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Water Literacy: What do we know about what we know about water?

Authors: Hillary Hamann*, University of Denver, Meghan McCarroll, University of Denver
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geography Education, Sustainability Science
Keywords: water literacy, water resources, geographic education, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In an increasingly populated world where water insecurity remains rampant, where climate change is exacerbating droughts and floods, and where both individual and collective decisions and actions are critical to sustaining water resources, water literacy is more important than ever. The concept of water literacy stems from broad literacies such as scientific literacy and environmental literacy, the goals of which are central to science education reform and sustainability education movements. Various groups (eg. North American Association for Environmental Education) have worked to define these literacies and to develop frameworks for assessments. Within these broader topics, additional literacies such as earth science literacy, climate literacy, and ocean literacy have also been identified and developed into big ideas and supporting concepts for education. The topic of water appears in each of these, but water literacy is arguably an important set of knowledge and skills in its own right that is starting to be addressed and developed in the literature with data from local, national and international surveys. Water literacy goes beyond just scientific understanding to encompass management, and social and cultural constructs. This presentation will summarize the current definitions and existing frameworks for water literacy and will review what surveys and studies suggest about water resource knowledge and attitudes. Our goal is to spark a broader discussion on how to best develop and integrate a water literacy framework into research, management and education.

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