Water literacy: What we know about water

Authors: Hillary Hamann*, University of Denver
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geography Education, Environmental Perception
Keywords: water literacy, water resources, water security, geography education, sustainability
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 17
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, an understanding of water is more important than ever. Water literacy, or the culmination of water-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, is a relatively new field of study with growing importance for sustainable water management, social water equity and education. However, its definition and use across existing literature is varied and often inconsistent. In order to synthesize and streamline the conception of water literacy, we conducted a systematic review of literature that defines or describes in detail either “water literacy” or “watershed literacy”. From this analysis, we suggest a new, holistic framework for water literacy to guide a more inclusive and relevant use of the concept. We utilized the framework as a lens to examine a global suite of surveys and studies of water knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, and summarize water literacy levels and knowledge gaps in adult and student populations. 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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