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Freshwater - Issues & Conflicts

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hydrological cycle

Water balance: relationship between inputs and outputs of a drainage basin.

Precipitation = Q (runoff/discharge) + E (evapotranspiration) +/- changes in storage.


1. Define the different stages in the hydrological cycle:

  • evaporation
  • transpiration
  • condensation
  • precipitation
  • interception
  • infiltration
  • surface runoff
  • throughflow
  • groundwater
  • groundwater flow

2. You should also be able to identify stores (groundwater, lakes, clouds) and transfers (precipitation, evaporation, throughflow etc).

watercycle diagram
Fig A1: Hydrological Cycle

Changing Balance of Ice and Water

Climate change is reducing the volume of water stored as ice.


  1. Watch video A1, describe why mountain glaciers are so important for many people and economies.
  2. What are the likely effects of reducing mountain glaciers?
  3. Read this article and describe the concerns of the local Nepalese regarding the glacial lakes forming in the Himalayas
Video A1 Melting Mountain Glaciers

Water Extraction

Maximum Sustainable Yield: The maximum level of extraction that can be maintained indefinitely for a given area.

  1. Use Video A2 and the links below to make Case Study notes about groundwater extraction.
Video A2: Groundwater Extraction and Sustainability

drainage basins

Drainage Basin: The area drained by a river and its tributaries.

Drainage Divide: Also known as a watershed, it is the line defining the boundary of a river or stream drainage basin separating it from adjacent basin(s).

You should have an understanding of the following river features:

*source, tributary, confluence, channel, floodplain, mouth, delta, distributaries.

* River profile & characteristics: upper, middle & lower valley. Bradshaw model. Waterfalls.

* River discharge: define, measurement (cumecs).

Storm hydrographs


  1. Describe the factors affecting the hydrograph: basin shape/size, drainage density, human influence, slope gradient, climate, soil type, vegetation.
  2. How do these affect the lag time and peak discharge?
  3. Explain the purpose & use of hydrographs in predicting floods and the frequency of occurance of floods.
Storm hydrograph
Figure A2: Storm Hydrograph Features



storm hydrograph practise question
Figure A3: Exam Practise Question


CASE STUDY: Bangladesh flooding

Case study notes (password required)

Use this pdf to make notes about the Bangladesh floods.

You should draw a sketch map showing the main physical features that contribute to the flooding.

You should be able to discuss the relative importance of human and physical causes. Banagladesh has experienced rapid poulation growth and has a high population density.

Video A3: Bangladesh Flooding
  • IB Geography pakistan
  • Pakistan flood causes
  • Pakistan flood effects
IB Geography freshwater pakistan flood
IB Geography freshwater pakistan flood causes
IB Geography freshwater pakistan flood effects
  • IB Geography freshwater
  • IB Geography freshwater
  • IB Geography Freshwater transportation
  • IB Geography freshwater deposition
IB Freshwater
IB freshwater erosion
IB Geography freshwater transportation
IB Geography freshwater deposition

dams & resovoirs

Case Study: Aswan Dam - Egypt

Costs/benefits of the dam

Case study notes (password required)

IB Geography Aswan Dam
Figure A4: The Aswan High Dam, Egypt

Case Study: 3 Gorges Dam - China


  1. Read these links below and watch Video to answer the following questions.
  2. Describe the main purposes of the dam.
  3. What benefits was it intended to bring (environmental, economic,social)
  4. What negative impacts has it had (environmental, economic,social)?
  5. Evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the various costs.


Video 3 Gorgers Dam


Dams around the world & some of the concerns & benefits.

Floodplain Management

1) Factors affecting erosion: velocity, gradient, human activities.

2) Levees, meanders & oxbow lakes.

3) Notes about deposition: deposition features (deltas, braided channels, levees), reason for increased deposition & benefits brought by deposition..

4) Human modifications of floodplain & effect on flooding

  • urbanisation & impermeable surfaces - reduced infiltration, faster & increased runoff.
  • extraction of water - irrigation, wells
  • River channel adjustments - building development, bridges,
  • Chinas River Diversion - video

5) Management Strategies

Case Study: London, UK

short guides looking at some of the causes & solutions to flooding in London

Flood barriers such as the Thames Barrier, London

Upstream measures:

Yangtze River: China.

3 Gorges Dam upstream to hold back floodwater & release it slowly.

Jingjiang flood diversion scheme - area allowed to flood to protect large urban areas downstream.


Mississippi flood gates opened (Telegraph 2011)

Practise Exam Q

You may use your books, research etc to answer this - make it thorough & treat it as a learning execise rather than a test.

Question Paper

Resource Paper

groundwater management

Read this article for an introduction to the unit Groundwater. Published by

Unsustainable use of groundwater: India

New reserves of groundwater discovered: Namibia

Pollution of groundwater and health implications: Bangladesh




Wetlands & management

Case Study: Kissimmee River Restoration

Wetlands: Areas that are regularly saturated by surface water or groundwater, including freshwater marshes, swamps and bogs.

Wetlands are an important ecosystem supporting a wide species diversity. They also filter water passing through them removing many pollutants. In addition they can play a significant role in reducing flood risk.

Many wetland systems around the world are under threat due to development.


Watch the videos opposite to make case study notes about the Kissimme river project and restoration. Make sure that you answer the following questions in your notes

  1. Where is the Kissimmee river.
  2. How, why & when was it altered?
  3. Why is it being restored?
  4. How is it being restored?
  5. What is the financial cost of restoring the wetlands?

Additional Resources:

Video A4: Kissimmee River
Video A5: Kissimmee River
Video A6: Kissimmee River
chemicals & eutrophication IB geography eutrophication
Figure A5: Eutrophication diagram

Fertilisers: Enriching the worlds soil

  1. Read & make notes about the the impact on a global scale that fertilisers are having.
  2. Why have they become so essential for food supplies, but also for economies that rely on agriclture?
  3. What is micro-dosing and how can it help overcome?

nitrate pollution & effect in UK

natiobal scale water conflict

Case study (password required)

Water Conflict: National Scale: Peru

The - The Andes

Mini-series looking at water shortages in Peru. Watch the 3 videos (A5 to A7).

  1. Make Case Study notes about:
  • The causes
  • The effects on the local people
  • Ideas about what can be done

The Andes: Retreat of the glacier

Water Wars Come to the Andes

Video A7: Andes Water Wars 1
Video A8: Andes Water Wars 2
Video A9: Andes Water Wars 3

international scale water conflict

Conflict over Water - International Scale; River Nile

Case Study (password required)


  1. Use the links below to make a Case Study about the conflicting demands for water from the River Nile. Include the following sections:
  2. A map showing the countries that the Nile flows through.
  3. Describe the historical agreements over the Niles water.
  4. Why are Ethiopia and Uganda wanting to use more of the Niles water upstream?
  5. Why is Egypt strongly opposed to other countries using more of the water from the Nile.
  6. Do you think that the other African countries should be allowed to take more water from the Nile and to dam it?

Interactive guide (2010)

The Nile River Basin

River Nile in Egypt
Figure A6 : River Nile flowing through Egypt


Past Exam Q essay:

“The lower courses of rivers are more important to people than the upper courses.”
Discuss this statement with reference to located examples. [20 marks]

Guideline to help answer this

Lake Mead & the Hoover Dam

Water wars in the USA: BBC video clip about state conflicts over the use of the Rio Grandes water.

IB geography revision guides link