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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.

watercycle diagram


Ensure you understand the different stages in the water cycle. You should also be able to identify stores (groundwater, lakes, clouds) and transfers (precipitation, evaporation, throughflow etc).

You are required to be able to discuss the impact of climate change and its impact on the amount of water stored as ice: Problem of less water being stored as ice in the water cycle

Water Extraction

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

water mining - sustainable? sea level?

Global business & water shortages

Middle East running dry?

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:

* Features of drainage basins: 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

Srotm hydrograph


Make notes about the factors affecting the hydrograph: basin shape/size, drainage density, human influence, slope gradient, climate, soil type, vegetation.

How do these affect the lag time and peak discharge?

Be able to explain the purpose & use of hydrographs in predicting floods and the frequency of occurance of floods.

storm hydrograph practise question


CASE STUDY: Bangladesh flooding

See slide show below.

Include - Geographical location, physical & human causes, effects & preventative efforts.

Case study notes (password required)

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  • IB Geography pakistan
  • Pakistan flood causes
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IB Geography freshwater pakistan flood effects
  • IB Geography freshwater
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IB Freshwater
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dams & resovoirs

Case Study: Aswan Dam - Egypt

Costs/benefits of the dam

Case study notes (password required)

IB Geography Aswan Dam

Damming the Mekong, Laos building new megadam (BBC)

The battle for the Mekong (BBC)

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)

IB Geography river Tyne IB Geography HEP dam, Costa Rica

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

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

Case Study: Kissimmee River Restoration

Where is the Kissimmee river.

How, why & when was it altered?

Why and how is it being restored? (and at what cost?)


chemicals & eutrophication IB geography eutrophication

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)

The - The Andes

Mini-series looking at water shortages in Peru - causes, effects and some ideas about what can be done.

The Andes: Retreat of the glacier Chiles water conflicts between mining & agriculture in the Atacama Desert.

international scale water conflict


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.

Tanning Factories & the River Ganges

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