Back to Course Listings


ENV / FSST / GSCI 320: Water Resources: Environment, Society, and Power

Important Notes:

This is an elective course in the program in Food, Sustainability, & Environment (FSE). Students do not need to be in the FSE to enroll.

Course Description

This course will confront water related issues through a combination of discourses including anthropology, food studies, and environmental sciences. It will explore the central role of water in human civilization, both past and present, and consider the future implications of our current water use trajectories. Course modules will address the functioning of ecosystems and the well being of the environment, industries and the economy, agriculture and food production, and recreation and tourism. This course aims to recognize ways in which water influences our lives and to explore the entangled interdependencies and linkages between water and human activities. The course will take a critical look at water sustainability through various lenses including food systems, terrestrial and marine resources and other industries. Subjects will begin at international levels before narrowing to national, regional, and local levels in Italy. Throughout the course, students will be asked to analyze their personal water footprints and explore ways to minimize personal water usage, and consider strategies for broader water conservation efforts.

Learning will be guided using diverse methods: lectures with in-depth discussions, a service learning and community outreach project, and a field trip to Lake Trasimeno. Through the outreach and service learning project, students will refine qualitative research methods as well as be asked to consider the ethical implications of research on human subjects.

Service Learning Project Description

Through observations, surveys and analyses, you will assist the Umbra Institute in its efforts to become more sustainable. Students will develop, organize, and lead various events and/or workshops to raise awareness about the world’s finite resources. At the end of the system, the students will summarize their findings and provide a strategic plan to Umbra administration.

Course Objectives:
This course will ask students to:

  • Understand the interdependencies and inter-linkages between water and trade, development, and the environment;
  • Identify inter-linkages between energy, food, land use, and water;
  • Analyze and compare the cultural and biological significance of water;
  • Examine the political use of water;
  • Explore how water use has shaped Italy and Italian culture;
  • Develop innovative strategies for promoting sustainable water use in one or more areas of land use, food and energy, including at the consumer level.

Course Materials
Mandatory course reader