Spring 2020 - EASC 405 D100

Water, Environment, and Climate Change (3)

Class Number: 1303

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 11901, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Diana Allen
    1 778 782-3967
    Office: TASC 1 Room 7239
  • Prerequisites:

    EASC 315, or both EASC 304 and GEOG 311. All with a grade of C- or better.



Applies and integrates concepts from hydrological science to assess the various impacts to water cycles over a range of scales, considering both climate and other environmental stressors. Secondary impacts of climate change on water resources (including water for humans and aquatic ecosystems) are explored, focusing on current issues to generate ideas for potential mitigative and adaptive solutions.


Changes to the water cycle resulting from changes in climate and changes to the broader environment directly impact people and ecosystems. Our understanding of hydrologic system response to climate fluctuations continues to rapidly evolve, building on a substantial and productive research history. Fundamentally, questions remain about changes to water budget components, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, streamflow, and groundwater recharge due to uncertainties in the physical processes themselves and the climate change predictions. Similarly, the suitability of historical records for forecasting is sometimes compromised by persistent natural variations and human driven changes (e.g., urbanization). Managing water resources requires the ability to provide reliable predictions of the response of the water cycle to changing environmental conditions at a range of scales. How will the hydrologic system and associated subsystems respond to, and evolve under, natural and human induced changes in climate and the environment?  

In this course, students integrate knowledge of the hydrological sciences (climate, hydrology, hydrogeology, water chemistry) to understand the various linkages within the water cycle and its relevance to water resources. We first review climate science from the perspective of climate variability and climate change (causes, past evidence, approaches for making predictions about the future). We will then focus on the various impacts to water cycles over a range of scales, considering both climate and other environmental stressors. The secondary impacts of climate and broader environmental change on the environment (including impacts to humans and aquatic ecosystems) are explored in the second part of the course by focusing on current issues in different regions around the globe to generate ideas for potential adaptive solutions.

Course Topics:

  • Climate Variability and Change: Understanding the past and making predictions into the future.
  • Impacts to Water Cycles: From the catchment scale to global scale (e.g., shifting hydrologic regimes, salinization, desertification).
  • Secondary Impacts:  Water sustainability; drinking water quality; food security; energy security.
  • Adaptive Solutions: Conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater; watershed management.
Course Organization: This course will comprise one 2-hour lecture and one 3-hour lab each week. The labs will encompass a range of activities (lecture based assignments, writing assignments, group activities, discussions). The format for group activities will include roundtable style, breakout groups, etc. so as to expose students to different forms of group dialogue. The course will culminate in a written term project whereby students will select a region and undertake a climate change impacts/adaptation/mitigation assessment. Oral presentations will be given on the term project.


Educational Goals:
Knowledge Development and Application: Demonstrate an understanding climatological and hydrological processes that control the water cycle. Apply knowledge to assess impacts to water sustainability and evaluate potential adaptation strategies.
Analytical Skills: Apply skills in data management, time management, analysis (calculation, graphing) for assembling and synthesizing information. Employ advanced skills (climate and hydrologic modeling, geographic information system mapping) for climate and hydrological problem solving.
Oral Communication Skills:  Communicate scientific understanding via group discussion and formal presentation.
Writing Skill Development: Write for different audiences to communicate scientific findings, for example, a newspaper editorial, a professional article, a policy brief, a scientific report to a government agency responsible for water management.


  • Data/Modeling Assignments (5) 50%
  • Writing Assignments (3) 30%
  • Participation 5%
  • Term Project Presentation 15%



Nigel Arnell. 2002. Hydrology and Global Environmental Change. Prentice Hall, 368 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-582-36984-9


Selected Readings: Excerpts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (available free online); Climate Overview 2007: Hydro-Climatology and Future Climate Impacts in British Columbia” by Rodenhuis et al. (2009); various journal publications (available through SFU library).

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html