- honors level, undergraduate module (4000 level)
- offered by Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at National University of Singapore (NUS)
- held once per week; seminar duration 3 h (actual 2.5 h)
- 100% Continuous Assessment (CA), i.e. no final exam
- class-size: ~40 students
- module coordinator: Sem. 2 of academic year (AY) 2017/2018 (1st time teaching this module, major syllabus changes)
All details below were provided to students on the NUS learning management system, IVLE.
This module is an introduction to watershed hydrology and the physical principles governing the hydrological cycle. The module further provides a holistic approach that integrates these hydrologic process within the framework of Integrated Watershed Management (IWM). IWM does not focus only on the management of the water resources, but looks at the watershed as one integrated system (including the land and vegetative resources too). IWM aims at managing the entire watershed in a way that ensures long-term and sustainable provision of goods and services. After covering the core principles, the focus of the module will shift on Singapore and other Asian examples.
After completing this module, students should:
- demonstrate understanding of hydrology and watershed management principles, methods, and applications;
- expand their knowledge about current integrated water resource management strategies in Singapore;
- gain experience in dissecting technical texts (peer-review journal articles) broadly related to hydrology and water resource management;
- improve their transferable skills, such as:
- self-organization and autonomous decision-making while maintaining a consensus among group-members;
- effective communication of complex ideas and concepts.
As this is a 4000 level module, students are expected to be active participants during the seminars. Seminar sessions will combine traditional lecturing and class discussion or other active (and interactive) student learning activities. The traditional lecture serves the purpose of brushing up (or introducing) definitions and concepts, which are fundamental to the specific field. The class discussion and class-activities provide an opportunity for the students to reflect upon and share with their classmates the newly acquired (through self-prep.) knowledge.
This is an overview of the general topics covered during the weekly seminars. The detailed break-down of topics, learning activities, as well as pdf. files of the lecture slides are provided in the Weekly Lesson Plan (scroll down).
- Week 1 (W1 | 15 Jan ’18): Intro to module + expectations; Introduction to Hydrology & Integrated Watershed Management
- Week 2 (W2 | 22 Jan ’18): Hydrologic Cycle and the Water Budget
- Week 3 (W3 | 29 Jan ’18): Precipitation + Project Group Formation
- Week 4 (W4 | 5 Feb ’18): Evaporation, Interception, and Transpiration
- Week 5 (W5 | 12 Feb ’18): Inﬁltration, Pathways of Water Flow, and Recharge
- Week 6 (W6 | 19 Feb ’18): Streamﬂow Measurement and Analysis + “Elevator Pitch” (Presenting project idea, scope, plans; 5min)
- Week 7 (W7 | 5 Mar ’18): Groundwater and Groundwater– Surface Water Exchange
- Week 8 (W8 |12 Mar ’18): Hydrological extremes: Droughts
- Week 9 (W9 | 19 Mar ’18): Hydrological extremes: Floods
- Week 10 (W10 | 26 Mar ’18): Guest lecture by Ms LAU Yingshan on “Singapore’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme”
- Week 11 (W11 | 2 Apr ’18): Field trip to Marina Barrage
- Week 12 (W12 | 9 Apr ’18): Project Presentations + peer-evaluation (round 1)
- Week 13 (W13 | 16 Apr ’18): Project Presentations + peer-evaluation (round 2) + wrap-up
The lectures for weeks 1-7 are based on Part 1 “Watersheds, Hydrologic Processes, and Pathways” (Chapters 1-7) of:
- Hydrology and the Management of Watersheds, 4th edition (2013) by Kenneth N. Brooks, Peter F. Ffolliott Joseph A. Magner (available as e-book at NUS library, @publisher)
Additionally, other relevant materials are used for discussion and in-class activities. Further details are provided in the Weekly Lesson Plan (scroll down).
This module is with 100% CA, so the final grade is formed as follows:
- Participation in class (presence) + submitting field notes from the field trip (10%)
- Two quizzes, incl. couple of exercises (individual assignments) (2 x 20% weight): mixture of MCQs and short discussion questions based on the lecture material from weeks 1-7. The first quiz was entirely home-work based and students had 1 week to complete it. This format proved to be inefficient in terms of grading. Way too many students got near perfect score, which shows that students did revise the lecture material and took time to find the correct answers, however, since we have to grade on a curve, grades need to be well distributed along the entire gradient. So, the second quiz was done in-class for limited time (40 min). Additionally, students had a week to complete two exercises at home. Everyone was working on the same assignment, which surprisingly did not result in improved performance.
- Project (group-work in groups of 4): 1) included project idea presentation (“elevator pitch”), 2) submitting group project report (30%), 3) final project presentation (10%). The project topic was purposefully broad, so the groups could decide on what to focus. The topic was formulated as “Hydrologic & IWM assessment for your favorite Singaporean reservoir“.
- Peer-evaluation of project presentation (5%): during the final presentations, groups engaged in peer-evaluation based on provided grading rubric and assessment sheet. The qualitative and quantitative feedback from each group was compiled, anonymised and passed along with my own feedback to the specific groups. The peer-evaluation was used, so students listen actively while the other groups are presenting their work.
- Self-assessment (5%): students were asked to fill-in self-assessment forms, so they reflect on their contribution the group-work, on the challenges of this specific assignment, and what could be improved or done differently. The self-assessment forms also provided insight into the group-dynamics and helped with assigning individual grades for the project component.
Each group had to choose one of the 17 reservoirs of Singapore, except for Marina Reservoir. The research component of this project had to have field-based observations. Students were expected to visit the site (their reservoir) and based on their observations to provide qualitative hydrological, geomorphological, ecohydrological or other relevant to the integrated watershed management characterization. They could focus also on the functions of the reservoir and observe how these functions are manifested in the field. Taking photos to illustrate their observations was encouraged. Next to the field observations, it was expected that students would conduct research about the development of the reservoir (based on literature sources). Another required component of the project was the estimation of annual reservoir recharge (or at least an attempt for estimation). For this estimation students could use available data on precipitation. The catchment area could be determined from available topographic maps (those are available in the Map Lab at the Department). Any other relevant source could be used as well, even though open data for Singapore water resources is very limited. The report could also include analysis on the integration of reservoir functions.
The assignment was purposefully left open for interpretations. The groups were expected to define their project goals and limit the scope of their work.
Detailed Weekly Lesson Plan + Lecture Slides
W1: Introduction to Hydrology & Integrated Watershed Management
Part 1 of the seminar included short intro: who am I & what’s my background, followed by students presenting themselves. After the short intro, the module details and my expectations are overviewed. See lecture slides in the preview below (left).
Part 2 (some was left for week 2):
- what is watershed and why is it used; why do we need to characterize our watersheds and what does that mean; brush up on watershed delineation and Strahler order classification, as well as, presenting the geomorphological perspective (headwaters; erosional, transitional, depositional zones).
- defining Integrated Watershed Management: what it is, what different strategies are there, and why is it used. These concepts are illustrated with two examples from Singapore and an example from Vancouver.
Activity (left for homework): delineating a watershed; determining the Strahler order of all tributaries in a 5th order watershed.
W2: Hydrologic Cycle and the Water Budget
A lot of the material in week 2 is covered in introductory modules, however about 40-50% of the students in the cohort had never read other module in hydrology or even the 2000 level introduction to the Water and the Environment (GE2229). The outline of the “seminar” was as follows:
- Continuing with the lecture material from week 1 (intro to IWM)
- The properties of water
- Hydrologic cycle & the water budget
- The energy budget & water flow in soils
Reading materials: Chapter 2 “Hydrologic Cycle and the Water Budget” of the textbook.
Additional materials for the advanced students (self prep.):
- Approximations of saturated vapor pressure (html file, R)
- part 1 & 2 of “Hydrologic modelling of urbanized catchments: A review and future directions” by Elga, Jan, and Okke (2015), DOI
- “Understanding Preferential Flow in the Vadose Zone: Recent Advances and Future Prospects” by Jarvis, Koestel, and Larsbo (2016), DOI
During week 3, the lecture slides cover the following topics:
- Precipitation process: introduction to forms of precipitation and precipitation formation
- Rainfall: how to measure it, how is it done in Singapore (+ some stats), what methods are used for calculating mean precip at the watershed scale.
- Snowfall & snowmelt: brief intro to methods for measuring snow depth and snow-water equivalent.
There were two in-class activities planned: 1) exercise on calculating mean precipitation at a watershed based on point observations, using 3 methods (print-out of the exercise was provided in-class, pdf file was also available for download from IVLE); and 2) paper discussion.
The peer-review article selected for this activity was:
- “Hydrologic Controls and Water Vulnerability in the Naryn River Basin, Kyrgyzstan: A Socio-Hydro Case Study of Water Stressors in Central Asia” by Hill et al. (2017), DOI
Students were instructed to prepare in advance by reading the following parts of this paper (as a minimum): the Introduction; from Materials and Methods: 2.1. Quantifying the Hydrologic Setting, 2.2 Synoptic Sample Design, and 2.5. Socio-Hydro Survey; from Results: 3.1. Hydrologic Setting, 3.4. Socio-Hydro Results; from Discussion: 4.2. Hydrologic Controls on River Flow, and 4.3. Social Implications; and the Conclusion.
- from the text book: Chapter 3 “Precipitation” (students could skip the “technical parts”, e.g. p.59-63, up to “Snowfall”. From the snowfall part they should have read p. 63, 64 and scanned through the rest of the text. Students could also skip the part from p.70 to the end of the Chapter).
The lecture slides were largely based on Chapter 3, however some additional info from peer review articles was also provided. Advanced students could look-up for more details in the provided references & read the rest of the Chapter 3. Here are the additional references:
W4: Evaporation, Interception, and Transpiration
During week 4, the seminar continues with the water cycle and focus on the following topics:
- Net precipitation
- Potential evapotranspiration (PET)
Dissecting the water budget exercise for a forest-covered watershed near Chiang Mai (Thailand) from the textbook (p.110). The exercise is solved in the textbook, but the students are asked to find out how are all the numbers derived and what are the assumptions that have been made in order to close the water budget.
- from the textbook: Chapter 4 “Evaporation, Interception, and Transpiration”
W5: Inﬁltration, Pathways of Water Flow, and Recharge
During the first part of week 5 seminar the lecture slides follow the topics discussed in Chapter 5 of the textbook:
- Infiltration: what is it, how to measure it, what are the land-use impacts on infiltration and what are water-repellent soils
- Pathways: what are the different pathways of the infiltrated water, what is groundwater recharge and land-use
- Streamflow: regimes and hydrograph
During the second part of the seminar (after the break), students split into the 10 groups (same as for the group project) and worked on in-class activity as a group. Each group worked on selected for them Integrated River Basin Management case-studies from WWF (see bellow for more info).
This activity had two goals:
- to provide examples for what is meant when “integrated management” is used in the context of watersheds (and river basins).
- to gain some experience in working together as a group, get to know each other (Later it became clear that this was not entirely needed for this specific cohort, since they all knew eachother and had worker together multiple times prior to this module).
Students were given 15-20 min to discuss what are the most important parts for this case-study. After that every group had to share with the class what were the specific challenges and the lessons learned for their specific river basin. Each group had to prepare a short summary of what they found to be important and to present it orally to the rest of the class.
Students were advised to read the group-specific case-studies at home, before coming to class, so they could have meaningful discussions with their group members during the in-class activity. They were provided with instructions and the following links on IVLE:
- Intro to the WWF Integrated River Basin Management case studies: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/rivers/irbm/cases/
- Group 1: Lake Chad (pdf link)
- Group 2: Everglades (pdf link)
- Group 3: Yangtze (pdf link)
- Group 4: South Africa’s “Working for Wetlands” (pdf link)
- Group 5: Ganges (pdf link)
- Group 6: Kinabatangan (pdf link)
- Group 7: Prespa (pdf link)
- Group 8: Great Barrier Reef (pdf link)
- Group 9: Danube (pdf link)
- Group 10: Gwydir (pdf link)
- In case the links to pdf-files did not work, students could also: find these pdfs by clicking at the case-studies (left panel) on this link: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/rivers/irbm/cases/
Reading materials (besides the links above): the lecture slides were based on Chapter 5 “Infiltration, Pathways of Water Flow, and Recharge”
W6: Streamﬂow Measurement and Analysis
Week 6 seminar started with students presenting their project ideas and plans. The outline for this seminar was as follows:
- Elevator Pitch (5 min, instead of 30 sec) + Feedback/Discussion (after presentations 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10)
- Lecture (after the break)
- Velocity profiles & discharge measurements
- Gauging stations & rating curves
- Estimating discharge with Manning’s formula
Lecture slides were based on Chapter 6 “Streamflow Measurement and Analysis”(p.141 – 146 &
147-150 incl.). Students were expected to read also p. 2-3 of USGS manual on velocity-area method (pdf provided) link to manual.
- “A novel framework for discharge uncertainty quantification applied to 500 UK gauging stations” by Coxon et al. (2015), DOI
- “Selection of Manning’s Roughness Coefficient for Natural and Constructed Vegetated and on vegetated Channels, and Vegetation Maintenance Plan Guidelines for Vegetated Channels in Central Arizona” by Phillips & Tadayon (2006), USGS scientific report link to pdf
Risk Assessment for project-related fieldwork
Students were instructed that before going to the field for performing observational fieldwork for their projects, they should fill-in the following documents (forms provided on IVLE):
- Indemnity form (individual, i.e. each group member)
- Risk Assessment form (one for each group)
- Checklist (one for each group, but don’t forget to add the contact details for each group member)
Students were instructed that they must deliver these forms to me after you fill them and sign them. They were advised to also keep a copy for themselves as part of the documentation for their project work.
It was explained that even if this seemed to be unnecessary formalism, but is very important. Field work, even when it is in urban environment (Singapore) and within public areas, can still be associated with numerous risk hazards. Since the field observations for this projects were not going to be supervised, it was imperative that students have considered the risks associated with their specific locations and that they have all the necessary contact information with them.
I attached on IVLE also the “NUS Safety & Health Guidelines for Field Trips”, where students could find examples of field-work associated risks in parts 4,5, and 6.
W7: Groundwater and Groundwater– Surface Water Exchange
The lecture slides for week 7 seminar (first part) cover the following topics:
- Groundwater basics
- Groundwater development & management
- Groundwater-surface water exchange
A paper discussion on groundwater management in Denmark was planned for the second part of the seminar. Students had to prepare for discussion by reading at home the following two papers:
- The lecture slides were based on Chapter 7 “Groundwater and Groundwater-Surface Water Exchange” from the textbook
- (additional) “Science, Society, and the Groundwater Squeeze” by Michael et al. (2017), DOI
W8: Hydrological extremes: Droughts
During week 8 seminar the most of the time was planned for in-class activity. The lecture was 15 min long and aimed to provide some background on drought and to introduce the terminology. The following sub-topics were covered:
- What is drought, how is it defined
- Types of drought & types of hydrological drought
- Drought propagation
All lecture slides were based on: “Hydrological drought explained” by Van Loon (2015), DOI
The rest of the seminar was spent on in-class group activity on Singapore’s water rationing in 1963. The groups had to plan and prepare a poster. The last slides on Cape Town water rationing were additional info (it wasn’t covered during the lecture and it wasn’t part of any assessment).
Instructions for home-prep
Home preparation should include reading 1-2 items from the list below (one peer-review pub. + some other source). It is best if group-members diversify what they read. The idea was to get familiar with the historical drought episode and the water rationing in Singapore during 1963 and to try to link it to the current/contemporary challenges.
Additional information on the poster preparation and expectation was to be provided during the seminar. Students were told that they should not start working on the posters at home. The idea was to have very limited time (our seminar), so they are forced to communicate only the main points or messages in as clear & concise way as possible. The brainstorming & preparing a poster draft on paper was planned to take 10-15 min. After that students would have approximately 40 min to prepare the final poster and to upload it to IVLE forum for viewing.
Here is the list with relevant sources of information that students could use for home-prep:
- a video (in-class viewing): Diary of a Nation (SBC 1988) – 23 April 1963: Water Rationing
- personal sources e.g.:
- photos (recent or archival) related to wasteful water use, water rationing, other relevant topic
- personal communication: memories of relatives about the water rationing in 1963 (or other Singaporean water rationing)
- PUB or other official info…
- News articles and blog-posts, e.g.:
- Searching for Singapore’s Last Water Wells (Remember Singapore)
- Remember when Singapore’s taps ran dry for 10 months? (mothership.sg)
- Singapore experiencing record dry spell – and it could get worse: NEA (The Straits Times)
- Singapore faces more weather extremes as world warms (The Straits Times)
- Preparing for drought (The Straits Times)
- The water rationing zones (The Straits Times, 24 April 1963, Page 4)
- any other you find relevant…
- Peer-review pubs. (download from IVLE Learning activities):
- “Increasing Singapore’s resilience to drought” by Ziegler et al. (2014), DOI
- “Ambiguity, bureaucracy and certainty: The ABCs of enabling water self-sufficiency” by Leong & Qian (2016), DOI
- “Water Demand Management in Singapore: Involving the Public” by Tortajada & Joshi (2013), DOI
- “Water supply in Singapore: Challenges and Choices” by Goh (2003), link
W9: Hydrological extremes: Floods
Week 8 seminar started with 40 min quiz. After that the lecture covered the following topics:
- Flood classifications
- Flood risk planning, where 3 case-studies were presented:
- Roskilde Festival mud-map
- Copenhagen climate adaptation
The lecture was based on the following materials (+ selected videos):
- Severe Weather 101 | Flood types by NSSL at NOAA: link
- “A process typology of regional floods” by Merz & Blöschl (2003) DOI
- Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan: link to pdf
- Major floods in Singapore by Jaime Koh (Singapore Infopedia by NLB): link
- Historical Extremes in Singapore by MSS: link
- Press Release “Key conclusions and recommendations of the Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures” by MEWR (2012): link
- Report on Key Conclusions and Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures (2012): link to pdf
- “Managing Stormwater for Our Future” by PUB (2014): link to pdf
W10: Singapore’s water management (guest lecture)
Ms LAU Yingshan will gave a guest lecture about ABC Waters programme. The title of the lecture is:
- Singapore’s Active, Beutiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) Programme (pdf uploaded in Learning Activities, IVLE)
Can water infrastructure be socially relevant?
Can people be stewards of the environment?
Can we mitigate urbanization impacts on the hydrologic regime?
After delving into these questions, you’ll try to answer the question “Can we have more projects like the Kallang River-Bishan Park?”
Yingshan selected some additional relevant reading materials (not compulsory, but relevant to the group projects):
- The Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme: Water as an Environmental Asset (pdf can be downloaded from https://www.clc.gov.sg/publications/uss2014-beautiful-clean-waters-programme.htm)
- The Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Design Guidelines (not very technical guideline with lots of nice illustrations… scroll through if interested https://www.pub.gov.sg/abcwaters/designguidelines)
About the speaker: Ms LAU Yingshan is currently a grad. student at Department of Geography (NUS) with supervisor prof. David Taylor. You can find more about her current research on her university profile (https://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/geog/graduate/phd-candidates.html). Previously she worked at PUB and (if I’m not wrong) was involved in the ABC Waters programme, so she can share her experience & knowledge with us.
After the guest lecture there was briefing about he Field Trip to Marina Barrage. All materials (risk assessment + info sheet were uploaded to IVLE). The indemnity form was distributed together with the attendance list for week 10.
W11: Field trip to Marina Barrage
Field trip info-sheet
Event Safety Plan (required)
Notes (field-trip prep.)
Activity-based Risk Assessment (required)
W12: Project Presentations + peer-evaluation
- Presentation length: 20 min (max)
- Q&A: 5-10 min
- Filling peer-review form: 1-2 min
- Group 1: Characterising the watershed functions, annual recharge rate and potential impacts of PV solar deployment in Upper Peirce Reservoir
- Group 3: Investigating the Integrated Water Resources Management of Lower Seletar Reservoir: How humans play a role in shaping this hydrological landscape
- Group 8: Investigating the effectiveness of the Integrated Water Management framework for water resource management at Bedok Reservoir
- Group 2: Investigating the ABC waters programme at Bedok Reservoir
- Group 6: Assessing the Relative Success of Integrated Watershed Management Strategies at Bedok Reservoir
W13: Project Presentations + peer-evaluation + wrap-up
- Presentation length: 20 min (max)
- Q&A: 5-10 min
- Filling peer-review form: 1-2 min
- Group 9: Assessing the Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) of Jurong Lake
- Group 5: MacRitchie Reservoir
- Group 10: Hydrological Assessment of Lower Seletar Reservoir
- Group 7: Evaluating the ABC Waters Programme along Punggol Reservoir: How far can the river bolster future hydrological challenges under this Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) strategy?
- Group 4: Urban stormwater as a resource: A case study of Bedok Reservoir
And it’s a wrap! #GE4211 (17/18) Is officially over for all these guys/girls (n=40) 🙂 No more water budgets, catchment areas, discharge calculations (w/ & w/o Manning’s equation), integrated watershed management & the ABC waters... and making something out of nothing. Hopefully it wasn’t all a torture... #week13 #nusgeography
- week 1: too much material (IWM was left for the next time, there is need for in-class exercise on watershed delineation)
- week 2: water flow in soils should be revisited later in the semester
- week 3: change the paper for in-class discussion — students found it boring; they all struggled with the exercise
- week 4: ET & PET struggle
- week 6: in-class exercise on discharge estimation (home-prep not very successful)
- week 11: way too hot/sunny and uncomfortable to walk & talk during field trip. Air-conditioned places are better… visit to desalination plant or NEWater plant.
- change assessment % or grading criteria: way too many A-band grades; mainly due to group-assignments + there must be time-limit on the quizzes.
- too much material is covered & the lecture slides have too much text, but students rarely read the textbook and other materials. Home preparation is generally difficult to motivate, unless there is a graded assignment.