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The Wealth of Water

The Value of an Essential Resource


Melanie K. Rathburn
Department of General Education
Mount Royal University
Karina J. Baum
Division of Natural Science / College of General Studies
Boston University


Many students take the availability of water for granted. This case study, which focuses on the Cochabamba water revolt in Bolivia, is designed to encourage students to think about water as a limited natural resource. Students learn about the limited nature of freshwater and the impact that access to clean water has on people across all socioeconomic demographics. Designed for a non-majors course in global ecology, the case could also be used in non-majors and majors courses in biology, environmental science, environmental policy, ethics, and international relations, among others.


  • Understand the limited nature of freshwater.
  • Appreciate that access to clean water is an issue that does not make distinctions between developed and developing countries.
  • Critically evaluate opposing views on water privatization.
  • Calculate and analyze data related to water consumption.


Freshwater; water rights; water privatization; water consumption; water conflicts; developing world; Cochabamba, Bolivia; Bechtel

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Business / Management Science  |  

Date Posted


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Tanya Adams
Science Department
Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy
Los Alamitos, CA
I have been using this lesson with my at-risk high school students for several years, as a part of their environmental science curriculum. It is a great way to present all the issues around water usage, water rights, corporations and social justice. I also use the documentary "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" and the film "Even the Rain" along with various units from the California EEI curriculum. Science is now so much more immediate to my students and they understand how their actions and decisions can shape the way they will be able to live in the future. Thank you for providing such an effective tool for me to use with them!