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Students read one of two articles (the "cases") from High Country News, a bi-weekly periodical that covers environmental issues in the western North America. Both articles are about situations in which the use of ground water by irrigators has decreased the amount of surface water available for users with senior water rights. I divide the class into groups representing 1) surface water users, 2) ground water users, and 3) a regulatory board. The groups read and discuss each article and prepare a case to present to the regulatory board. After each group has prepared their case, we gather for a hearing, where groups of consultants present their cases and are questioned by the regulatory board. At the end, the regulatory board makes "decisions" on each "case". The decision isn't the focus of the exercise. The most valuable part is the subsequent discussion about the cases and the common issues in them that get the students to recognize the connection between surface and ground water and how humans have come up with confusing and sometimes scientifically conflicting sets of laws to regulate each.
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