Section 4 Cases for Teaching and Learning

Case studies for Section 4, Water.

Addy et al., When Work Makes You Sick: A Farmworker’s Experience in the Field

This case uses the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s pesticides database to explore associations between pesticide use and illness. It provides the basis of a possible student debate over whether the pesticide Mevinphos should be banned.


Susan Holman and Leila Shayegan, Toilets and Sanitation and the Khumb Mela

Students learn about the substantial challenges in providing sanitation for the Khumb Mela festival in Allahabad, India. This case is told from the perspective of undergraduate student observers. Instructors may want to develop questions for students to answer as they read the case.


LeBlanc et al., Get the Lead Out! An Interdisciplinary Case Study for Science Students

In this case, suitable for courses with access to a chemistry lab, students investigate lead concentrations in groundwater samples.


The Camel Challenge

Limiting water use can be an effective way to reflect on and understand the impact of water scarcity. This exercise, originally developed by Pam Berenbaum at Middlebury College, should be optional as it is not appropriate for all students. In this exercise, students only use water that they have carried on foot a significant distance (we require students to carry water from the athletic center, a 15 minute walk from other parts of campus). Here are some suggested guidelines that can be modified as appropriate:

The basics: 

    • Only use water that has been carried on foot.
    • Record the amount of water that you use each day.
    • Reflect on your personal experience as well as the social context of water usage.
    • Post online about your experience at the end of the day. Consider the following:
      • Overall experience of the day/personal reflection
      • Challenges
      • Social context
      • “Cheats” (use of dry shampoo, sanitizer, baby wipes, etc.)
      • Mistakes (e.g. running a faucet, etc.)
      • At least one explicit tie to the reading (you can just note thoughts you had about the reading, or things you’d like to discuss, if it doesn’t happen to relate to your experience)
      • Anything else you want to write about

Most important principles:

    • Please do not harm yourself in this exercise! If at any point you feel ill or dehydrated, drink water as needed.
    • Anyone with a medical condition or other concern should discuss participation with a physician.
    • Please do not harm other people through this exercise. Handwashing is non-negotiable!

Before you begin:

    • Use or another online water calculator to estimate your current water usage.

How it works:

    • ALL of the water you use must be carried. You MUST carry the water on foot. You may use backpacks or other containers for carrying the water, but no wheeled methods of carrying water are allowed. 
    • Keep notes throughout the day about your challenges, obstacles, experiences, insights, mistakes, etc.


    • Do not turn on faucets when handwashing or brushing teeth; use your own water only.
    • Whenever you flush, you must dump out 1 liter of water (our toilets use a lot more than that, actually). If it’s yellow, you are welcome to let it mellow. If it’s brown, you must flush it down and dump out the associated water.


    • Bathe in any way you like using the water you carried; sponge baths may be the most realistic. 
    • Given the enormous amount of water that washing machines use, washing your clothes must be done by hand, using the water you carried.
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