In drought-stricken areas, students may be aware of conflicts over water because they have grown up with people and industries fighting for their fair share of water. In other areas with more abundant water, students may not be familiar with these conflicts. Conflicts over water rights and water quality happen around the globe, from international conflicts in the Middle East and on the U.S.-Mexico border to local conflicts about rivers and streams in local communities. People fight over water just like they fight over other precious resources, such as gold, diamonds, and oil. Water is more precious than many of these other resources because it is vital to life. When students are presented with such conflicts, they may bring up ideas about "sharing" and "fairness" and find it difficult to understand why people fight over water. Discussing the complexity of the issue with students will help them see different perspectives about the topic, including how different stakeholders make their claims for water.
Watch this video of 6th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to hear students' questions and ideas about why people fight over water.
For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "Conflicts Over Water" in the Earth's Freshwater Environmental Literacy Teacher Guide, page 120.