Water crisis in Las Vegas

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The American southwest is an important economic and environmental region located in an extremely arid climate zone. The main water resource is the Colorado River which flows from the Rockies down to the Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of California. The region is currently in the grip of the worst drought in living memory which could threaten the viability of famous cities like Las Vegas. With the population of the Colorado Basin set to almost double to 77 million by 2060 and a drier climate predicted, does the Southwest have a sustainable future?

The resources on this page, aimed at KS4-P16, offer teachers a way to engage students in a real world geographical dilemma with a range of futures. The format was inspired by the OCR GCSE Sustainable Decision Making Exercise (SMDE) and the Edexcel A level Unit 3 pre-release booklet. There are three main phases students can pass through: the background, the options and the decision. Each phase develops a different set of skills. The resources can be used for both GCSE and A level geography and in a variety of curriculum contexts such as sustainability, water conflicts, extreme environments and human-environment interactions.

Written by Garry Simmons, Head of Geography at Wilmington Grammar School for Girls

Resource downloads

American Water Crisis Story Map - This Story Map was created using ArcGIS online. It takes students on a journey down the Colorado River from source to mouth and explores the key places connected to the current American southwest water crisis. Students can zoom in and out of impressive aerial photography, read relevant text and study stunning photographs. Can be viewed on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Blog Post - Provides an overview of and justification for this curriculum artifact on the American water crisis. It suggests how the resource can be used, outlines the key concepts examined and lists the geographical skills students will develop.

Resource 1 - Photos, data and inks: Teachers can use this PowerPoint presentation as a journey through the lesson. It contains all the learning tasks and assessment criteria It also contains photographs, links and timings to the 'Piers Morgan in Las Vegas video' hosted on YouTube. PDF version

Resource 2 - Background graphics: Contains images and graphs for students to use as part of the 'Background section'

Resource 3 - Viewpoints and Tasks: This student handout contains data on the physical and human causes of the crisis, stakeholder viewpoints, tasks and assessment criteria.

Las Vegas and London Climate data: A spreadsheet containing data and climate graphs for Las Vegas and London.

Las Vegas Google Earth tour: This Placemark tour locates the key places but has been superseded by the newer Story Map (This is a KMZ file which requires Google Earth, which can be downloaded for free here)

Las Vegas Mark Scheme: Students can use this resource to peer or self-assess their work. Teachers may download the Word document and edit it. PDF version

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N Valentine Guest

brilliant resources!

I've been adding to my own Las Vegas unit of work since a student teacher and this will help to bring it all together


Peter Flower Guest

Surely water recycling / re-use has to be major option?

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