Water scarcity in West Asia


The water cycle is now understood and represented as the integration of physical, biological, biogeochemical, and human components of a more comprehensive system. Now it is the 'water system' that represents the nature of water, a nature that is highly complex and highly social.

Linton, 2011, p. 5.


More than three thousand years ago, the inhabitants of the dry, mountainous regions of western Iran perfected a system for directing snowmelt through underground channels, called qanats.

Foltz, 2002, p. 359.

In Year 7, students examine water scarcity and the ways in which the water cycle connects places and people. In this Illustration of practice, both these ideas are examined in an inquiry framework with particular reference to qanat water supply systems of West Asia. Two concepts are emphasised: interconnection and sustainability.

Classroom application

Year 7 students need to set their own directions for inquiry. The resources selected for this illustration should enable them to do so. Two resources below will provide you with background reading and materials relevant to this part of the curriculum: 

  • Sustainable water use is a page on the Arab Gateways website, a resource that explores some of the history, geography, economics and culture of the Arab region, developed for Australian students and teachers. 
  • Water scarcity case studies (PDF, 394 KB) which provides a wealth of information about water storage, use and resources in areas of water scarcity.

A number of additional materials and references are provided in the 'Resources' section below which can support your planning and teaching.

Questions for discussion

  1. What sorts of questions will Year 7 students arrive at to initiate an inquiry?
  2. How might students be encouraged to ask geographical questions to guide their inquiries?
  3. How much information should they have before they formulate their questions?
  4. What sorts of preconceptions do they bring to this area of the curriculum?

Questions for reflection

  1. Are parts of the content or some of the questions too challenging for my Year 7 students?
  2. How might such material be made more accessible?
  3. Was there sufficient scope in the study area and learning activities to extend the more able students?
  4. How might I approach this topic in subsequent years?


Books and articles:

Aykut, S., Canty, K., Canty, R., Hamston, J., Faruki, Y., King, J. & Mraz, J. (2011). Arab gateways: A resource kit for Australian students and teachers. Carlton: Education Services Australia Limited.

Balali, M., Keulartz, J. & Korthals, M. (2009). Reflexive water management in arid regions: The case of Iran. Environmental Values 81(1), pp. 91-112.

Falkenmark, M. & Rockstrom, J. (2006). The new blue and green water paradigm: Breaking new ground for water resources planning and management. Journal of water resources planning and management. May/June, pp. 129-132. Retrieved October 2012, from: https://wiki.umn.edu/pub/Water_Sustainability/ReferencesAttached/Falkenmark_and_Rockstrom.pdf.

Foltz, R. (2002). Iran's water crisis: Cultural, political, and ethical dimensions. In Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics 15(4), pp. 357-380.

Linton, J. (2011). The hydrologic cycle and the hydrosocial cycle: Bridging hydrosystems and hydropolitics. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.davidblanchon.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/transcript_linton+jl.

Linton, J. (2010). What is water? The history of a modern abstraction. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Linton, J. (2008). Is the hydrologic cycle sustainable? A historical-geographical critique of a modern concept. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98(3), pp. 630-649.

Wessels, J. & Hoogeveen, R. (2002). Renovation of qanats in Syria. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.inweh.unu.edu/drylands/docs/Publications/Wessels.pdf.


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Other relevant resources are contained in the sections above.