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The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Nick Bradford


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Chemistry, Biology, Geography

Resource Type

  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, USA - South, USA - Midwest, USA - Northeast

A River Ran Through It: How a Changing Climate Is Impacting US River Systems

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  • This short article discusses various climate change impacts on river systems in the United States and the resulting issues related to drinking water, pollution, energy production, and recreation. 
  • Students will learn how changes in river levels, flooding, precipitation, snowpack, and seasonal variability impact US water sources. 

Teaching Tips


  • This article thoroughly explains the impacts of climate change on water quality and the threats that U.S. rivers face.
  • A map shows how climate change impacts the water supply and quality in different regions of the US.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Although this resource focuses on the US, climate change is also impacting river systems around the world.


  • Students could identify their region using the map and discuss any changes or problems they have noticed with the water supply or water quality in their communities.
  • Engineering or design classes could discuss how each region should start preparing for water supply problems. Students could work in small groups to design a plan for infrastructure and policies to ensure all people have access to clean drinking water as climate change continues to impact the water cycle. 
  • Other resources on this topic include this interactive mapping tool that shows the path a raindrop will take through the waterways of the Earth, this TED video on granting rivers and lakes legal personhood, and this podcast on water scarcity.
Scientist Notes
There is no contradiction in the resource. The data is properly cited and the resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 6.ESS2.4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS.ESS2.2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 7.ESS3.2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
      • HS.ESS3.5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.
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