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Database Provider


PBS Terra


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography

Resource Type

  • Videos, 11 minutes, 44 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West, Nevada, Arizona


YouTube Video

What Will Life Look Like as Major Rivers Run Dry?

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  • This video highlights the ways in which major river systems and reservoirs around the world are being impacted by climate change, focusing on changes to the water cycle and increasing global droughts and looking at the impacts of reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin.
  • Students will learn about the demands for major shifts in water efficiency, particularly in agriculture and irrigation, and hear some examples of innovative practices that are already in place.
Teaching Tips


  • This video has an articulate, easy-to-follow narrator and includes engaging photographs, maps, and other graphics.
  • This video provides students with a chance to think about their own water use and how to make changes in their daily lives.

Additional Prerequisites

  • There are two advertisements at the beginning of this video.
  • Be prepared for an advertisement at the end of the video for a PBS series about Suicide Prevention Month, beginning at 11:08.  


  • Consider providing students with a note-taking guide that breaks the video up into chunks, including the three significant drought areas, the Colorado River Basin, success stories, or agriculture and irrigation impacts.
  • This video would be a great addition to another resource on climate change impacts and the water cycle, such as this comprehensive lesson.
  • Have students write a paragraph explaining the relationship between climate change and droughts with reasons and evidence to support their explanation, citing information from the video or other resources on droughts.
  • Language arts classes could be asked to further research a major river system, such as the Yangtze, the Danube, or a river system in the United States, and discuss the impacts of climate change on this river system.
  • Put students into groups to brainstorm ways that they can conserve water in their daily lives or how they might take action in their own communities to conserve water.
  • Science classes can use this video to connect to lessons about phases of matter, the water cycle, hydrogen bonds, and exponential vs. linear relationships.
Scientist Notes
This video resource from PBS discusses the effects of climate change on the water cycle and global drought. After an introduction, the video introduces three significant drought areas around the globe: the Yangtze River Basin in China, the Danube River Basin in Europe, and the Colorado River Basin in the Southwestern United States. The remainder of the video uses the Colorado River Basin as a case study. The resource gives background on how planners in the early twentieth century were working from flawed assumptions leading to the current low reservoir levels and water supply issues. The video provides the success story of how Las Vegas’ population has grown over the last two decades, while at the same time municipal water use has declined by 26%. The resource then turns to examining water use in agriculture, where farmers often don’t have an incentive to change how they use water. This resource is very insightful and provides an opportunity for students to think about how they can conserve water in their daily lives and how their food choices impact water use and global drought. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • 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.
      • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.II.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, qualitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
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