2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HUDSON, Travis L., American Geological Institute, 902 Vista del Mar, Sequim, WA 98382, ALFANO, Mary Jo, American Geol Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302 and KEANE, Christopher M., American Geological Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302, ageology@olypen.com

The American Geological Institute (AGI) continues to develop its EarthInquiry activity series. Each EarthInquiry activity enables introductory college students to interact with real-time and archived geoscience data available on-line. EarthInquiry addresses some of the most commonly discussed topics in introductory geoscience course work. Each activity has its own workbook, printed by W.H. Freeman and Company that contains a code, allowing students access to the EarthInquiry web site. The EarthInquiry web site, maintained by AGI, provides students with detailed instructions on how to access, analyze, and interpret the data collected in each activity. The web site also supplies supplementary information, glossary terms, and web-based tools to assist with data analysis.

In the new Drinking Water Contamination activity, students first learn about the history and importance of drinking water treatment. An introduction to the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act allows students to familiarize themselves with how contaminants are defined and reported. As students continue with the investigation, they use arsenic and nitrate data to discover how contaminant concentrations can vary spatially. The groundwater arsenic data enable students to examine national arsenic distribution, state-to-state comparisons, and even variances by county. Using groundwater nitrate data, students consider infiltration versus runoff as variables influencing contaminants in the drinking water supply and how a contaminant’s concentration can change through time. The nitrate data also enable students to evaluate the impact of water contaminants on ecosystem health. The variety of data and map types used in this activity help students appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of presenting data in different ways and the role of both natural and anthropogenic sources on the presence of contaminants in the water supply.