Natural Resources, School of



Silvia‑Jessica Mostacedo‑Marasovic

Brooke Colleen Mott

Holly White

Cory T. Forbes

Date of this Version



Mostacedo‑Marasovic et al. Discip Interdscip Sci Educ Res (2022) 4:25



© The Author(s) 2022. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Water is critical to sustain human existence. Water literacy involves understanding the interactions within and between natural and human dimensions of water systems to support informed decision-making, an important outcome for learners of all ages. It is therefore critical to foster water literacy in today’s global citizens, particularly through formal education. The purpose of this study, in tandem with a parallel study focusing on natural dimensions of water systems (Mostacedo-Marasovic et al., in press), is to examine water-related K-12 standards for teaching and learning about human dimensions of water systems to develop a comprehensive and transdisciplinary perspective on water education. Our overarching question is, “What do disciplinary standards specify as outcomes for students’ learning about water and humans?”. Our research questions are: i) “To what extent do these water-related standards address recognized domains of learning?” and ii) “What thematic outcomes for students’ learning are apparent across grades in these water-related standards?”. We use chi-square statistics and a conventional qualitative content analysis method complemented by processes from grounded theory to analyze water-related education standards (N = 341) from 12 education-oriented, governmental and non-governmental organizations based in the United States. Our results indicate that first, water-related standards emphasize the cognitive domain, including declarative and procedural knowledge. The affective domain and its social and emotional components are much less prevalent. Second, the water-related standards illustrate five categories which encompass human dimensions of water spanning K-12 grade bands, including human settlements; the nexus between water, food, and energy; public health; impacts of human activities on water quality and quantity; and water resources management. Overall, the study contributes to a more holistic and comprehensive perspective of water and human systems that can help inform teaching and learning to cultivate water literacy, including curriculum development and classroom pedagogy.