Water literacy, or the culmination of water-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, is a relatively new field of study with growing importance for sustainable water management and social water equity. However, its definition and use across existing literature are varied and often inconsistent. This paper seeks to synthesize and streamline the conception of water literacy. We conducted a systematic review of literature that defines or describes in detail either “water literacy” or “watershed literacy”. From this, we suggest a new holistic framework for water literacy to guide a more inclusive, relevant use of the concept. We utilized the framework to examine existing surveys and studies of water knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in both student and adult populations, and summarized water literacy levels and knowledge gaps that exist around the world. To address knowledge gaps, we suggest using a suite of approaches drawn from the published literature, including enhanced visuals, place-based learning, interdisciplinary curricula, and reflective and iterative development of future water literacy initiatives.
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