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Playing the Game The Updated Watershed Game For Sustainable Coastal Communities

Photo of Watershed Game.

Remember when Monopoly or some other board game was an exciting way to gather family and friends? Gaming has been reinvigorated and incorporated into sustainable coastal community efforts with the Watershed Game a tool developed by Minnesota Sea Grant and Minnesota Land-Grant Extension. Developed in 2010, new challenges were recently added to enhance interdisciplinary learning in 2012.

The Watershed Game helps players, primarily community leaders wanting to understand the connection between land use and water quality, grasp and grapple with complex issues that affect healthy coastal ecosystems and sustainable coastal development. The game provides an easy way to discuss national efforts aimed at improving water quality, including:

  • Total Maximum Daily Loads,

  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System,

  • National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit programs, and

  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects.

The interactive game uses role-playing to break down barriers, build community, and increase local capacity to protect and restore water quality. Participants learn how a variety of land uses impact water and natural resources, how to increase their knowledge of best management practices, and how their choices can prevent adverse impacts. Participants apply plans, practices and policies that help them achieve a water quality goal for a stream, lake, or river. In the updated 2012 version, new features include climate change impacts and research results on stormwater and land use best management practices.

The game and its associated curriculum are used throughout Minnesota and in at least eight other states. Its success has led to a train-the-trainer program that has produced 75 facilitators.

The Watershed Game is a major component of the Northland NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) program. Three Minnesota Sea Grant educators champion the game: John Bilotta, Cindy Hagley, and Jesse Schomberg. For more information, visit the Watershed Game website at watershedgame.umn.edu.

By John Bilotta
January 2013

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