The Watershed Game

Game board for the Watershed Game showing game pieces, marker, eraser, and game cards.
Minnesota Sea Grant's Watershed Game Lake Model game board.

The Watershed Game is an interactive, educational tool that helps individuals understand the connection between land use and water quality. The WSG is used in more than 15 states, and more than 89 local-leader and 100 classroom versions are in circulation.

Expand all

What is a watershed?

It’s a land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. Some watersheds are relatively small, like a modest inland lake or single county. Some encompass thousands of square miles and may contain streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and underlying groundwater that goes hundreds of miles inland. The size of a watershed (also called a drainage basin or catchment) is defined on several scales—referred to as its Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUC)—based on the geography that is most relevant to its specific area. Learn more about watersheds from Sea Grant's parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Project description

The Watershed Game is an interactive, educational tool that helps individuals understand the connection between land use and water quality. The WSG is available in two versions: The Watershed Game for Local Leaders and The Watershed Game for Classrooms. The local-leader version comes in four tabletop version: Stream, River, Lake, and Coastal. Participants learn how a variety of land uses impact water and natural resources, increase their knowledge of best management practices (BMPs), and learn how their choices can prevent adverse impacts. Participants apply the tools of plans, practices, and policies that help them achieve clean water goals for protection and restoration while providing for community growth.

  • The stream version addresses the watershed for an entire headwater (source of a stream) and the land uses found in that watershed.
  • The river version addresses the land uses associated with large river systems and urban areas.
  • The lake version concentrates on land uses surrounding a typical lake. 
  • The coastal version focuses on improving community resilience to flooding and water quality by addressing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment.
  • The classroom version is designed for middle-school grades 6-8, but can be used for grades 9-12. This version emphasizes collaboration and cooperative decision-making, developing persuasive arguments, teamwork, and leadership skills in addition to science and math.

Why Minnesota Sea Grant?

The Watershed Game supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.

What have we done lately?

In 2020, the project team for The Watershed Game completed work on a new "Coast Model" version. This version focuses on improving water quality by addressing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment and improving community resilience to flooding.  

The Watershed Game coast version update

Participants & Audience

The Watershed Game is designed for local community leaders and educators. 

Funding

The Watershed Game Program was originally developed by Minnesota Sea Grant and University of Minnesota Extension. The WSG is managed by Minnesota Sea Grant. Development of the new (2020) Coastal Version was made possible through the financial and in-kind support from the University of Minnesota Sea Grant, University of Minnesota Water Resources Center, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management, Louisiana Sea Grant, Georgia Sea Grant, Alabama Water Institute and the NOAA Central Region and Gulf Coast Collaboration Teams and the National Sea Grant Office.


Program Staff

John Bilotta headshot
Water Resource Management and Policy Extension Educator

Partners

  • Georgia Sea Grant, Sea Grant Programs
  • Louisiana Sea Grant, Sea Grant Programs
  • Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Sea Grant Programs
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management, Federal Government
  • University of Minnesota, Water Resources Center, Academic Institution (College and University)

Media Mentions