About

The Minnesota Sea Grant-led and nationally used Watershed Game (WSG) is a series of active, hands-on simulations that help participants learn how land-use decisions impact water quality and natural resources.

While making management choices about land use, participants learn about practices, plans, and policies that improve and protect the quality of a stream, lake, river or coastal region. Participants work as teams for each land use, such as industrial port, rural coast, or urban center, and have to determine the best use of limited funds to meet water quality goals.

The object of these team-building simulations is to use limited financial resources to reduce excess nonpoint source pollution (NSP) to levels that meet a clean water goal. NSP, unlike pollution from industrial or sewage treatment plants, comes from diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As runoff moves, it picks up and moves natural and human-made pollutants, often finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, streams, coastal waters and ground water.

There are several version of the Watershed Game:

  • The Watershed Game for Local Leaders River Model
  • The Watershed Game for Local Leaders Stream Model
  • The Watershed Game for Local Leaders Lake Model
  • The Watershed Game for Local Leaders Coast Model*
  • The Watershed Game: Classroom Version Stream Model
  • The Watershed Game: Classroom Version - Coast Model*

*The Coast Model is new in 2021, focuses on a coastal community, incorporates resilience, and addresses nitrogen (in addition to phosphorus and sediment that are addressed in the other models). Participants work as teams for each land use, such as industrial port, rural coast, or urban center, and have to determine the best use of limited funds to meet water quality goals while also seeing if they can improve their resilience to flooding at the same time. We anticipate releasing the Coast Model in late 2021 and plan to host trainings during the summer of 2021. Development of the Coast Model was supported by the NOAA Central and Gulf Regional Collaboration Teams as well as the Mississippi-Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana Sea Grant programs. 

Minnesota Sea Grant extension educators have worked on the Watershed Game since 2006, when staff and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin Superior developed a game that could be played onboard the research vessel LL Smith, Jr. The WSG has come a long way since the original hand-cut and velcro version played on a picnic table!