Informing the Development of the Coast Model of the Watershed Game

Karen Bareford, Cynthia A Hagley, John P Bilotta, Tina Miller-Way, Madison G Rodman, Jesse D Schomberg, Brenna Sweetman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 2006 the Watershed Game, a role-playing simulation and serious game focused on managing nonpoint source pollution at the watershed scale, has been used across the U.S. to improve understanding of, commitment to, and involvement in watershed-scale management. Stakeholder or student participants manage a fictitious watershed to meet a “Clean Water Goal.” Designed for freshwater watersheds, the game is available in local leader and classroom versions, and play is led by trained facilitators or educators. To inform the expansion of the Watershed Game to include coastal watersheds, a needs assessment was conducted to identify water quality and management challenges in coastal regions, using the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic as a case study. Several methods for assessing critical coastal management challenges and key land uses to prioritize in the game were employed: a review of reports, expert focus group, survey of Gulf and South Atlantic regional experts, second survey of coastal experts from the National Sea Grant Network to verify widespread applicability, and finally pilot tests of the draft game. Results showed high agreement among assessment methodologies regarding the most critical coastal challenges and important land uses to feature in the game. As a result, the Coast Model of the Watershed Game focuses on three primary nonpoint source pollutants, excess nitrogen, excess phosphorus, and excess sediment. Additionally, results indicated a need to integrate a new game element, resilience to flooding, which has been added to the challenge of winning the game by meeting the Clean Water Goal.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120
Number of pages138
JournalJournal of Contemporary Water Research & Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 30 2021


  • watershed management
  • nonpoint source pollution
  • flooding
  • community resilience
  • watershed game
  • serious games
  • stakeholder engagement
  • extension


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