The River Basin Game: A role-playing board game for initiating discussions on visions and strategies of water allocation.
The River Basin Game is a dialogue tool for decision-makers and water users that has been tested in medium to small catchments in Tanzania. It comprises a physical representation of the catchment in the form of a large wooden board. The central river flows between the upper catchment and a downstream wetland, and has on it several intakes into irrigation systems of varying sizes. Glass marbles “flow” down the channel represent river water.
Participants place small sticks acting as weirs across the river to capture the marbles and scoop them into irrigation systems where they sit in small holes - thereby meeting the water requirement of that particular plot of rice or irrigation activity. The players learn that being at the top of the river has advantages, whilst tail-end systems experience water shortages. The implications of different management strategies can be evaluated by various stakeholder groups.
The game promotes mutual understanding of different people’s levels of access to water and allows participants to actively react to scenarios. Experience shows that participants become highly animated and, by the end of the game, have a good understanding of system dynamics, common-property pitfalls and of which issues are most critical and of what solutions might be considered. If the game-playing is part of a workshop that is spread over two days, participants are able to contribute in detail to new solutions and institutional agreements. The second day can follow up on lessons learnt and bring together various institutions to assist improving the equity of supply.
The paper includes a literature review of gaming in water resources management, a complete description of the game, details of the practical arrangements required to organise a game-playing session and possible approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of a session.
CIRAD Workshop on Water Resource Management for Local Development: Governance, Institutions and Policies, 08-11 November 2004, Aventura, Loskop Dam, South Africa, pp 23