Watershed is a game intended to help 4th graders to understand point source water pollution and ways to mediate its effects. In the game, the player starts canoeing down a small river. Along the way s/he passes numerous things that may or may not pollute the river.

While several delivery options were considered, Flash was chosen to facilitate easy (then, anyway) web delivery.

At any point the player may choose to test the water for a number of potential pollutants, including sediment and temperature issues, as well as metals, petroleum, detergent, pesticides, etc.

Pollution Point Sources incude:
  • Heavy Metals from a hard rock mine
  • Sedimentaion from forest over-cutting
  • Temerature difference casused by a dam
  • Sedimentation from poor tillage practices
  • Pesticides from agriculture
  • Fecal matter from feedlot
  • Organic wastes from food processing
  • Petrochemical leakage from an old service station
  • Detergent runoff from a suburban neighborhood
  • Solvents from manufacturing
  • Acidic runoff from manufacturing
  • Hot waste cooling water from a nuclear power plant
Some screens have no pollution source

Tests incude:
  • Temperature (above normal, normal, below normal)
  • Sedimentation
  • pH
  • Chlorine
  • Heavy Metals
  • Pesticides
  • Fecal Matter
  • Organic Wastes
  • Petrochemicals
  • Detergent
  • Solvents

When they have finished making the tests that they have chosen, the mediation screen comes up (the image is an oblique view of the screen that they were in when they tested the water). This is a drag-and-drop interaction with each possible solution fitting each grid section. Multiple solution tiles are available so the player can repeat a mediation strategy (but each solution in each location is scored only once).

Mediation options incude:
  • Add a dam
  • Add a Green Belt
  • Temerature Remediation (cooling)
  • Rebuild Infrastructure
  • Add a Settling Pond
  • Add a Bacterial Digestion Pond
  • Moderate pH
  • Practice Better Tillage
  • Reforestation
  • Remove River (tongue in cheek)
  • Chemical Recovery
  • Add Constructive Wetland

Points are given based on both the relevance of the mediation strategy chosen to the pollution type and source, and also for the effective placement of the mediation relative to the point source.

Consideration was given to adding relative costs to each mediation tile to give a realistic frame of cost/benefit analysis. The final decsion was to err on the side of simplicity.

The game ends when the player reaches the sea. It was designed, however, with three levels of difficulty. I have to admit, at this point, that I enjoy designing games more than playing them, and I have not played all three levels all the way through.


This game was built with the actionscripting help of grad student Aaron Johnson,

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