Online Game Lets Citizens Weigh Water Options

California’s water shortage has policymakers at all levels of government working to identify solutions.  Now ordinary citizens can try their hand at resolving this complex problem through the California Water Challenge, a new online game.  In the game, players are tasked with trying to resolve a 3.45 million acre-foot (MAF) urban supply gap and a 1.43 MAF agricultural gap.  Solutions are broken into six categories, including urban demand, water supply development, and water recycling.  Each category contains 2-4 policy options; for example, in the urban demand category, players can choose to increase residential water rates, incentivize conservation, and/or expand education and outreach efforts.  Each policy comes with several pieces of information: the amount of water saved, cost per acre-foot, environmental and energy impacts, who bears the initial cost, what government agencies need to act to implement the policy, a list of pros and cons, and what percent of users choose that option.

At the end of the game, players can see how much of the supply gap they have managed to close, and what the yearly cost of their policy choices would be.  Players are then asked for their opinions on several current issues, including the water bond, groundwater regulations, and the Bay Delta Plan.  While not a scientific poll, the survey yields some interesting data:

54% strongly support mandatory water use restrictions at the local level
62% strongly support warnings and fines for overuse
49% strongly support the water bond, and 30% more somewhat support it
60% think higher water prices would make them decrease their household water use a lot or a little
84% think water supply is “extremely serious”
Opinion on the Bay Delta Plan is mixed, with 46% supporting it with varying degrees of enthusiasm and 42% opposed.

The California Water Challenge was created by Next 10, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that aims to increase civic awareness of the long-term issues facing California.

Play the game here:


Written by Stratecon Staff