In the River Basin Game, players become farmers whose main goal is to increase their income to maintain the wellbeing of their families. The task is not an easy one when they are limited by the water. Optimising water use will come to be more and more difficult as players’ goals clash and make the collaboration between members of community harder. The game realistically illustrates various problems and occurrences that can be observed when people use water in a river basin.


The farmers living in the river basin compete for the water access. The river basin is divided into three compartments: upstream, midstream and downstream. Through series of negotiations, players decide who will settle in which compartment. The game has eight rounds, during which each player individually decides how much water to use for irrigating the fields. Players have to take into the account the total water footprint of crop production in the basin, as it may affect the availability of water and its cost.


Water management in agriculture. Common pool resources, common goods.


Players discover the natural dynamics of water flow in a river basin (water balance, runoff and delay).

Players understand how a growing water footprint contributes to water scarcity and rising costs.

Players get acquainted with free-rider behaviour when depending on a common pool resource.

Players learn about the effects of an upstream water footprint on the water availability downstream.

Players experience social dynamics around common pool resource use, e.g. learn about incentives and barriers to cooperation.


You can play two or more river basins. The advantage of having more than one river basin is that at the end of the game you can show and discuss the results of both basins, which creates the opportunity for the participants to learn not only from their own case, but also about how it can go differently.

Created by

Number of players

more than 10 players

Number of moderators

1 moderator


2 hours and more


Downloadable instructions and Excel file for a moderator.


Technical requirements

At least one computer for moderator.

How to run this game?

To run/play this game download it from the game’s website.

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