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Computer game from Lund University teaches EU how to save water

A parlor game, more fun than Monopoly, that increases our understanding for others and helps us create a society that is sustainable both for humans and nature. That's how one might characterize the water and democracy game that is being developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

The game is part of a collaborative project involving 26 universities within the framework of the EU program Matisse. At Lund University it is directed by the ecotoxicologist and water expert Göran Ewald at Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, abbreviated LUCSUS in Swedish.

The computer game they are working on together with colleagues from Maastricht and Barcelona is designed to address problems of water allocation and at the same time promote cooperation and understanding among various interests.

This spring, hopefully, farmers, authorities, nature conservationists, and power companies along the Ebro River in northern Spain will gain insights into how they can rationalize their use of water. Today they are fighting over every precious drop.

Spain is experiencing a severe water shortage, and when the water in the Ebro wanes, it's not only the power companies and local villagers that are affected, but also people and natural and cultural treasures along the entire river. Instead of pushing through a single large-scale solution-­which is what usually happens­-the entire problem complex can be elucidated by the game in a new way, with a system perspective.

"We often lack methods for reaching agreement about a solution that everyone can accept. And this is where the game comes in," says Göran Ewald.

As in any ordinary computer game the players start by describing themselves, socially and culturally. They can have multiple identities if they wish­-such as, egotists or altruists, rational or irrational parties.

The players act in a pseudo-world with a river running through the landscape. This world has been set up in a GIS environment (Geographic Information System) based on data from the Ebro River, its surroundings, and its stakeholders. The players must jointly identify the problem­-parched fields, declining profits, etc.­-and compile proposed solutions.

But instead of merely negotiating, they have an opportunity to experiment and see what the actual results of various measures would be. In this way it becomes clear how everything hangs together­irrigation, power station turbines, and bird habitats. When the players begin to learn how others view the same resource that they themselves make use of, they attain understanding and knowledge.

The overall aim of this part of the Matisse Program is to develop a tool for EU experts and civil servants so that they can carry out proper impact analyses in a perspective of sustainable societal development, paying attention to nature, culture, and people, to both the economy and social conditions.

For more information, speak with Göran Ewald or Patrik Wallman at phone: +46 (0)46-222 48 09 or e-mail,

Pressofficer Britt Collberg;; +46-46 222 3158

Britta Collberg | idw
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