Aqua Republica: take up the challenge09/08/2016
Kiwi kids and their communities can now gain a better understanding of water stewardship thanks to Aqua Republica, an online game and upcoming nationwide challenge that models the real-life water resource management going on in our cities and towns.
Described as the Sim City of integrated water resource management, Aqua Republica is a not-for-profit game that enables players to simulate catchment management decision-making in an interactive and engaging way. It highlights the challenges inherent in managing water resources in a hypothetical situation where community needs and consumer demand are increasing.
A unique New Zealand version of Aqua Republica is about to be launched through the New Zealand Aqua Republica Eco Challenge, an interschool competition targeting intermediate and secondary school teams, who will compete for regional and national prizes between 5 and 16 September 2016.
The purpose behind the Aqua Republica project is to introduce school-aged kids to concepts, terminology, and structures that councils use in real life for environmental control. A growing workforce of skilled and engaged professionals will be required in the near future to meet challenges on the horizon in the fields of integrated water resource management, particularly where complex trade-offs between human development and the environment are concerned.
The New Zealand Aqua Republica Eco Challenge seeks to foster interest in this topic and potentially lead young adults to consider careers in these areas, which will become ever more important as the climate changes and human populations grow and continue to stress the environment.
Helen Rutter, from the New Zealand Hydrological Society, views the opportunities as an exciting way to encourage youngsters to start to think about balance in a water context.
“The challenge of sustainably managing a limited supply of water, set against a backdrop of growing demand, is based on real issues that face our communities today. The New Zealand Hydrological Society wholeheartedly endorses this initiative, which will encourage many young people to start to think about the delicate balance between water use, the environment, and socio-economic needs.”
Skills gained from interaction with the game will include fundamental environmental concepts around integrated water resource management, as well as technological elements included in this sector. This will extend to the players learning jargon and terminology/phrases to aid them in future dialogues, broadening their ability to engage with science and technology and supporting them to engage in societal debate about issues facing the country.
The game layers consists of several indicators – population, funds, food, energy, ecosystem state and water. Every indicator is linked to one or many different structures, such as ‘every city also provides a small amount of jobs’, ‘population in Aqua Republica consumes water, food and energy’, or ‘ecosystems require a minimum environmental flow of water’.
The real learning in Aqua Republica happens because players don’t just learn what an ‘ecosystem’ is, but also how that ecosystem interacts with other defined mechanisms in their virtual world, and how it will succeed or fail based on the trade-offs and decisions that are made in the game
The game has been developed by the Centre on Water and Environment, a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and DHI Water and Environment (DHI). The Centre on Water and Environment was created with the aim of promoting sustainable water resource management by sharing knowledge, raising awareness and building capacity around some of the critical issues in managing the use and protection of freshwater from rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers.
The New Zealand version of the game has been funded by DHI, seven regional councils and one district council, as well as the New Zealand Hydrological Society.
The first New Zealand Aqua Republica Eco Challenge will reach the regions of Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Auckland, Tasman and the Waikato. Interested community groups are also able to play the game through contacting the Science Learning Hub, or DHI directly.
For more information go here.