Doctoral Dissertation Research: Perspectives of and Preferences Towards Stormwater Management

Start Date: 
Sep 1, 2015
End Date: 
Jun 30, 2017

This doctoral dissertation research project will focus on the factors that shape how stormwater managers have redefined the uses and value of stormwater. In both arid and humid regions, the treatment of stormwater from dealing with wastewater, polluted runoff, and floodwater as something to treated and drained away to handling it as a beneficial resource that can enhance urban sustainability, recharge local groundwater supplies, and have other beneficial uses. Given the possibility for future water scarcity and increases in the size of storms, effectively integrating stormwater into current water management schemes will be crucial for both human and ecological health. To better understand the governance arrangements of this emerging type of integrated water resource management, the doctoral student will empirically examine attitudes about stormwater as well as how converging and diverging attitudes of it influence how it is managed in Chicago and Los Angeles. This project will integrate scholarship in science and technology studies and political ecology in order to advance knowledge regarding how attitudes, beliefs, and understandings shape urban environmental governance and water resource management. It also will enhance basic understanding of the impacts of technological innovation on urban environmental governance. By characterizing expert attitudes toward stormwater in cities with different political, technological, and climatic regimes this research will provide water managers and municipal agencies with new information and insights regarding different ways to deal with stormwater as they contemplate the implementation of new management policies. By including key stakeholders in multiple phases of the research design, the findings have the potential to directly influence decision-making processes and public policy. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.

The project will focus on three sets of core questions: (1) What is the history of stormwater management and regulation, and in what ways have the flows of stormwater been remade and redefined by political actors, scientific experts, and ordinary citizens? (2) What are the competing technological systems, social perspectives, and institutional arrangements that currently define stormwater, shape its management, and inscribe its uses and value? (3) How do these competing technologies, perspectives, and institutional arrangements relate to one another and influence how stormwater is understood, managed, and controlled in order to address issues of risk and vulnerability? To identify the shared attitudes and perspectives driving transitions in stormwater management, the student will use a comparative extreme?case study approach. He will use the Q-method of analysis in tandem with key informant interviews, analysis of archival data, and participant observation to identify different points of view and relate them to the points of view of others. The analyses will provide a better understanding of the perspectives driving transformations in stormwater management in different geographical contexts, and project findings will provide generalizable insights into the range of variation that occurs across a spectrum of water-stressed to water-abundant sites.

National Science Foundation (NSF)