Doctoral Dissertation: Capturing Flow: Stormwater Governance and Water Resource Development in Chicago and Los Angeles

Event Type: 
Josh Cousins
Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
2024 Dana Building
Event Sponsor: 
School of Natural Resources and Environment

This dissertation project focuses on the factors that shape how water resource managers shape the flow, or metabolism, of water through cities. Through a comparative and mixed-method approach that draws on archival research, key informant interviews, Q-methodology, and spatial analysis, this dissertation presents a framework for understanding the social and material factors that shape urban water flows. Focusing on Chicago and Los Angeles, the study concentrates on the methods and approaches water resource managers use to control volumes of water and achieve political goals. The results reveal the shortcomings of taking predominantly technical approaches for water resource problems, which are spatially complex and enmeshed within a set of socio-political and historical processes. The dissertation also reveals the multiple ways people approach water resource challenges and come to particular ways of understanding solutions for them. The dissertation identifies seven perspectives on stormwater governance: Market Skeptic, Hydro-managerial, Market Technocrat, Regulatory and Administrative Technocrat, Stormwater Pragmatist, Institutional Interventionist, Infrastructural Interventionist. It is shown that these viewpoints are shaped through multiple institutional and bureaucratic practices. Some viewpoints are geographically and idiosyncratically defined, while others transcend geographical and institutional specificity. Whether invoking stormwater as a “new” and underutilized resource to achieve water quality and quantity goals, or negotiating the role of new technologies and financial mechanisms to control the flow of water, this dissertation reveals the commonalities across different ways of understanding water in order to offer more acceptable policies.

Committe Members:
Joshua Newell
Bilal Butt
Maria Lemos
Scott Campbell

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