Sustainable cities and institutional change : the transformation of urban stormwater management
Transformation of urban stormwater management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Lawrence E. Susskind.
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It is widely argued that a sustainable future depends on the capacity of cities to substantially alter how they grow and consume natural resources. Research on sustainable cities has typically emphasized how this change ought to be achieved, outlining specific interventions in the form of new policies and technologies. Problematically, we know far less about why urban institutions change, when they do, in the support of sustainability objectives. Why have some cities progressed in translating ideas about environmental sustainability into enduring institutional reforms while other similarly situated cities persist under the status quo? Over the past fifteen years, for example, sustainability advocates in the United States have touted green stormwater infrastructure (GSI)- a decentralized network of rainwater capture and infiltration systems-as a more sustainable and less costly alternative to building more and bigger underground pipes to control polluted urban runoff and sewer overflows, as required under the Clean Water Act. Yet the extent to which cities facing very similar municipal pollution problems adopt GSI varies widely. This dissertation seeks to account for the disparate adoption of, and investment in, this innovative, land-based practice through an in-depth investigation of four US cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, and Washington, DC. Some observers characterize the development of sustainable urban infrastructure as contingent on the commitment of environmentally-minded local decision makers or a supportive, engaged public. In contrast, my research shows that cities that have invested most heavily in GSI have done so to achieve compliance with the stringent National Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Policy. Yet whether or not a city adopts GSI to control CSOs it is a function of three things: the structure of municipal water management and infrastructure, which I term the "legacy system;" the existence of an effective change agent or "policy entrepreneur" within the local water utility; and the acceptance of GSI as a legitimate control technology in the regulatory policy system at the time a city planned and implemented its CSO program. Based on my analysis, I provide recommendations for how innovative stormwater management technology and practices might be stimulated in varied municipal planning contexts.
Thesis: Ph. D. in Urban and Regional Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2018.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 290-308).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.