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Adapting the social-ecological system framework for urban stormwater management: The case of green infrastructure adoption


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Stormwater management has long been a critical societal and environmental challenge for communities. An increasing number of municipalities are turning to novel approaches such as green infrastructure to develop more sustainable stormwater management systems. However, there is a need to better understand the technological decision-making processes that lead to specific outcomes within urban stormwater governance systems. We used the social-ecological system (SES) framework to build a classification system for identifying significant variables that influence urban stormwater governance decisions related to green infrastructure adoption. To adapt the framework, we relied on findings from observations at national stormwater meetings in combination with a systematic literature review on influential factors related to green infrastructure adoption. We discuss our revisions to the framework that helped us understand the decision by municipal governments to adopt green infrastructure. Remaining research needs and challenges are discussed regarding the development of an urban stormwater SES framework as a classification tool for knowledge accumulation and synthesis.
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Flynn, C. D., and C. I. Davidson. 2016. Adapting the social-ecological system framework for urban stormwater management: the case
of green infrastructure adoption. Ecology and Society 21(4):19.
Adapting the social-ecological system framework for urban stormwater
management: the case of green infrastructure adoption
Carli D. Flynn 1 and Cliff I. Davidson 1,2
ABSTRACT. Stormwater management has long been a critical societal and environmental challenge for communities. An increasing
number of municipalities are turning to novel approaches such as green infrastructure to develop more sustainable stormwater
management systems. However, there is a need to better understand the technological decision-making processes that lead to specific
outcomes within urban stormwater governance systems. We used the social-ecological system (SES) framework to build a classification
system for identifying significant variables that influence urban stormwater governance decisions related to green infrastructure
adoption. To adapt the framework, we relied on findings from observations at national stormwater meetings in combination with a
systematic literature review on influential factors related to green infrastructure adoption. We discuss our revisions to the framework
that helped us understand the decision by municipal governments to adopt green infrastructure. Remaining research needs and challenges
are discussed regarding the development of an urban stormwater SES framework as a classification tool for knowledge accumulation
and synthesis.
Key Words: green infrastructure; social-ecological systems framework; stormwater management; technology adoption
The lack of well-integrated urban stormwater management
strategies throughout the past century has left a heritage of
environmental and social problems that policy-makers continue
to deal with today. Municipal stormwater management plans in
many developed countries have favored the use of gray
infrastructure (e.g., sewer separation projects, deep storage
tunnels, and regional treatment facilities). These engineering
solutions can be costly, tend to promote centralized subsurface
conveyance systems with end-of-pipe treatment, and often take
years to complete. Despite major investments in stormwater
infrastructure, urban areas continue to experience critical
problems in managing water flows, including flooding, surface
water impairment, and combined sewer overflows (USEPA 2004,
National Research Council 2009, Coles et al. 2012).
Recent advances in stormwater management methods seek to
enhance the sustainability of urban water systems. For instance,
stormwater systems that include green infrastructure (GI), also
known as low impact development, are recognized as a more
sustainable approach. GI technologies are designed to protect or
restore the natural hydrology of a site, capturing stormwater
volume through the use of engineered systems that mimic natural
hydrologic systems. Comprehensive GI programs can be
implemented for a variety of outcomes, including flood control,
surface water quality improvement, and water harvesting, in
conjunction with a broad range of additional outcomes such as
ecosystem restoration, air quality improvement, and urban heat
reduction (Hatt et al. 2004, Villarreal et al. 2004, Walsh et al. 2005,
Tzoulas et al. 2007). However, there are potential practical
limitations for GI to achieve sustainable outcomes for
municipalities, such as a limited capacity for storing and
infiltrating stormwater.
The decision to adopt a comprehensive GI program is influenced
by a complex array of social and biophysical factors. To explore
such complexities, an urban water system can be understood as
a social-ecological system (SES), or a collection of dynamic
systems that coevolve through interactions among actors,
institutions, and water systems, such as source water, groundwater,
wastewater, and stormwater (Berkes et al. 1998, Holling and
Gunderson 2002). The stormwater flows and storage volumes
within an urban water SES represent common-pool resources, in
that water quality and available storage volumes are diminished
as runoff flows through urban environments. These issues prompt
the need for public authorities to establish various standards
related to the management of stormwater.
A fundamental component of urban stormwater SESs is the role
of technology as a critical interface between the social and
ecological structures, which allows actors to shape different
processes to achieve outcomes in system functioning (Ferguson
et al. 2013). Technologies also act as a feedback mechanism
between the social and biophysical systems of an SES. Walker et
al. (2004) describe the potential of an SES intervention to create
a new system when the conditions of an existing system are
weakened. Stormwater management systems that are exclusively
composed of gray infrastructure may result in urban water system
weakening because these technology systems are considered
neither sustainable nor sufficiently resilient to accommodate
climatic changes, and may result in unforeseen outcomes such as
high economic costs and environmental justice issues (Pahl-Wostl
2007, Novotny et al. 2010, Dominguez et al. 2011, Pyke et al. 2011,
Wendel et al. 2011, De Sousa et al. 2012). Alternatively, extensive
use of GI in stormwater management represents an opportunity
for transformational shifts in urban water SESs away from point
source solutions to decentralized, systematic techniques that may
also bring multiple benefits to communities (Shuster and
Garmestani 2015).
There is a need to more easily relate attributes and configurations
of urban stormwater SESs to particular outcomes, such as the
development of comprehensive GI programs. Several frameworks
exist which conceptualize and operationalize SES dynamics, each
of which may provide different types of diagnostic insights. Thus,
an analyst must be clear about the aim and purpose of any
1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University, 2Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems
Ecology and Society 21(4): 19
diagnostic procedure, and hence, which analytic framework will
support the specific procedure being undertaken (Ferguson et al.
2013). Binder et al. (2013) provide an overview of the prevailing
frameworks for analyzing SESs, and provide guidance on the
selection of an appropriate framework. Scholars studying water
systems have developed frameworks that identify key processes
and structures affecting their governance (Pahl-Wostl et al. 2010,
Wiek and Larson 2012). Because GI represents a suite of
innovative technologies for many urban water SESs, it is necessary
to first identify and define attributes that may prove to be
significant in social-ecological interactions before establishing
causal mechanisms linking conditions and governance outcomes.
Providing a framework to organize and document SES attributes
can serve this function.
Our primary goal is to identify the influential SES attributes
related to the development of municipal urban stormwater
programs that feature GI. We chose the SES framework because
it provides a systematic and comprehensive method for defining
system attributes and identifying those that are associated with
outcomes of interest (Ostrom 2007, 2009). Numerous
environmental case studies have applied the SES framework while
adding or redefining attributes to best characterize the SES of
interest (Fleischman et al. 2010, Gutiérrez et al. 2011, Cinner et
al. 2012, Basurto et al. 2013, Nagendra and Ostrom 2014,
Marshall 2015, Partelow and Boda 2015). No such effort has been
previously undertaken to assess the suitability of the SES
framework to characterize urban stormwater management
systems. We use qualitative methods to identify and define the
attributes most commonly associated with the inclusion of GI in
municipal urban stormwater programs.
The identification of attributes associated with GI adoption in
municipal urban stormwater programs included several phases of
data collection and analysis (Fig. 1). Exploratory work began with
observations at GI summits in 2013 and 2014, in which delegates
from U.S. municipalities were invited to discuss their respective
community’s GI programs. Extensive field notes from both
meetings were coded line-by-line to identify factors that affected
decisions to adopt municipal GI programs. The resulting codes
were grouped into general categories of attributes that emerged
during the analysis process. These categories were then
incorporated into the SES framework, using first- and second-
tier modifications, as suggested by McGinnis and Ostrom (2014),
Epstein et al. (2013), and Vogt et al. (2015), as the initial
Another stage of data collection included a literature review of
original research efforts related to the adoption and
implementation of GI in urban stormwater systems. Green
infrastructure, green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), low impact
design (LID), and best management practices (BMPs) are among
the terms used for various suites of urban stormwater
management technologies. We refer to GI, GSI, and LID
technologies are “GI” because these terms are often used
synonymously (Fletcher et al. 2014). Searches were carried out
using Scopus, Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar. Key words
included in the literature review were “green infrastructure,” “low
impact development,” “stormwater,” and “municipal.” Searches
were conducted for studies published between 2000 and 2015. In
total, 135 articles, theses, and reports were reviewed for their
relevance to factors affecting the adoption and implementation of
GI technologies for municipal programs. Reasons for exclusion
included a study focus on adoption of water systems other than
stormwater (e.g., drinking water, wastewater), or an exclusive focus
on GI technology design attributes outside the context of municipal
stormwater management program implementation (e.g., experimental
findings). Studies were not excluded on the basis of study design,
the scale or primary design goal of stormwater technologies
discussed, nor the geographical location of the study; however, most
studies reviewed were based in the United States or Australia. This
process resulted in 83 studies that met the criteria, and thus formed
the basis of the review.
Fig. 1. Sequence of data collection and analysis. (SESF: social-
ecological system framework)
Qualitative document analysis techniques were used to identify
factors that influence municipal GI programs in each of the
collected studies. These methods often involve the development of
a “protocol,” which is tested on each unit of analysis and revised
based on the quality and likely efficiency of the results (Altheide
et al. 2008). The SES framework adapted in the initial research
phase served as a beginning protocol that consisted of identified
attributes related to GI adoption. After analyzing each study of
the literature review, new findings were organized within the
protocol. After all studies were analyzed, each study was reviewed
a second time to test the protocol. This process resulted in the
addition or redefining of second-tier SES framework attributes and
the development of new third-, fourth-, and fifth-tier attributes
presented in Table 1. Working definitions were developed for each
attribute and are included in Appendix 1, along with at least three
citations of illustrative studies collected in the literature review for
the highest tier of each nested attribute added to the SES
framework. Listed citations for each attribute are not presented as
definitive authoritative sources nor as a comprehensive listing of
all studies in which the attribute was identified. Rather, they
represent examples of how scholars have applied the concept in
other studies.
The SES framework organizes system attributes into nested tiers.
The first-tier attributes of the SES framework, as defined for an
urban stormwater management system, are summarized in Fig. 2.
Ecology and Society 21(4): 19
Table 1. Modified second- through fifth-tier attributes of the urban stormwater social-ecological system (SES) framework. Factors
modified from McGinnis and Ostrom (2014), Epstein et al. (2013), and Vogt et al. (2015) that are specific for green infrastructure
adoption in urban stormwater social-ecological systems are noted with italic font.
Social, economic, and
political settings (S)
rules (ER)
Governance systems
Actors (A) Resource systems (RS) Resource units (RU) Related ecosystems
Interactions (I) Outcome criteria (O)
S1 -
Economic development
S2 -
Demographic trends
S3 -
Political stability
S4 -
Government policies
S5 -
Market incentives
S6 -
Media organization
S7 -
ER1 -
Physical rules
ER2 -
ER3 -
GS1 -
Policy area
GS2 -
Geographical scale
GS3 -
GS4 -
Regime type
GS5 -
GS5.1 -
Number of
GS5.2 -
Institutional diversity
GS5.3 -
Economic resources
GS5.4 -
Human resources
GS6 -
GS6.1 -
Operational -choice
GS6.1.1 -
Stormwater ordinances
GS6.1.1.1 -
Technical basis
GS6.1.1.2 -
GS6.1.1.3 -
Enforcement provisions
GS6.1.2 -
Stormwater utility
funding scheme
GS6.1.2.1 -
Price instrument
GS6.1.2.2 -
Credits or fee reduction
GS6.1.3 -
management plans
GS6.1.3.1 -
Operations and
GS6.1.4 -
Related regulations
GS6.2 -
Collective-choice rules
GS6.3 -
GS7 -
GS7.1 -
Watercourse law
GS7.1.1 -
Prior appropriation
GS8 -
Repertoire of norms
and strategies
GS8.1 -
GS8.2 -
Risk tolerance
GS9 -
Network structure
GS9.1 -
GS9.2 -
GS10 -
Historical continuity
A1 -
Number of actors
A2 -
Socioeconomic attributes
A3 -
History or past experiences
A3.1 -
A3.2 -
Environmental injustices
A4 -
A5 -
A5.1 -
Policy entrepreneur
A5.2 -
Policy community
A6 -
Norms (trust-reciprocity)/
social capital
A6.1 -
A6.2 -
A6.3 -
Social capital
A7 -
Knowledge of SES/mental
A7.1 -
Types of knowledge
A7.1.1 -
Traditional ecological
A7.1.2 -
Local ecological knowledge
A7.1.3 -
Technical expertise
A7.2 -
Mechanisms to share
A7.3 -
Scale of mental models
A8 -
Importance of resource
A9 -
Technology available
A9.1 -
A9.2 -
Research support
A9.2.1 -
Environmental performance
A9.2.1.1 -
Stormwater management
A9.2.1.2 -
Environmental "cobenefits"
A9.2.2 -
Social benefits
A9.2.3 -
Design and complexity
A9.2.4 -
Maintenance procedures
A9.2.5 -
A9.3 -
Associated costs
A9.3.1 -
A9.3.2 -
Operation and maintenance
A9.4 -
RS1 -
RS2 -
Clarity of system
RS3 -
Size of resource
RS4 -
RS4.1 -
RS4.1.1 -
Availability for
potential facilities
RS4.2 -
RS5 -
Productivity of system
RS6 -
Equilibrium properties
RS6.1 -
Frequency/timing of
RS7 -
Predictability of
system dynamics
RS8 -
Storage characteristics
RS8.1 -
Soil characteristics
RS8.2 -
RS9 -
RS10 -
Ecological history
RS10.1 -
Human use and
RU1 -
Resource unit
RU2 -
Growth or
replacement rate
RU3 -
Interaction among
resource units
RU4 -
Economic value
RU5 -
Number of units
RU6 -
RU7 -
Spatial and temporal
ECO1 -
Climate patterns
ECO2 -
Pollution patterns
ECO3 -
Flows into and out
of focal SES
I1 -
I2 -
I3 -
I4 -
I5 -
I6 -
I7 -
I8 -
I9 -
I10 -
O1 -
Social performance
O2 -
O3 -
Externalities to other
The resource system (RS) is defined as an urban stormwater
system; i.e., the system of water flows that results from wet
weather. Multiple sets of resource units (RU) can be defined
within an urban stormwater system, such as units of stormwater
or the storage volumes available for stormwater throughout the
system. The governance system (GS) includes the sets of rules
agreed upon by national, state, and local organizations for
managing urban stormwater. The actors (A) category includes
individuals and groups that interact with the urban stormwater
system. Multiple categories of actors can be defined, including
Ecology and Society 21(4): 19
individuals and groups that are involved in rule-making processes,
and property owners that are affected by stormwater management
decisions. Attributes from each of these categories provide inputs
to action situations, where interactions (I) among actors
transform these inputs into various outcomes, which can be
measured by outcome criteria (O). Additional influences flow
between the focal SES attributes and related ecosystems (ECO);
ecological rules (ER); and social, economic, and political settings
Fig. 2. First tiers of social-ecological system framework for an
urban stormwater social-ecological system (adapted from
Ostrom [2007] and Epstein et al. [2013]).
Table 1 summarizes the changes made to the SES framework. A
detailed summary of the modifications, along with working
definitions and illustrative references, are provided in Appendix
1. Because the study focus is only on changes related to resource
management programs, the findings led to detailed expansions of
multiple governance system and actor attributes. Attributes for
RU, ECO, ER, and S were not modified beyond second-tier
changes suggested by McGinnis and Ostrom et al. (2014) and
Vogt et al. (2015), though many of these attributes have direct and
important effects on the design of municipal stormwater
management programs. Additional studies on implementing
various technological designs may result in a more detailed
account for influential attributes in these categories.
Multiple third-, fourth-, and fifth-tier variables were added to
describe various attributes of stormwater management
technologies that are available to actors within the SES (A9), such
as research support (A9.2), associated costs (A9.3), and
perceptions of particular technologies (A9.4). The addition of
third-, fourth-, and fifth-tier variables related to human-
constructed facilities (RS4) designates both the types and
functionalities of existing and potential stormwater infrastructure.
A notable factor related to the construction of GI technologies
is the availability of suitable locations for potential facilities
(RS4.1.1), which is often associated with other factors such as
local soil characteristics (RS8.1) (Shuster et al. 2014). Additional
tiers allow for a detailed account of the assortment of resources
and rules used by organizations to manage GI technologies.
Stormwater ordinances (GS6.1.1) often acted as a barrier to GI
implementation (Nowacek et al. 2003, Lassiter 2007, Stockwell
2009, Dochow 2013). Another common barrier was lack of
sufficient program funding (Clean Water America Alliance 2011,
Siglin 2012, Winz et al. 2014), which is associated with limited
economic resources available to rule-making organizations
(GS5.3), type of stormwater utility funding schemes (GS6.1.2),
and socioeconomic attributes of actors (A2). Multiple attributes
of actors that interact with and manage stormwater resources
were found to influence GI program adoption, such as the
leadership efforts of policy entrepreneurs (A5) and policy
communities (A5.2), multiple actor knowledge types (A7.1),
experimentation (i.e., technology pilot projects) (A3.1), and
environmental injustices (A3.2).
In the broadest sense, integration of GI into an urban stormwater
management system can be understood as the development of
human-constructed facilities (RS4) across diffuse locations
(RS4.1) using available technologies (A9) to alter the storage
characteristics of an urban stormwater system (RS8). In
developing this SES framework, additional third-, fourth-, and
fifth-tier variables were needed to account for complex
arrangements of social and biophysical factors that affect GI
implementation. Operational-choice rules (GS6.1), such as
ordinances, funding schemes, and comprehensive management
plans, were found to be among the most complex factors. These
rules are often further complicated by related SES regulations
(GS6.1.4), such as zoning, building codes, and demolition
practices (Lassiter 2007, Carter and Fowler 2008, Shuster et al.
2014). These related regulations are often managed by separate
organizations, which may create barriers to GI implementation if
the regulations are prohibitive. Property-rights systems that
include prior-appropriation doctrines (GS7.1.1) can limit the
choices of GI technologies (e.g., rainwater collection systems for
some communities in the western United States) (Jensen 2008,
Salkin 2009).
Funding was found to be among the most frequently cited barriers
to GI (Godwin et al. 2008, Roy et al. 2008, Brown et al. 2009,
Earles et al. 2009, Ruppert and Clark 2009, Stockwell 2009, Clean
Water America Alliance 2011), most often in reference to the
limited economic resources of enforcement organizations
(GS5.1.1.2) and a lack of information on the cost-effectiveness
of GI (A9.3). In the studies reviewed, stormwater management
programs were enforced primarily by public organizations that
selected stormwater management technologies to meet outcome
criteria in a cost-effective manner. Environmental services
associated with GI (A9.2.1.2), such as reducing urban heat island
effects or promoting recreational opportunities, were cited as
drivers for adoption when these benefits were quantifiable
(Nowacek et al. 2003, Madden 2010). This suggests that it is
difficult to maintain clear institutional boundaries when assessing
the market and nonmarket value of GI because there may be
additional benefits that GI can bring to a community beyond
stormwater management.
The financial concerns of enforcement organizations are
complicated by the design of effective stormwater utility funding
schemes (GS6.1.2). Many funding schemes are predicated on the
extent of total impervious area of urban land parcels because this
metric has frequently been used to predict levels of surface water
impairments due to stormwater runoff (Booth and Jackson 1997,
Parikh et al. 2005). However, studies suggest that the subset of
impervious surfaces that route runoff directly to surface waters
via sewer pipes, known as directly connected impervious area or
effective impervious area, may be responsible for most surface
Ecology and Society 21(4): 19
water impairments due to urbanization (Brabec et al. 2002, Walsh
2004, Walsh et al. 2005, Roy and Shuster 2009). Thus, stormwater
utility funding schemes based on total impervious area rather
than effective impervious area may not lead to desired SES
outcomes. Additional limitations of utility funding schemes may
develop if financial credits for GI are calculated as a one-time
credit based on the initial installation without including ongoing
performance and maintenance criteria, or if residential property
owners are not included in financial incentive programs (Parikh
et al. 2005).
Technological attributes are described in both the social and
ecological domains of the SES framework. While it has been
argued that there is no need to create a separate technological
domain (McGinnis and Ostrom 2014), we demonstrate a need to
more fully develop robust descriptions of technological attributes
within urban stormwater SESs because these attributes act as key
feedback mechanisms between the social and ecological domains.
Historically, technological innovations in urban water SESs have
been shown to bring about desired social and ecological regime
shifts, such as a reduction in water-borne illness and a decrease
in the frequency of algal blooms due to eutrophic states of
receiving waters (Melosi 1999, Smith et al. 1999). Urban water
infrastructure choices may also lead to unforeseen consequences
over long periods. For example, combined sewer systems were
once deemed to be the most appropriate choice for urban settings
due to factors such as cost-effectiveness and availability of water
courses for overflow disposal (Tarr 1979). These decisions have
left a legacy of water pollution problems for many communities,
as combined sewer overflows continue to impair surface waters
and create human health hazards (USEPA 2004, Donovan et al.
2008, Gooré Bi et al. 2015). By developing a comprehensive
categorization of technological attributes within an SES
framework, policy-makers will be better equipped to make well-
informed decisions concerning technology selection for desired
urban water SES outcomes.
Though additional characterizations were not added within
several second-tier categories, such as resource units (RU) and
outcome criteria (O), attributes in these categories have important
implications for stormwater management technology decisions.
For instance, stormwater management plans are traditionally
designed according to the spatial and temporal distribution of
stormwater flows in an urban area (RU7), which will be affected
by changes in local precipitation patterns (RU2). The spatial and
temporal distribution of stormwater volumes within an urban
setting places clear boundaries on which technologies should be
considered and where they should be situated in an urban setting
(Askarizadeh et al. 2015). Additionally, the criteria used to select
stormwater management technologies, such as relative cost-
effectiveness or ecological performance measures, will often
strongly influence enforcement officials’ decision-making
processes (Flynn et al. 2014). Expansion of these attribute
categories may be necessary when considering research questions
related to the design of specific stormwater technologies or the
influence of particular outcome criteria.
Some limitations of the modified framework attributes should be
noted. Because several programs reviewed in the literature are in
early phases of development, some SES framework attributes are
likely relevant to only nascent GI implementation. However, an
analysis of GI technologies in urban stormwater SESs over longer
timescales may result in other variables having a greater effect
(Brown et al. 2013). Much of the research we reviewed relies on
case study methods such as the solicitation of particular actors’
perceptions. Thus, some factors listed may pertain to specific
actors or institutions, such as engineering firms, municipal
officials, developers, or community residents. Additional studies
can provide further insights into the possibility of shared,
complementary interactions among actors within specific
situations that result in the development of successful GI
programs. It is also important to note that while the literature
review was not restricted to studies from particular geographic
locations, most studies were based in the United States or
Australia, which prescribe similar stormwater governance
structures. Researchers who use the revised SES framework in
studies of community-based stormwater governance regimes may
need to add more detailed characterizations of particular
attributes (such as property-rights systems or collective-choice
rules), or may need to omit others (such as particular operational
We developed a modified SES framework to recognize the
combinations of influential variables related to the development
of municipal urban stormwater management programs that
feature extensive use of GI technologies. The modifications made
to the SES framework revealed the need for additional attribute
tiers related to variables such as available technologies, actor
characterizations, and operational-choice rules. Our findings
demonstrate that affecting change in the built structure of urban
stormwater systems involves multiple interacting attributes of the
actors and governance systems within an SES.
The framework we developed should be interpreted as a flexible,
proposed framework rather than a definitive set of variables that
will be relevant in all urban stormwater SES cases. Other studies
highlight qualities of particular attributes within adapted SES
frameworks to explore dynamic interactions and outcomes of
interest (Fleischman et al. 2010, Basurto et al. 2013, Nagendra
and Ostrom 2014, Leslie et. al 2015, Partelow and Boda 2015).
The revised framework we presented highlights key factors of GI
adoption that can be further explored using various theories and
models to assess outcomes of interest related to urban stormwater
SESs seeking to adopt GI technologies (Flynn et al. 2014). Tiers
may be added or omitted to accommodate particular theories and
research questions.
There is a need to explore the specific, contextual factors affecting
the decision to adopt particular management approaches in urban
stormwater SESs. The growing popularity of GI systems across
municipalities carries a risk that these technologies will be
perceived as a panacea for stormwater management (Ostrom
2007). However, there continues to be a need for a more
sophisticated quantitative understanding of how GI technologies
bring out particular SES outcomes. Neither a fully green nor
entirely gray infrastructure approach to stormwater management
will likely be optimal at any location. Instead, long-term solutions
must be built around improved knowledge of factors influencing
water quantity and quality in urban areas, and leveraging the
services and capacities of both gray and green infrastructure. Such
understanding should include the consideration of the unique
characteristics of a particular urban water SES.
Ecology and Society 21(4): 19
Responses to this article can be read online at:
This work was supported in part by NSF grant #1444755, Urban
Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network. We also
thank the SURDNA Foundation for providing funding for part of
this work. We are grateful for the helpful feedback from Dr. Burnell
Fischer, Dr. Jessica Vogt, and colleagues at The Vincent and Elinor
Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. We are also indebted to
the work of Elinor Ostrom.
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APPENDIX 1. Modified social-ecological system framework for urban stormwater systems with working definitions and references.
Supplemental Information
Table 1: Modified framework for green infrastructure adoption in urban stormwater social-ecological systems. References provided as
working definitions and illustrative examples from the literature.
Tier Level
Attribute Working Definition Definition
References, and
Select Illustrative
Ecological Rules (ER) The broader context of laws, theories, and
principles developed in the natural
Epstein et al.
Physical rules Laws, theories, and principles of or
relating to nature and properties of
matter and energy
Chemical rules Laws, theories, and principles of or
relating to composition, structure,
properties, and change of matter
Biological rules Laws, theories, and principles of or
relating to living organisms
Social, economic, and political settings
The broader context within which the
governance system per se is located,
including the effects of market dynamics
and cultural change
McGinnis (2011)
S1 Economic
Efforts that seek to improve the economic
well-being and quality of life for a
Madden (2010),
Winz et al.
S2 Demographic
Developments and changes in human
Travaline et al.
S3 Political stability Degree of durability and integrity of a
current government regime
S4 Government
Sets forth policies that address public
issues related to, or otherwise effect,
stormwater flows
Roy et al. (2008),
Dunn (2010),
Dochow (2013),
Holloway et al.
S5 Market incentives Policies that incentivize certain
stormwater management approaches
Carter and
Fowler (2008),
Dunn (2010),
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Dochow
S6 Media
Characteristics of entities engaged in
disseminating information to the general
public through mass communication
Madden (2010),
Cettner et al.
(2014) b
S7 Technology Broader cultural settings and
development context that affect the
technologies regularly used by actors in
their interactions with the resource units
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Siglin
(2012), Cettner et
al. (2014b)
Resource Units (RU) Characteristics of the units extracted
from a resource system, which can then be
consumed or used as an input in
production or exchanged for other goods
or services.
McGinnis (2011)
Resource unit
Ability for resource units to move
throughout the resource system
Growth or
replacement rate
Absolute or relative descriptions of
changes in quantities (x) of resource units
over time (t)
Basurto et al.
(2013), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011)
Interaction among
resource units
Interactions among resource units during
different time periods affecting the
future structure of the population
Basurto et al.
Economic value Value of resource units in relation to the
portfolio of resources available to
Basurto et al.
(2013), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011)
Number of units Amount of individual resource units in
resource system
Characteristics that can be identified in
resource units and affect actors' behavior
toward them
Basurto et al.
Spatial and
Allocation patterns of resource units
across a geographic area in a particular
time period
Basurto et al.
Resource systems (RS) The biophysical system from which
resource units are extracted and through
which the levels of the focal resource are
regenerated by natural dynamic processes
McGinnis (2011)
Sector Characteristic(s) of a resource system that
distinguishes it from other resource
Ostrom (2007)
Clarity of system
Biophysical characteristics that make
feasible for actors to determine where the
resource system starts or ends
Basurto et al.
Size of resource
Absolute or relative descriptions of the
spatial extent of a resource system
Basurto et al.
Facilities produced by actors that affect
the resource system
Locations Spatial extent where facilities are
constructed by actors
Perez-Pedini et al.
(2005), Montalto
et al. (2013),
Askarizadeh et al.
Potential facilities Availability of suitable locations for
potential facilities
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Hammitt
(2010), Shuster et
al. (2014)
Functionality Degree to which stormwater management
facilities achieve desired outcomes
Nowacek et al.
(2003), Siglin
(2012), Keeley et
al. (2013), Flynn
et al. (2014)
Productivity of
Rate of generation of resource units Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011) ,
Askarizadeh et al.
Characterization of the type of attractor
of a resource system along a range from
one to multiple (chaotic) attractors
of disturbances
Characterization of extreme events (e.g.,
intense wet weather events)
Madden (2010),
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Keeley et
al. (2013),
Cettner et al.
Predictability of
system dynamics
Degree to which actors are able to
forecast or identify patterns in
environmentally driven variability on
Basurto et al.
Askarizadeh et al.
Degree to which the resource units can be
retained or detained
Hydrologic characteristics of soils Nowacek et al.
(2003), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Shuster et al.
(2014), Rhea et
al. (2014)
surface area
Amount of system coverage by materials
that inhibit water infiltration
Dietz and
Clausen (2008),
Roy and Shuster
(2009), Kertesz et
al. (2014)
Location Spatial and temporal extent where
resource units are found by actors
Hammitt (2010),
Madden (2010),
Askarizadeh et al.
Ecosystem history Past interactions that affect current
actors' behaviors and stormwater
management plans
Human use and
Past interactions in which actors have
greatly degraded resource system quality
Shandas and
Messer, (2008),
Hammitt (2010),
Madden (2010),
Flynn et al.
Governance systems (GS) The prevailing set of processes or
institutions through which the rules
shaping the behavior of the actors are set
and revised
McGinnis (2011)
Policy area Rule systems tailored for a particular area
of knowledge, geography, or time
Basurto et al.
(2013), Holloway
et al. (2014)
scale of
governance system
Defined area that participates in, or is
subject to, the system of governance
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014),
Nowacek et al.
(2003), Siglin
(2012), Stockwell
Population Defined group of people that participates
in, or is subject to, the system of
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
Regime type Specifies the logic upon which the
overarching governance system is
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
Institutions recognized by external actors
and/or authorities that facilitate formal
structured interactions among actors
affected by these institutions
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
Number of
Number of organizations affecting
decision-making processes related to
stormwater management in the watershed
Madden (2010)‡,,
(Shuster et al.,
, Hammitt
(2010), Keeley et
al. (2013)
Degree of variation represented among
rule-making organizations (including
public sector, private sector,
nongovernmental, community-based, or
hybrid organizations)
Stockwell (2009),
Hammitt (2010),
Keeley et al.
Funds available to an organization that
are used for the creation, operation and
maintenance of the stormwater
management program. Funds may be
generated through a variety of means
such as a variety of taxes, service charges,
exactions, assessments, grants, loans, and
Debo and Reese
(2003), (Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Keeley et al.
Human resources Human capital available to an
organization for the creation, operation
and maintenance of the stormwater
management program.
Roy et al. (2008),
Stockwell (2009),
Winz et al.
Rules-in-use Regulations or principles that specify the
values of the working components of an
action situation, each of which has
emerged as the outcome of interactions in
an adjacent action situation at a different
level of analysis or arena of choice.
Ostrom et al.
(1994), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Winz et al.
choice rules
Set of regulations or principles governing
the implementation of practical decisions
by individuals authorized or allowed to
take these actions, often as a result of
collective choice processes
(2011), Hammitt
ordinances and
Sets forth public policies directly related
to drainage, flood control, and water
quality aspects of stormwater, as well as
the legal framework for permitting
implementation of the controls.
Debo and Reese
(2003), Hammitt
(2010), Madden
(2010), Siglin
Technical basis Performance standards, design criteria
and information provided by rule-making
organizations to assist designers in
complying with ordinances and
Debo and Reese
(2003), Roy et al.
(2008), Hammitt
(2010), Dochow
Required procedures, such as approvals,
permits, and inspections, to ensure that
measures meet technical and legal
Debo and Reese
(2003), Jaffe et
al. (2010),
Kulkarni, (2012),
Dochow (2013)
Procedures for penalties (such as
sanctions) applied to rule violators
Dunn (2010),
Hammitt (2010)‡,
Jaffe et al. (2010)
Stormwater utility
funding scheme
Premise that urban drainage systems are
public systems
Debo and Reese
(2003), (Fletcher
et al., 2011),
Keeley et al.
Price instrument Fee or tax collected from ratepayers (e.g.,
property owners) in exchange for demand
placed on stormwater system. May exist
as a stormwater user fee or runoff charge.
Debo and Reese
(Thurston et al.,
2003), Parikh et
al. (2005),
Hammitt (2010)
Credits or fee
Mechanism to reduce utility fees. Can be
derived though several bases, including
the class of property, location within
watershed, or activities on the property
that reduce stormwater impacts.
Debo and Reese
(2003), Carter
and Fowler
(Thurston et al.,
2010), Kertesz et
al. (2014)
management plans
Comprehensive management plan
outlining regulations, outcome criteria,
technical approaches, financing strategies,
and engineering design manuals
Madden (2010),
Kulkarni, (2012)
Keeley et al.
Operation and
Specifies responsibilities, objectives,
standards, approaches, and protocols
related to the operation and maintenance
of stormwater management infrastructure
Nowacek et al.
(2003), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Montalto et al.
Sets forth public policies that affect the
implementation of decisions related to
stormwater management (e.g., zoning
codes, building codes).
Lassiter (2007),
Carter and
Fowler (2008),
Hammitt (2010)
Set of regulations or principles governing
institution creation and policy decision-
making by actors who are authorized (or
allowed) to do so, often as a result of
constitutional-choice processes
McGinnis (2011)
choice rules
Set of regulations or principles governing
the processes though which collective-
choice stormwater management
procedures are defined and legitimized,
often resulting in a state or federal
guideline or law
(2011), Dunn
(2010), Winz et
al. (2014)
Systems of interrelated rights that
determine which actors have been
authorized to carry out which actions
with respect to a specified good or service
McGinnis (2011)
Watercourse law Water laws pertaining to water within a
defined watercourse
Debo and Reese
(2003), Holloway
et al. (2014)
Private water laws that are established by
the date when beneficial uses were first
initiated and tied to place and type of use,
not location.
Debo and Reese
(2003), Jensen
(2008), LaBadie
(2010), Salkin
Repertoire of
norms and
Collection of actions and behaviors that
actors regularly use, as shaped by the
broader social and cultural setting
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014),
Cettner et al.
(2014a), Cote
and Wolfe (2014)
Diversity Degree of diversity in norms and
strategies related to stormwater
management decisions
Nowacek et al.
(2003), Hammitt
(2010), Madden
(2010), Winz et
al. (2014)
Risk tolerance Degree to which actors are willing to take
action in spite of uncertainties
(Singh, 2006),
Olorunkiya et al.
(2012), Cettner et
al. (2014a)
Network structure The connections among the rule-making
organizations and the population subject
to these rules
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014) a,
Madden (2010),
Cettner et al.
(2014), Winz et
al. (2014a)
Horizontal Connections that link actors with each
other to act collectively for a common
Shandas and
Messer, (2008),
Madden (2010),
Keeley et al.
Vertical Connections that link actors with other
organizations across levels
Hammitt (2010),
Dochow (2013),
Keeley et al.
(2013), Shuster et
al. (2008)
The length of time for which a particular
form of governance has been in place
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
Actors (A) Attributes of the individuals or groups
that interact with resource units
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
A1 Number of
relevant actors
Number of actors affecting decision-
making processes related to stormwater
management in the watershed
Madden (2010),
Keeley et al.
(2013), Holloway
et al. (2014)
A2 Socioeconomic
Characteristics of actors related to social
and economic dimensions affecting
stormwater management plans
Hammitt (2010),
Montalto et al.
(2013), Keeley et
al. (2013),
Travaline et al.
A3 History or past
Past interactions that affect current
actors' behaviors and stormwater
management plans
Montalto et al.
(2013), Baptiste
(2014), Baptiste
et al. (2015),
Travaline et al.
Experimentation Variations in use patterns to increase
knowledge of stormwater system
dynamics (e.g., demonstration projects)
Madden (2010),
Shuster et al.,
(2013), Marks
Degree to which the development,
implementation, and enforcement of
stormwater management plans reflect a
fair treatment and meaningful
involvement of all people regardless of
race, color, national origin, or income
Perreault et al.
(2012), Flynn et
al. (2014), Wolch
et al. (2014)
A4 Location Physical place where actors are in relation
to components of the resource system
Thurston et al.
A5 Leadership/
Actors who have skills useful to organize
collective action and are followed by their
peers/ Non-exertion of power particularly
of the public/
Hammitt (2010),
Winz et al.
Individuals who introduce and advocate
for policy alternatives in many different
settings, and invest time and energy to
increase the chances for an idea to be
placed on the decision agenda
Kingdon (1995),
Godwin et al.,
(2008), Madden
(2010), Flynn et
al. (2014)
Policy community Group composed of specialists in a given
policy area developing policy alternatives
Kingdon (1995),
Shandas and
Messer, (2008),
Madden (2010)
Flynn et al.
A6 Norms (trust-
reciprocity) and
social capital
Degree by which one or several
individuals can draw upon or rely on
others for support or assistance in times
of need
Hammitt (2010),
Cettner et al.,
(2014b), Winz et
al. (2014)
Trust Measure of the extent to which members
of a community feel confident that other
members will not take maximum
advantage of their vulnerabilities and/or
live up to their agreements even if doing
so may not be in their immediate interest.
(2011), Nowacek
et al. (2003),
Shandas and
Messer, (2008),
Flynn et al.
(2014), Travaline
et al. (2015)
Reciprocity Norm of behavior that encourages
members of a group to cooperate with
others who have cooperated with them in
previous encounters.
(2011), Shandas
and Messer,
(2008), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011)
Social capital Resources that an individual can draw
upon in terms of relying on others to
provide support or assistance in times of
need, or a group's aggregate supply of
such potential assistance, as generated by
stable networks of important interactions
among members of that community.
(2011), Roy et al.
(2008), Dochow
(2013), Green et
al. (2012)
A7 Knowledge of
Degree to which actors understand and
make sense of the characteristics and/or
dynamics of the SES
Basurto et al.
(2013), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Types of
Types of knowledge actors use to
understand SES
Degree to which actors make use of the
cumulative body of knowledge, practices
and beliefs evolving by adaptive processes
and handed down through generations by
cultural transmissions about the
relationship of living beings (including
humans) with one another and with their
Berkes (2012),
Mbilinyi et al.,
(2005), Flynn et
al. (2014), Winz
et al. (2014)
Local ecological
Degree to which actors make use of
knowledge and beliefs held by a specific
group of people related to their
environment acquired over the lifetime of
individual generations
Olsson and Folke
(2001) McGarry
(2007), Winz et
al. (2014),
Baptiste et al.
Skills held by an actor related to specific
Hammitt (2010),
Keeley et al.
(2013), Winz et
al. (2014)
Mechanisms to
share knowledge
Practices allow actors to learn
characteristics of the resource at
sufficiently rapid rates leading to
behaviors affecting the state of the
Thurston et al.
(2010), Dolowitz
et al. (2012),
Green et al.
Scale of mental
Representation of the physical extent of
actors' understanding regarding SES
characteristics and dynamics
Madden (2010) ,
Hellier (2012),
(Cettner, 2012)
A8 Importance of
Siglin (2012)
A9 Technology
Attributes of the stormwater technologies
available to actors
Clean Water
America Alliance
Ownership Degree to which stormwater management
technologies are owned by various actors
Thurston et al.
(2010), Montalto
et al. (2013),
Flynn et al.
Research support Cumulative body of knowledge related to
a specific technology
Roy et al. (2008),
Hammitt (2010),
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Dochow
performance and
Extent of environmental outcomes
associated with a technology
Stockwell (2009)
Direct stormwater management control
associated with a technology
Carter and
Fowler (2008)
Clark and Pitt
(2012), Mayer et
al. (2012),
Shuster and Rhea
External environmental outcomes
associated with a technology
Carter and
Fowler (2008),
Madden (2010),
Wise et al.
Askarizadeh et al.
Social outcomes Extent of social outcomes associated with
a technology
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Kondo et
al. (2015)
Complexity of
Degree to which technology designs are
easily replicable
Nowacek et al.
(2003), Roy et al.
(2008), Hammitt
(2010), Dochow
Known practices that maximize the
continued functionality of a technology
Lord and Hunt
(2008), Clean
Water America
Alliance (2011),
Keeley et al.
Reliability Extent to which a technology produces
the same outcomes on repeated trials
Nowacek et al.
Olorunkiya et al.
Associated costs Expenses related to a technology Perez-Pedini et al.
(2005), Roy et al.
(2008), Jaffe
(2011), Dochow
Capital Fixed, one-time expenses related to the
implementation of a technology
Winz et al.
(2014), Thurston
et al. (2010),
Cote and Wolfe
Operation and
Ongoing expenses related to the operation
and maintenance of a technology
Clean Water
America Alliance
(2011), Keeley et
al. (2013), Winz
et al. (2014)
Subjective assessments on various
technology attributes
Siglin (2012),
Keeley et al.
(2013) , Marks
(2014), Carlet
Activities and Processes (I)
I1 Harvesting Gathering of resource units
I2 Information
Exchanges of knowledge between actors
and/or groups
Roy et al. (2008)
Madden (2010),
Dolowitz et al.
I3 Deliberation
Activities related to the of weighing
Madden (2010)
I4 Conflicts Form of disagreement or discord that
arise when the beliefs or actions of one or
more members of a group are either
resisted by or unacceptable to one or
more members of another group
Flynn et al.
I5 Investment
Contributions of financial and other
resources by the managers or producers of
a public good/service
(2011), Hammitt
(2010), Madden
I6 Lobbying
Actions that attempt to influence
decisions made by rule-making
individuals and/or organizations
Madden (2010)
I7 Self-organizing
Interactions among actors that increase
some form of overall order or
Roy et al. (2008)
Winz et al.
I8 Networking
Meetings which build social structure
between actors, connecting them through
various social familiarities
Roy et al. (2008)
Hammitt (2010),
Madden (2010)
I9 Monitoring
Accumulation of new knowledge related
to system attributes
Stockwell (2009)
Flynn et al.
Askarizadeh et al.
I10 Evaluative
Determination of which aspects of the
observed outcomes are deemed
satisfactory and which aspects are in need
of improvement
McGinnis (2011)
, Madden (2010),
Winz et al.
Outcome Criteria (O) Evaluative criteria used to determine
which aspects of observed outcomes are
deemed satisfactory and which aspects are
in need of improvement.
(Holloway et al.
O1 Social
Indicators that describe various social
Brown and
Farrelly (2008),
Madden (2010),
Winz et al.
O2 Ecological
Indicators that describe various ecological
Burns et al.
(2012), Mayer et
al. (2012) (Roy et
al., 2014)
O3 Externalities to
other SESs
Indicators that describe impacts on other
Tzoulas et al.
(2007), Foster et
al. (2011), Mayer
et al. (2012)
Related ecosystems (ECO) The broader ecological context within
which the focal resource system is located,
including the determinants of many
potential exogenous influences
McGinnis and
Ostrom (2014)
Climate patterns Recurring characteristics of the statistical
distribution of weather over an extended
period of time
Clean Water
America Alliance
Pollution patterns Recurring characteristics of contaminants
that cause adverse effects
Lassiter (2007),
Hammitt (2010)
Flows into and
out of focal SES
Movement patterns of various SES
Nowacek et al.
(2003) , Madden
(2010), Winz et
al. (2014)
Reference for attribute definition
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... These variables were selected based on many empirical studies that demonstrate how they affect interactions and outcomes, moving the SES closer to or further from sustainability [25]. The SES framework has been used in studies related to water use and management focused on irrigation [29][30][31], aquaculture [32,33], water public supply management [34][35][36], and water availability for human supply [37][38][39]. ...
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Stormwater management is a fundamental public service in urban areas that has wide-ranging implications on water supply, public safety, and ecosystem health. This paper examines stormwater management priorities expressed by community leaders and residents, educators, industry professionals, and water managers. It uses Q-methodology, a mixed-method approach, to understand prevalent narratives around stormwater management that comprise the public discourse. The purpose of this research is to elucidate points of agreement and disagreement in the context of a contentious flood risk management project. In total, 18 participants ranked an identical set of 25 idea statements relative to one another. Through principal component analysis, I identify four distinct narratives that prioritize different aspects of stormwater management objectives. The narrative analysis shows broad agreement that decentralized, soft infrastructure (e.g., green infrastructure) should be part of stormwater management solutions. However, there is widespread disagreement over funding mechanisms, the community's responsibilities, and the underlying planning approach to stormwater management. There was no discernable pattern in sector affiliation with any of the narratives. I summarize the dimensionality of stormwater governance and the potential spectrum of ideas about infrastructure, responsibilities, and planning approaches in a framework that characterizes competing viewpoints. The results of this study are useful in understanding underlying sources of conflict regarding stormwater management that may not be readily apparent in public discourse.
... The strategy used a multi-criteria decision approach to show stakeholders' preferences for particular adaptation characteristics in the event of flooding. Flynn and Davidson (2016) discussed the issues associated with poor storm-drain design. They concluded that despite major investments in stormwater infrastructure, urban areas continued to experience urban flooding. ...
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Urban flooding is caused due to poor drainage design, extreme weather, and excessive rain. Such flooding severely affects the road infrastructure. While there are a number of hydrologic software (e.g., TR-55, HydroCAD, TR-20, HEC-RAS, StreamStats, L-THIA, SWMM, WMOST, MAST, HY-8) available to examine extent of urban flooding, the softwares primarily require walking through a series of manual steps and address each study area individually preventing a collective view of an urban area in an efficient manner for hydrologic analysis. Furthermore, the softwares have no ability to recommend optimal culver pipe sizes to minimize flooding. In this paper, we develop a non-linear optimization formulation to minimize urban flooding using underdrain pipe size as a decision variable. We propose a solution algorithm in an integrated GIS and Python environment. Monte Carlo Simulation is used to simulate rainfall intensity by using empirical data on extreme weather from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. An example using the storm-drain system for the Baltimore County is performed. The results show that the model is effective in identifying storm-drain deficiencies and correcting them by choosing appropriate storm-drain inlet types to minimize flooding. The proposed method eliminates the need to examine each study area manually using existing hydrologic tools. Future works may include expanding the methodology for large datasets. They may also include a more sophisticated modeling approach for estimating rainfall intensity based on extreme weather patterns.
... Despite the implication of BGI in complex systems, i.e., SESs (Flynn and Davidson 2016) or resilience systems (Gunderson et al. 2012;Kofinas and Chapin 2009), dealing with countless social and ecological variables that are intentionally or unintentionally influencing the system, there is a paucity of system thinking approaches (Hjorth and Bagheri 2006) to analyze the barriers of implementing BGI and introducing targeted strategies for overcoming barriers. There are, however, a few projects using a system thinking angle to understand how green or gray infrastructure improve the well-being of urban populations (Svendsen et al. 2012) or to enhance urban sustainability in general (Ahmad and Hills 2008;Shen et al. 2009;Tan et al. 2018). ...
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With the mounting pressure of urbanization, how innovative blue-green infrastructure (BGI) can restore the ecosystem services of urban rivers is a timely issue for any densely populated city seeking to improve its resilience and sustainability through ecosystem-based solutions. Yet, the implementation of BGI is not hazard-free. Its success usually depends on a variety of contextual attributes. By discussing field research on two urban streams in southern Taiwan, this chapter adopts a system thinking perspective to explore, evaluate, and search for the combination of contextual attributes that not only enables the development of sustainable urban rivers but also improves the resilience of cities. In particular, to understand the macro system behavior and the problem of social-ecological misfit are the analytical focuses of this study. By analyzing the mental models of two urban river cases, this study identifies three misfit problems pertaining to the contextual attributes that can inhibit BGI-induced urban sustainability in the long run: (1) the problem of missing feedback, (2) the problem of trade-offs, and (3) the lack of systematic resilience strategies. The advantage of using a system thinking approach is that it allows for the holistic implementation of BGI while reminding policymakers and researchers of the need to craft BGI strategies in connection with, rather than in isolation from, social, economic, and political environments. This study also demonstrates the importance of being aware of the dynamic relationship between resource users, public infrastructure providers, public infrastructure, and resource systems.
... detention ponds, or wetlands, offers a way to contain disturbance and avoid cascading. Studies on drainage systems show how decentralised or semi-decentralised (but still functionally connected) solutions have advantages over both centralised systems and point source solutions [32,33 ]. Discussing hybrid infrastructure designs, Mangone [33 ] argues that 'the relatively smaller scale and cost of semi-decentralized and decentralized infrastructure systems typically renders them more readily able to be integrated into a broader range of landscape and building types and sizes than centralized infrastructure systems' [ibid, pp167]. ...
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Urban infrastructure will require transformative changes to adapt to changing disturbance patterns. We ask what new opportunities hybrid infrastructure-built environments coupled with landscape-scale biophysical structures and processes-offer for building different layers of resilience critical for dealing with increased variation in the frequency, magnitude and different phases of climate-related disturbances. With its more diverse components and different internal logics, hybrid infrastructure opens up alternative and additive ways of building resilience for and through critical infrastructure, by providing a wider range of functions and responses. Second, hybrid infrastructure points toward greater opportunities for ongoing (re)design at the landscape level, where structure and function can be constantly renegotiated and recombined.
... Common consensus has been reached regarding GI on several grounds, the most important of which is that the function of GI is to provide multiple ecosystem services (hereafter, ESs) sustainably, with sustainability and multifunctionality. Scholars [18][19][20] integrated GI and ES to clarify their relationship. This paper is not dedicated to seeking a clear definition of GI but focuses on its planning and application in stormwater management; therefore, GI is regarded as an approach that provides various stormwater management ES, e.g., runoff reduction [21,22], water quality improvement [23,24], temperature regulation [25], biodiversity [26], habitat services [27], and aesthetic quality [28], and the most widely used types are green roofs, grassed swales, rain barrels, permeable pavements, bio-retention cells, and infiltration trenches. ...
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Conventional stormwater management infrastructures show low levels of sustainability owing to the consistent impact of urbanization and climate change, and the green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) has been identified as a more sustainable alternative approach. According to a systematic review, the articles and papers concerning GSI planning are fragmented, especially those discussing the planning steps; thus, an integrated framework of GSI planning is developed here to guide forthcoming planning. In the facility aspect, the research status and prospects of four critical planning steps (i.e., objective formulation, type/scenario evaluation, quantity/scale determination, and site selection) are discussed, and a method of quantifying the relationship between GSI and ecosystem services is given. In the ecosystem aspect, ecosystem resilience promotion is regarded as an approach to guarantee the interaction between hydrological processes and ecological processes, which maintains the sustainable provision of ecosystem services produced by GSI in diverse disturbances. Proposals for future GSI planning research are put forward as comprehensive consideration of the two abovementioned aspects to harvest ecosystem services from GSI directly and to promote the anti-disturbance ability of the ecosystem to guarantee the stable provision of ecosystem services indirectly, which are conducive to the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of GSI.
... Such approaches, particularly in the West, have done much to promote the importance of evidence-based assessment frameworks in supporting urban policy (Mell, 2013;M'Ikiugu et al., 2012;Pulighe et al., 2016). Whilst a number of these approaches have focused on the ability to model bio-physical or technical processes (Chaffin et al., 2016;Flynn & Davidson, 2016;Kazak et al., 2018;Massoudieh et al., 2017), others have tended to concentrate on the evaluation of spatial distribution and interaction. The most notable of these is the Green Infrastructure Assessment (GIA) framework applied by Weber et al. (2006) which uses principles rooted in landscape ecology and conservation biology to identify conservation management objectives. ...
Rapid urbanisation has resulted in a series of urban sustainability challenges. Green infrastructure, with its associated emphasis on multifunctionality, has been advocated by scholars and practitioners alike as a key part of responses seeking the transition to sustainable urban environments. In support of this, a number of assessment frameworks have emerged which seek to assess green infrastructure needs and opportunities. Increasingly it has been recognised that such frameworks will need to provide a greater degree of emphasis upon social and perceptual values and focus more actively upon the neighbourhood scale. This need is particularly apparent within a Chinese context. Research on the role of green infrastructure within China, however, has tended to prioritise comprehensive city-wide or regional assessments. To date, there have been very few studies at the neighbourhood level which have attempted to consider both objective and subjective GI characteristics and how barriers might be mediated. In response, this paper seeks to develop an improved understanding of neighbourhood level GI needs. Through the use of both objective and subjective indicators linked to levels of green infrastructure provision and satisfaction, we outline how strategic responses might be developed to different neighbourhood contexts to aid a more adaptive and spatially sensitive approach to sustainable urbanisation.
Mitigating non‐point source nitrogen in coastal estuaries is economically, environmentally, logistically, and socially challenging. On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, nitrogen management includes both traditional, centralized wastewater treatment and sewering as well as a number of alternative technologies. We conducted semi‐structured interviews with 37 participants from governmental and non‐governmental organizations as well as related industries to identify the barriers and opportunities for the use of alternative technologies to mitigate nitrogen pollution. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and then analyzed using content analysis and rhetorical analysis. Cost and technical capacity to reduce nitrogen were the most discussed considerations. Beyond those, there were a slew of additional considerations that also impacted whether a technology would be installed, permitted, and socially accepted. These included: maintenance and monitoring logistics, comparisons to sewering, co‐benefits, risk/uncertainty, community culture, extent of public engagement, permitting/regulatory challenges, and siting considerations. The insights about these additional considerations are valuable for transferring to other coastal areas managing nutrient impairments that may have not yet factored in these considerations when making decisions about how to meet water quality goals.
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University–community partnerships can play an important role in this green infrastructure (GI) maintenance issue and provide a valuable mechanism to support socio-ecological practice to address complex urban water issues and build urban resilience. In this Perspective Essay, we draw from our experience in a university–community partnership to create a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Maintenance Protocol for the City of Tucson in Arizona, USA, through a collaborative, participatory dialogue process. We build upon our earlier work in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring of green infrastructure efforts to tease out key lessons to inform university–community partnerships to support socio-ecological practice. In doing so, we explore our earlier three lessons for university–community partnerships including understanding and valuing the socio-ecological context; investing, and reinvesting, in the collaborative process; and embracing a diverse set of roles for universities. In reflecting on these lessons, we offer two additional lessons that speak to the importance of investing and engaging in equity, even when a university–community partnership seemingly appears not to be focused on justice issues, and the value in strengthening networks to maintain and further collaboration. These lessons can inform other university–community partnerships around the world to better support socio-ecological practice, expand access to GI in disadvantaged communities, and heighten urban resilience.
Sponge City (SC) projects aim to replicate natural water cycles within urban settings, providing sustainable solutions to urban water management. However, there is a lack of understanding on the relative importance and performance of the significant factors that contribute to the success of SC projects. To address this, we conducted a survey of urban water experts from the two distinctive cultures of Australia and China, to generate insights on ‘what makes a successful Sponge City project?’. We also explored the relationships between success factors using importance performance analysis and structural equation modelling. Our findings demonstrate that whilst professionals think that the water management objectives have been dealt with in a satisfactory way, they also find that economic, socio-cultural and design factors are addressed in an insufficient or fragmented way. Our research highlights both similarities and differences in the importance and performance of SC factors in two countries. In China greater attention to economic factors is required, while in Australia policy and governance factors require greater focus. Both China and Australia would benefit from further research on undervalued socio-cultural factors. Most importantly we find that SC projects require greater integration of substantive and procedural factors to address urban water challenges.
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Decentralized stormwater management is based on the dispersal of stormwater management practices (SWMP) throughout a watershed to manage stormwater runoff volume and potentially restore natural hydrologic processes. This approach to stormwater management is increasingly popular but faces constraints related to land access and citizen engagement. We tested a novel method of environmental management through citizen-based stormwater management on suburban private land. After a nominal induction of human capital through an education campaign, two successive (2007, 2008) reverse auctions engaged residents to voluntarily bid on installation of SWMPs on their property. Cumulatively, 81 rain gardens and 165 rain barrels were installed on approximately one-third of the 350 eligible residential properties in the watershed, resulting in an estimated 360 m<sup>3</sup> increase in stormwater detention capacity. One surprising result was the abundance of zero dollar bids, indicating even a limited-effort human capital campaign was sufficient to enroll many participants. In addition, we used statistical methods to illustrate the significant role of social capital in forming clusters of adjacent properties that participated in bidding. This indicated that as participants shared their experiences, neighbors may have become more willing to trust the program and enroll. Significant agglomerations of participating properties may indicate a shift in neighborhood culture regarding stormwater management with positive implications for watershed health through the sustained induction of alternate capitals.
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The social-ecological systems framework was designed to provide a common research tool for interdisciplinary investigations of social-ecological systems. However, its origin in institutional studies of the commons belies its interdisciplinary ambitions and highlights its relatively limited attention to ecology and natural scientific knowledge. This paper considers the biophysical components of the framework and its epistemological foundations as it relates to the incorporation of knowledge from the natural sciences. It finds that the mixture of inductive and deductive reasoning associated with socially-oriented investigations of these systems is lacking on the ecological side, which relies upon induction alone. As a result the paper proposes the addition of a seventh core sub-system to the social-ecological systems framework, ecological rules, which would allow scholars to explicitly incorporate knowledge from the natural sciences for deductive reasoning. The paper shows, through an instructive case study, how the addition of ecological rules can provide a more nuanced description of the factors that contribute to outcomes in social-ecological systems.
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Faced with mounting infrastructure construction costs and more frequent and severe weather events due to climate change, cities across the country are managing the water pollution challenges of stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows through new and innovative "green infrastructure" mechanisms that mimic, maintain, or restore natural hydrological features in the urban landscape. When utilized properly, such mechanisms can obviate the need for more expensive pipes, storage facilities, and other traditional "grey infrastructure" features, so named to acknowledge the vast amounts of concrete and other materials with high embedded energy necessary in their construction. Green infrastructure can also provide substantial co-benefits to city dwellers, such as cleaner air, reduced urban temperatures, and quality of life improvements associated with recreation areas and wildlife habitats. This Article examines the opportunities and challenges presented by municipal green infrastructure programs in the context of Clean Water Act ("CWA") enforcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"). First, it explores new thinking in urban sustainability and identifies opportunities for greater federal-municipal cooperation in the management of environmental problems, including stormwater runoff Second, it unpacks the challenges presented by the relative inflexibility of federal environmental enforcement in the context of urban stormwater management under the CWA, and compares the differences between traditional federal approaches and newer local initiatives in terms of adaptability, responsiveness to community needs, preferences and trade-offs, cost effectiveness, and innovation. Third, it describes a recent consent agreement between New York State and New York City, identifying key features and best practices that can be readily replicated in other jurisdictions. In recent years, EPA has taken big steps forward to encourage and support municipal green infrastructure initiatives, including the release of its Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework. The Article concludes with a specific proposal for further regulatory and policy reform that would build upon this framework to develop truly comprehensive, municipally-led plans to prioritize infrastructure investments that improve public health and the environment.
Designed to be a stand alone desktop reference for the Stormwater manager, designer, and planner, the bestselling Municipal Stormwater Management has been expanded and updated. Here is what’s new in the second edition: • New material on complying with the NPDES program for Phase II and in running a stormwater quality program • The latest information on stormwater utilities • Metric versions of many of the equations, charts, and design monographs • The latest information on Best Management Practices (BMPs) • New concepts in stormwater master planning • An understanding of the recent evolution in stormwater practice • Site design practices to reduce stormwater impacts • Lots of additional information related to the development of municipal stormwater programs. The authors provide the most up-to-date information available, including water quality best management practices and stormwater master and quality management plans. They present little known but valuable tables, charts, and procedures covering both common designs and more specialized situations. Both English and Metric versions of charts and nomographs are included where available and where deemed useful for the designer. The text presents an understanding of what works and what doesn’t in real-world municipalities. Topics on planning and institutional concerns focus on programs dealing with public awareness, ordinances and regulations, and financing. Technical design topics range from the practical aspects of hydrologic procedures to the design of culverts and storm drainage systems. This stand-alone document provides all the essential information for the design and analysis of most stormwater management facilities. Municipal Stormwater Management, Second Edition covers all aspects of municipal Stormwater management, from planning and institutional concerns to technical design considerations. It details the design applications and the institutional aspects of Stormwater management that planners and administrators face on a daily basis. The material and depth of coverage make this book the perfect text for both professional and academic use.
Use of urban green infrastructure (GI) such as rain gardens, wetlands, and cisterns is a management option to provide ecosystem services such as stormwater detention, community green space, and pollinator habitat in urban core areas. It would be beneficial to efficiently and inexpensively characterize land parcels for GI suitability. We hypothesize that the capability of urban soils to support green infrastructure might be adequately characterized by extant site land cover rather than comparatively expensive and slow soil sampling and testing. As a pilot study, we directly characterized soil taxonomic, physical, and chemical characteristics and measured the percentage of vegetated, bare, and paved land cover for perimeters and interiors of 62 vacant lots and city parks located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. All vacant lots and park areas were vegetated to some extent, and we were able to relate surface vegetation to several soil properties. Our results indicate that vegetation is correlated to sandiness, drainage capability, and basic metrics of nutrient availability for these sites, and that it might be possible with a group of such studies to identify a minimum suite of observations necessary to characterize urban lots in any city for GI suitability. Copyright © 2014 Soil and Water Conservation Society. All rights reserved.
Catchment urbanization perturbs the water and sediment budgets of streams, degrades stream health and function, and causes a constellation of flow, water quality and ecological symptoms collectively known as the urban stream syndrome. Low-impact development (LID) technologies address the hydrologic symptoms of the urban stream syndrome by mimicking natural flow paths and restoring a natural water balance. Over annual time scales, the volumes of storm water that should be infiltrated and harvested can be estimated from a catchment-scale water-balance given local climate conditions and pre-urban land cover. For all but the wettest regions of the world, the water balance predicts a much larger volume of storm water runoff should be harvested than infiltrated to restore stream hydrology to a pre-urban state. Efforts to prevent or reverse hydrologic symptoms associated with the urban stream syndrome will therefore require: (1) selecting the right mix of LID technologies that provide regionally tailored ratios of storm water harvesting and infiltration; (2) integrating these LID technologies into next-generation drainage systems; (3) maximizing potential co-benefits including water supply augmentation, flood protection, improved water quality, and urban amenities; and (4) long-term hydrologic monitoring to evaluate the efficacy of LID interventions.
Low Impact Development (LID) is a site planning approach that limits the environmental impact of development on the local hydrological regime. By preserving and mimicking natural landscape features, LID introduces a new site planning and stormwater management paradigm to mainstream real estate development and represents a product innovation in the industry. Through the examination of three case studies, this thesis explores the sources of innovation and the risks of implementation. It then examines whether changes to delivery and contract structures might be necessary to redistribute risks and incentives among members of the development team in order to realize LID practices. The investigation finds that the private sector plays an integral role in advancing LID. Often developers are the first adopters of this innovation. The success of their projects motivates municipalities to encourage the innovation through regulation and training. The projects that present the most innovative approach institute small, integrated, multi-disciplinary corporate and project team structures. Examining the process of implementing LID practices reveals that innovation does not introduce new sources of risk; rather it exacerbates existing sources of risk at each phase of development.
With their high concentrations of impervious surface, urban areas generate stormwater runoff that overwhelms existing infrastructure causing flooding, sewer overflows, water pollution, and habitat degradation. Under pressure to find cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and socially responsible solutions to stormwater management, cities are looking to green infrastructure. The term "green infrastructure," when used for stormwater management, denotes design techniques, such as raingardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, street trees, and rain barrels, that infiltrate, evapotranspirate, capture, and reuse stormwater onsite. With the added benefits of improving air quality, land values, wildlife habitat, urban heat island, and urban aesthetics, some decision-makers view green infrastructure as a silver bullet solution to address climate change, water quality, and other urban issues. As cities move to create neighborhood- and citywide-scale green infrastructure plans, my thesis explores the common barriers that cities face when implementing green infrastructure, as well as tactics that have been used to overcome those barriers. The realities of implementation indicate that cities seeking to scale up green infrastructure should plan on expanding public participation and awareness-raising, strengthening interdepartmental coordination and partnerships within the community, building the technical capacity of the public and the government, and developing innovative ways to continuously engage and motivate individuals.
All modem cities-characterized by paved roads, rooftops, parking lots, and impacted soils-have serious problems with stormwater, and those problems are only growing as urbanization proceeds and climate change causes more severe weather events. Historically, cities have used gray infrastructure to manage stormwater; this is not only costly but causes an array of environmental problems. Proponents have long advocated using a green infrastructure approach, which has numerous advantages over traditional gray infrastructure systems. Nevertheless, very few U.S. cities have invested in green infrastructure on a significant scale. The question, then, is why have cities resisted adopting green infrastructure, and what would it take for them to choose a landscape-based approach to stormwater management over a conventional engineering solution? To answer this question, I studied a city that recently decided to embrace green infrastructure in a big way: Philadelphia. I argue that (i) new stormwater regulations and the 1990 withdrawal of federal funding changed the constraints and incentives for the city to make green infrastructure viable, particularly for a cash-strapped city; (2) a policy entrepreneur in the Philadelphia Water Department did two key things in preparation for a future policy window: he created an office organized around watersheds, and began redefining the problem; and (3) the policy entrepreneur capitalized on a regulatory policy window, the Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan Update, that garnered momentum from the city's decision to "re-brand" itself as a green city and galvanized support for the $1.6 billion plan for green infrastructure across the city. These conclusions are supported by evidence from Philadelphia's decision to adopt a green infrastructure approach to manage runoff. Finally, I discuss the implications of these findings and make recommendations for the implementation of the plan.