Decision Making – Cognitive and Institutional Barriers

EPA Grant Number: R835142C001
Subproject: this is subproject number 001 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835142
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Center for Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Management
Center Director: Echols, Stuart Patton
Title: Decision Making – Cognitive and Institutional Barriers
Investigators: Gray, Barbara L , Echols, Stuart Patton , Orland, Brian A , Ready, Richard C , Royer, Matthew B , Saacke-Blunk, Kristen
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: March 1, 2012 through February 28, 2017
RFA: Sustainable Chesapeake: A Collaborative Approach to Urban Stormwater Management (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Water and Watersheds , Sustainability , Water


To understand the cognitive and institutional barriers that currently prevent the adoption of innovative green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management, and to identify ways in which those barriers can be overcome, research will focus on institutional stakeholders in three Pennsylvania counties with high urban loadings of pollutants and high vulnerability to future urban land conversion in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Watershed.


We will conduct multiple interviews with decision makers responsible for stormwater management before and after their participation in public engagement workshops in which they are introduced to visualization techniques that model hydrological problems and green infrastructure solutions. The main purpose of the interviews will be to identify the cognitive and institutional barriers that interfere with their adoption of improved stormwater solutions. Based on literature on barriers to adoption of sustainable practices and on our knowledge of stormwater management and green infrastructure adoption, several barriers have been identified: 1) incomplete knowledge of hydrological models and regulations; 2) incomplete or incorrect knowledge of green infrastructural solutions and their non-hydrological benefits; 3) lack of an up-to-date and supportive regulatory framework. 4) frame differences among decision makers regarding desired outcomes; 5) lack of training for consulting engineers about current regulations and new technologies; 6) lack of institution infrastructure that promotes innovations, and 7) insufficient financing. We expect our interviews will surface additional barriers. Through observation at the workshops, focus groups and subsequent interviews, we will solicit decision makers’ views on the utility of the technological solutions offered, their likelihood of adoption of such techniques, and on the value of this kind of public education for improving their knowledge of approaches to stormwater management.

Expected Results:

The research will result in the identification of and recommendations for removing the key cognitive and institutional barriers to decision making about sustainable stormwater management. The process will be replicable in other communities and will enhance the adoption of green infrastructure and improve overall stormwater management.

Supplemental Keywords:

water, watersheds, groundwater, land, effects, public policy, community-based, preferences, surveys, public good, socio-economic, environmental assets, social science, surveys, measurement methods, Mid-Atlantic

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R835142    Center for Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Management

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835142C001 Decision Making – Cognitive and Institutional Barriers
    R835142C002 Green Infrastructure Design and Visualization
    R835142C003 Hydrologic and Water Quality Modeling for Green Infrastructure
    R835142C004 Non-Hydrological Benefits and Citizen Preference
    R835142C005 Public Engagement and Outreach