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Engaging Social Capital for Decentralized Urban Stormwater Management
Shuster, W., H. Thurston, L. Rhea, AND O. Green. Engaging Social Capital for Decentralized Urban Stormwater Management. Presented at 2nd World Sustainability Forum, Washington, DC, November 01 - 30, 2012.
Presenting STD stormwater management research to an international conference
Decentralized approaches to urban stormwater management, whereby installations of green infrastructure (e.g., rain gardens, bioswales, and constructed wetlands) are dispersed throughout a management area, are cost-effective solutions with co-benefits beyond water abatement. Instead of investing in traditional approaches for managing stormwater, such as deep tunnels and high capacity treatment facilities (i.e., gray infrastructure), municipalities that invest in green approaches (i.e., natural capital) reap multiple benefits in the form of green space, ecosystem services, increased property values, and community engagement. To reap the full suite of benefits of green infrastructure for the municipality and its residents, water managers should take head of the role of social and other human capitals in the long-term success of green infrastructure installations. In this presentation, we will highlight the role of human, social, and cultural capitals in the USEPA’s groundbreaking study in the Shepherd Creek Watershed of Cincinnati, Ohio USA. The study sought to answer two research questions: can market-based mechanisms engage citizens to participate in voluntary stormwater management on their private property and, if citizens were engaged, would green infrastructure installations at the parcel scale impact downstream water quality. Our team invested in the human capital of the neighborhood in order to educate the residents on the urban stormwater problem and their potential role as private managers. Further, we quantified the role of social capital and found that as residents engaged in the program, their neighbors were significantly more likely to engage. This finding highlights the role of social networks in building trust in novel programs, especially those proposed by external agents. When a member of a social network engages in a program and shares his/her positive experience with members of his/her social network to get them to enroll, that initial particip