Cousins, Joshua J. (2017). Structuring hydrosocial relations in urban water governance. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 107(5), 1144-1161. (doi: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1293501) (Link:

Abstract: This article concentrates on how hydro-social relations are differentially structured across technical experts engaged within diverse and multiple networks of institutional and bureaucratic practice and the implications this has for more inclusive forms of environmental governance and decision-making. I empirically focus on stormwater governance in Chicago and Los Angeles as a means to capture the range of geographical and institutional variations in environmental knowledge. Both cities face considerably different water resource challenges in the United States but are at the forefront of developing comprehensive and progressive urban water governance programs. In the article, I identify four visions of hydrosocial relations: hydro-reformist, hydro-managerial, hydro-rationalist, and hydro-pragmatist. Each of these represents a particular understanding of how hydrosocial relations should proceed. They all align around shared framings of integrated management and the utilization of the best available science and technology to drive decision-making. Consensus, however, masks fundamental differences among the varying groups of expertise. Differences center on the perceived effectiveness of different types of infrastructural interventions, of market and economic incentives, and the role of new institutions and rules to govern stormwater. I argue that each frame looks to structure hydrosocial relations to fit their own vision but consequently offer apolitical strategies that reduce water quality and quantity problems to their technical and hydrological components.

Joshua J Cousins <> is the Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems, and Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of

Geography and Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755. His research interests focus on issues of resource governance, urban and infrastructural development, and sustainability in shaping political ecologies.