Cousins, Joshua J. (2017, June). Infrastructure and institutions: Stakeholder perspectives of stormwater governance in Chicago. Cities, 66, 44-52. (Link:

Abstract: This article examines the ways stakeholder preferences and perspectives of stormwater management converge and diverge in Chicago. With a greater emphasis on broad stakeholder participation in urban environmental governance and decision-making, accommodating and moderating multiple and competing perspectives will become a greater part of urban green-space planning. Decision-makers must choose how resources are to be allocated to manage stormwater and decide among the multiple and sometimes conflicting options available to reduce the impact of stormwater at different sites across the city and region. This paper examines the disparate understandings of how to best manage stormwater in the city. The results reveal that departmental silos may not adequately explain variation in stakeholder perspectives. Instead, two dominant perspectives towards stormwater management connect diverse stakeholder groups in Chicago: the Infrastructural Interventionist and the Institutional Interventionist. The first strongly views stricter laws and regulations, developed in tandem with science and data-driven approaches, as the best way to improve stormwater management. The second desires new rules and institutions to foster integrated management approaches, as well as more robust economic instruments capable of assigning a monetary value to stormwater, as critical to resolving stormwater problems. Conflicting points of perspective arise around the preferred type of infrastructure to be implemented to deal with stormwater and how it is to be developed. Understanding how these two social perspectives interact and conflict is important in considering the actions that will ultimately be undertaken to direct landscape changes capable of resolving the multiple challenges Chicago faces in managing stormwater.

Joshua J. Cousins <> is in the Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems, and Society Program, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA.