Arik, Aida D. (2021, May). Socio-hydrological planning and integrated water management considerations for O’ahu, Hawai’i. Doctoral dissertation (Urban and Regional Planning), University of Hawai’I, Mānoa. (Access:

Abstract: Urban development in the United States during the 20th century often occurred without fully considering the environmental and social implications of water management practices. These unchecked impacts create legacy problems that manifest both in the built environment and the overarching governance structure, and become amplified by 21st century challenges. Integrated, socio-hydrological water management approaches—such as One Water (e.g., Cesanek et al., 2017; US Water Alliance, 2016, 2017), Water Sensitive Cities (e.g., Brown et al., 2009), or Soft Path Solutions for the 21st century (e.g., Christian-Smith et al., 2012; Gleick, 2003)—aim to adapt water management systems to address these dual sets of challenges. This dissertation includes three articles that examine the following applied water management questions through an integrated, socio-hydrological planning lens:

1. Does expressed intention to conserve water match household water use behavior?

2. Where do stormwater management priorities converge or diverge between community leaders and water managers?

3. How do concepts of equity intersect with the implementation of a stormwater utility?

Each question relates to understanding how O‘ahu, Hawai‘i (also the City and County of Honolulu) can progress towards integrated water management and greater water productivity. This research is rooted in collaborative planning theory (e.g., Forester, 1989; Healey, 1997, 2003; Innes & Booher, 2010) and Patsy Healey’s (1997) definition of governance as the interaction between formal institutions (e.g., rules, laws, or organizational entities) and relational institutions (e.g., norms, conventions, or codes-of-conduct). O‘ahu provides a unique place to study these research questions because the island has jurisdiction over its watersheds—from mountain to coast—and has an interrupted history of integrated resource management by the Kānaka Maoli.

In the first article, I address the first question through an Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression analysis of water use survey data matched with billing data for water utility customers on the island of O‘ahu. I find no connection between the stated intention to conserve water and actual behavior. However, the data show that participating in water conservation programs and installing water-saving fixtures relate to lower water use. I situate my findings in the literature to discuss how policies and programs can address this intention-behavior gap. I also discuss how urban planning decisions can shape social norms and serve a critical role in influencing household water use and conservation. These concepts are essential to understanding how to feasibly achieve Hawai‘i’s water conservation goals as part of the State’s sustainability objectives. This article adds to the body of literature researching the intention-behavior gap in residential water usage, where few studies use actual water use data in their analysis.

The second article is motivated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Ala Wai Flood Risk Management Study that mobilized strong community opposition, in part, because of an opaque planning process. I use Q-methodology—a mixed-methods approach—to elucidate prominent narratives about stormwater management in the Ala Wai watershed. I interview 18 key people from various community, government, or professional leadership positions and ask each to prioritize a set of 25 ideas about stormwater management relative to one another. I use Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to identify four narrative groups from the prioritization of the 25 ideas and understand where there are consensus and dissensus between groups. By finding shared narratives between community members and stormwater managers, the use of Q methodology in this study differs from previous applications of the method in stormwater that it focuses solely on stormwater managers. From this analysis, I develop a framework for understanding the dimensionality of choices and decisions related to stormwater management infrastructure, responsibilities, and planning approaches that adds to the body of literature discussing soft-path solutions to stormwater management.

Finally, I base the third article on a plan to implement a stormwater utility (SWU) in O‘ahu that would establish a fee and credit system for stormwater runoff applied to all property owners. The third research question is motivated by ideas of “fairness” that were continually raised during community outreach meetings regarding the SWU. I tackle this question in two parts. In Part I, I conduct a systematic literature review to develop a framework for understanding “fairness” in stormwater issues and financing in terms of economic efficiency and concepts of equity. In Part II, I apply this framework with O‘ahu as an illustrative example to understand how notions of “fairness” are discussed. I look into how the proposed hardship relief correlates with socioeconomic characteristics as an example of distributive equity. Additionally, I challenge the assumptions behind setting a stormwater fee based solely on the total impervious area as an example of economic efficiency. This article’s major contribution to the body of literature on stormwater financing and management is to separately define economic efficiency and concepts of equity, which are often conflated in the literature and discourse around SWUs.

Aida D Arik <> is a research and policy analyst with One World One Water, Honolulu, HI.