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No Longer a Passing Fad: Shifting and Growing Green Infrastructure Policy Adoption in Tucson, Arizona

Authors: Andrea Gerlak*, University of Arizona, Alison Elder*, University of Arizona, Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman, University of Maryland
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Urban Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: green infrastructure, water, cities, policy, governance
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Green Infrastructure (GI) is making the transition from a fringe activity promulgated by activists to a respected policy and key piece of climate change adaptation for local governments. Drawing from the scholarship on sustainability transitions, policy entrepreneurs, and political ecology, we examine the changing face of GI in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson provides an ideal case study because of its leadership in GI and the unique challenges it faces as a growing urban area in a water-constrained desert. We combine key informant interviews, stakeholder meetings, and document analysis with an innovative timeline method we collaboratively developed with GI stakeholders to identify the key events and actors in Tucson GI policy adoption. GI continues to grow in Tucson with an expansion in focus from, among other things, water conservation to increasing the urban tree canopy. City leaders are increasingly responsive to issues of maintenance and equity identified in previous GI programs and are taking steps for policy and implementation reform and improvement. Yet, as city leaders recognize the value and contributions of GI and the need to scale up, debates are emerging as to what scale – many small GI installations at the residential level, fewer large-scale interventions at the city level, or a middle ground that focuses on neighborhoods. As municipalities grapple with how to best prepare and protect their citizenry in the midst of a changing climate, this research presents valuable insights into urban GI policy change and adoption.

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