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Social dimensions of “green” stormwater infrastructure in Oregon and Indiana: Implications for policies and programming

Authors: Sarah Church*, Montana State University - Bozeman, MT, Yuling Gao, University of California Berkely, Linda S Prokopy, Purdue University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Water Resources and Hydrology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: urban landscapes, water, land use planning, green infrastructure, stormwater management practices, pro-environmental behavior
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual Track 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Stormwater management practices (SMP) such as rain barrels, bioswales, and rain gardens are one way in which cities are simultaneously addressing the need to replace or repair stormwater infrastructure while also meeting regulatory obligations. Retrofitting patterns of neighborhood development through the implementation of infrastructure like bioswales addresses sustainability and resilience while reflecting the city as part of rather than separate from the ecosystem. In this paper, I will present results of two studies:1) A qualitative case study (42 interviews) of Portland Oregon's Tabor to the River program that showed there are social benefits to SMPs that range from increased aesthetics and traffic calming, to the cultivation of place-based awareness; and 2) Survey results (n=255) examining efficacy of a watershed organization’s water programming in Lafayette, IN which showed respondents perceive functional benefits of SMPs, support integrating rain barrels and rain gardens into public spaces, and support reductions to stormwater charges for SMP adopters. Challenges to SMPs were also discussed in both cases. Implications toward policy and program development include the importance of: 1) Reporting SMP intent, siting, and operation; 2) Integrating SMPs as part of daily life; 3) Implementing education and activities surrounding watershed health to foster pro-environmental behaviors, and 4) Integrating less engineered, more “natural”, SMPs to facilitate connection with nature. In all, this research further informs a shift to softer infrastructure solutions in general and the broader societal impact of such infrastructure and their supporting policies and programs.

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