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Becoming Native: Adaptation of Green Stormwater Infrastructure to local culture and ecology

Authors: Sarah Hinners*, University of Utah, Diane Pataki, University of Utah
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Urban and Regional Planning, Arid Regions
Keywords: green infrastructure, urban nature, adaptation, planning, ecology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Green infrastructure is (among other things) an approach to stormwater management that is increasingly mandated in the United States by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in any community with a stormwater discharge permit. Green infrastructure stands in stark contrast to “gray” infrastructure in that it consists of living ecological communities embedded within urban landscapes, rather than drainage pipes buried underground. The complexities that arise as a result are both ecological (how are these ecological communities assembled for this function?) and social (what relationships do people have with them?). These are questions that pertain directly to the particularities of place. There is a give and take between ecological parameters and public desires and acceptance that makes green infrastructure implementation in harsher climates particularly challenging. The Landscape Lab (LL) is a research and demonstration landscape in Utah, which is designed to explore the processes and outcomes of these mutual ecological and social adaptations. Through collaborative interdisciplinary design processes, we have engaged researchers, practitioners and agencies in an exploration of what it takes to make the green stormwater infrastructure concept native to northern Utah. As a result of this approach, the research questions and experiments embedded within the LL reflect the assumptions, concerns, and desires of the community of professionals charged with implementing this new infrastructure. In this presentation I will present the final research plan, highlighting key points of epistemological convergence and divergence between academic researchers and professionals, including cost, a shared mistrust of “best practices”, and perceptions of public perception.

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